Local History and Genealogy

News, comments, resources, and more.

So Where Did That Name Come From?

We are known for many things in this community especially our name. If you don’t know where it came from, go to http://www.kpl.gov/local-history/general/kalamazoo-name.aspx which is one of the many interesting essays on Kalamazoo subjects that you can find in the Local History page on the Library’s website.

Meanwhile, if you are curious about how such communities as Battle Creek, Otsego and Gun Lake got their names, look for the book, Michigan Place Names by Walter Romig (H 917.74 R765) in the Local History Room. There also are copies on the regular shelving if you want to check the book out.  Mr. Romig spent ten years compiling information about the origins of the names of villages, towns, townships and cities that are still here and those that are gone forever, like Singapore which had been located at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River at Lake Michigan.

Obviously dates Mr. Romig gives need to be verified for their accuracy. Kalamazoo became a village in 1843, not 1838, and a city in 1884.


Michigan Place Names
Lynn H

Happy Anniversary…

Over the years, local institutions, businesses and governments have celebrated different numerical milestones. Some have used this as an opportunity to sponsor celebrations, to use it for publicity or to publish books and booklets about their history. Last year, Kalamazoo College celebrated their Sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary and published A Fellowship in Learning: Kalamazoo College 1833-2008 by Marlene Crandell Francis (H 378.774 F8191). Some other “celebratory” books we have in the Local History Collection include Brown and Golden Memories: Western Michigan University’s First Century by Larry Massie (H 378.774 M417) and A Century of Caring: The Upjohn Story by Robert D.B. Carlisle (H 338.8 C283) just to mention two. 

As far as who is celebrating anniversaries this year, so far we have the Kalamazoo Mall which turns 50, the Kalamazoo Country Club which turns 100, the City of Kalamazoo which turns 125, and Kalamazoo Central High School which turns 150.  Happy Anniversary to them and others who will be celebrating in 2009.


A Fellowship in Learning
Lynn H

Family Maps Have Arrived!

We have a wonderful new series of map books in the history room - the Family Maps series by Gregory A. Boyd. Each book covers a single county, township by township and clearly displays the original land owners. Determining if your ancestor obtained a patent in a particular county has never been easier. Family Maps provide multiple indexes that verify the surnames for the county, which townships to find them in and specifically where within each township. “Big Picture” maps are also included that place each county in context within the state and within the region. Most of these map books are deluxe editions, which also include roads, waterways, towns, cemeteries and railroads. The history room currently has Family Maps for Kalamazoo, Allegan, Calhoun, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Cass, St. Joseph, and Van Buren counties. But keep watch – more are on the way.


Family Maps of Allegan County
Beth T

Play Ball!

Spring is in the air and with that is the coming of baseball. Believe it, or not, this sport has been a part of the history of this community and this state for well over 160 years. If you want to get more details about this, look at Baseball Fever: Early Baseball in Michigan (H 797.1 M877) by Peter Morris. It talks about the first recorded baseball game in Michigan which took place in Jackson in 1845. There is a lot of information about baseball in Kalamazoo including an interesting story about some early games in Bronson Park in the late 1850s when Village President Latham Hull’s concern for the trees led to a new ordinance concerning this sport. 

Another book on the subject is Minor League Baseball Towns of Michigan:  Adrian to Ypsilanti (H 917.74 O414) which looks at minor league teams in the state in communities ranging from Adrian to Ypsilanti as the cover states. Kalamazoo has great photographs and information on the teams and the sites where you could find professional baseball in this community during the last half of the 19th and into the 20th centuries. You will be amazed.


Baseball Fever

Lynn H

The Auto Men of Michigan

With all the recent changes in the automobile industry in Michigan, it’s a good time to look back on the people who were behind it. Billy Durant: Creator of General Motors by Lawrence Gustin (H 921 D949G) has been reissued, more than likely for GM’s centennial not because of its current situation. It tells the story of the corporation’s flamboyant founder who pulled thirty auto-related firms together like Buick, DELCO, Fisher Body and Cadillac under one company. There are many other biographies of the auto men of Michigan including The Dodge Brothers by Charles Hyde (H 629.204 H993) and several on Henry Ford which can be found in the H 921 section.


Billy Durant: creator of General Motors
Lynn H