Thursday, June 20, 2013

Researching Your Civil War Ancestor, June 24

The Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) welcomes guest speaker Patsy Miller on Monday, June 25th at 7:00 p.m., in the Community Room of the Webster Memorial Library in Decatur, MI.  She will be honoring those who served in the war between the states with her presentation entitled “Researching Your Civil War Ancestor”.    
A power point presentation will provide tips on how to find relatives that served in the Civil War and how to
obtain information on their service including unit summaries, service records, and pension files. A handout containing valuable information about additional resources and state websites where Civil War records can be found will be available. A question and answer period will follow the presentation.
Ms. Miller is currently the president of the Berrien County Genealogical Society and a member of the VBRGS.  She is a life-long resident of Berrien County and has been working on her family genealogy for the past 20 years.

The VBRGS provides monthly meetings of genealogical and historical interest to further their mission to “preserve and share the history of the people and places of the counties of Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties in southwest Michigan”. This program is free to the public and will include time for refreshments that will be served by our hosts for the evening.
Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown man (soldier?)
photographer - Theo Cook, Hartford
Can you identify the man in this cabinet card?  The jacket he is wearing could be a uniform, perhaps Civil War?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Genealogy Society Makes Large Donation to Library

The Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) has recently announced that it has donated the bulk of their book collection to the Local History Collection of the Van Buren District Library. 

VBRGS, organized in 1987, is a regional genealogical & local history interest group with a focus on the counties of Southwest Michigan including Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren. 

Although the society's books and those of the library have been housed together in the Local History Collection in Decatur, up until now both had maintained separate ownership and cataloging. 

VBRGS executive board spokesmen indicated that there were several reasons for this gift.
  1. All item records will now be accessible through one online catalog (, allowing search by title, author, subject and keyword.
  2. Items added to the library catalog are also automatically added to the Michigan Electronic Library Online Catalog (MELCAT), where similar searches may be made on a statewide level. 
  3. The books will be under the protection and care of the library system allowing for continuity in acquisitions, maintenance, and oversight.  
Over the years, the society has spent thousands of dollars in the acquisition of books, microfilm and manuscripts to compliment the department's collection policy guidelines which includes not only Southwest Michigan.  Other featured areas include:
  1. New England
  2. Midwest
  3. Western Europe
  4. Canada
  5. General Reference & Guides
VBRGS has played a key role in the growth and success of the Local History Collection and plans to continue its support with gifts of additional acquisitions, money for special projects/equipment, and with volunteer staffing.  They will maintain ownership of their massive yearbook collection (over 1,500 volumes), select special collections, photographs, and their manuscripts - all currently housed as part of the Local History Collection.

"The Van Buren District Library is very pleased to have received this wonderful collection," says Debby Stassek, the library's Assistant Director, "and we will be working the next several months to add them all into our catalog at"

 One of the biggest perks of this merger is the availability of online cataloging in one place.  Many of the items within the Local History Collection are rare or one-of-a-kind, and although it may not be possible to request one of these items on inter-library loan, a search on MELCAT will point to you to the facility that houses that item, allowing follow-up with that library.

When was the last time you made a genealogical-related search for something in an online catalog?  Have you searched by subject using the hometown of interest?  Or, have you simply tried searching the Keyword option for some of your less common surnames?  New records are being added to MELCAT on a regular basis, so be sure to make this site part of your online research checklist.

The merger of the VBRGS book collection with that of the library will be concluded in the coming months.  In the meantime, all items remain accessible for viewing within the Local History department.  For any questions about the merger or the collection in general, contact the Local History Librarian.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown residence
real photo postcard, postmarked October 1910, Covert
addressed to Mrs. William Young of Canton, Ohio, from "Aunt Minnie"

Can you identify the location of this two-story frame residence located in Covert?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.