Local History and Genealogy

An Idyllic Summer Day

It’s been a while since we posted an unidentified photo so this one has a bonus – an extra related photo. Both feature what appears to be at least three generations of a family posed in front of a house. One is taken from a distance, making the house fully visible. The house is brick and it is clearly in a rural setting. The family of nine adults and four children are spaced out across the photo. It appears to be a warm summer day with leaves fully out on trees and bushes, and windows open on the house. The children are posed with croquet mallets and balls as if they had just interrupted their game to have their photo taken.


The second photo gives a much clearer view of the family. They are tightly spaced in front of a porch on the right side of the house. Several of the women and children are wearing flowers pinned to their clothes. Styles indicate a date in the early 1890s.


Help us! Our local history photograph collection is a wonderful resource, but unfortunately not every photo comes to us with full details of the place, people, or date associated with it. For that reason, we are enlisting your help. If you have any idea who this family is, or if you recognize the house, let us know. But even if you don’t, be sure to take a minute to enjoy these interesting old photos.

View all photos in the “unidentified” series

Images of the Civil War

One of the great things about KPL is that its collections are so vast, varied, and sometimes surprising. Our 107-year-old government documents collection yields some of the best surprises. A few years ago, we cataloged one of the real gems of the documents collection - the entire 128 volumes of The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. This fully indexed set contains reports, correspondence, orders, etc. for all military operations of both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. You wouldn’t think that could be beat, but the documents collection yielded something even more fascinating – the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but wait until you see all the images inside. There are maps of battles, diagrams of forts, images of war-damaged buildings; as well as uniforms, weapons, wagons, boats and trains. The atlas provides a total visual history of the Civil War. 

 Check out the Flickr gallery of selected images from the Atlas!


Rebel lines near Atlanta


The New History Room

If you haven’t been to the history room recently, come by for a visit! You’ll notice something different as soon as you get to the second floor when you see our beautiful new entrance. But that’s just the beginning. The local history room has gone through a lot of changes over the last few months. From time to time we were noisy, a little dusty, and sometimes even closed; but the disruption has really paid off! We now have twice as much space, and everything we need to help with local history and genealogy research is easily accessible. Improvements to the history room include:

• Special collections conveniently separated for easy access, including: genealogy; city directories and phonebooks; maps and atlases; and yearbooks.
Microfilm, microfilm reader/printers, and hard copies of Kalamazoo Gazettes housed within the history room.
• Print station is now located next to the computers.
• Shelves have more room, making books easier to find and giving us room to grow!

Enjoy a few photos of the new history room and then come in and see it for yourself.







History room entry


Things are happening!

The Local History Room has had to close up for a couple of days while we get organized into our expanded space. Things are quite a mess right now, but soon we’ll be enjoying more room and a great new layout.

Our collection isn’t accessible at the moment, but don’t forget that all the genealogy databases can be accessed from any of the computers in the Central Library and the branches, and there are many wonderful local history and genealogy books available in the circulating collection.





History Room Renovation

See Our Community Calendar

Welcome to the KPL Local History Community Calendar! Join us in investigating widely diverse Historical subjects presented by local historical societies, organizations, collectors, and preservationist groups. We list conferences, tours, meetings, special events, and large Southwest Michigan antique markets and extend our invitation to anyone interested in history to visit the Community Calendar on the KPL Local History Website. Scheduling an event or program of local historical nature? Complete an information form, or call 269.553.7843, and we will be happy to list your event on our calendar.


Local History Community Events

Green Dots in Local History Collection

We have recently updated Our Local History Reference Collection with green dot stickers on books that have circulating copies. This means that any title in Local History with a green dot sticker has a duplicate that can be checked out. Patrons may simply look up the title in our catalogue or ask the Local History Reference person to find the location of the circulating copy. Patrons are welcome to put the title on reserve if it is checked out or only available in a branch library.


Green Dot Poster

A Gem for Irish Research

We are very fortunate to be able to continually add new books to the history room collection. They include items on local and regional history, Michigan history, and genealogy research techniques and materials. I enjoy searching for these items and perusing them when they are ready for shelving in the local history room. Occasionally a new book will really jump out at me and I will find myself totally absorbed. This happened with our newest addition to the collection for Irish genealogy research, Atlas of the Great Irish Famine by John Crowley. This big, beautiful book is full of gorgeous photographs and artwork related to Ireland; but its greatest feature is the dozens of maps detailing every aspect of population change, workhouse locations, housing types, employment, cemeteries, soup kitchens, migration… you name it, there’s a map that explains it. However, it isn’t just dry maps and figures. The impact on society is conveyed through written and oral accounts of the time, art, poetry, and in depth analysis. At over eight pounds and 700 pages, this reference book was not designed for cozy, cover-to-cover reading. But once you open it, you’ll find yourself wanting to go back to explore it again and again.


Atlas of the Great Irish Famine

A Win-Win for Genealogists

For those of us who have caught the genealogy bug, there’s no need for further inducement to trace and record our family history. We know the thrill and challenge of genealogical research is addicting all by itself. However, if you need evidence to help justify your obsession with census data and tombstone transcriptions to those yet to be infected, I have just the thing. A new book by Bruce Feiler, The Secrets of Happy Families, reports that it is highly beneficial for children to know about their family history. Feiler shares some amazing conclusions drawn from a study conducted by Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke, professors of psychology at Emory University. Feiler summarizes, “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”

Of course, sharing family stories with your children or grandchildren is a great way to teach them your family history. But if you’d like to take it a step further, here are a couple books to get you started. Climbing Your Family Tree: Online and Off-line Genealogy for Kids by Ira Wolfman and Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People by Susan Provost Beller both present a kid-friendly introduction to genealogy. So now you can share your passion for family history AND help the next generation become happy, confident people.


The secrets of happy families

Browse Our Collection - Online

One of the best parts of working in the history room is getting to know the collection and all of the wonderful items in it. There’s only one problem. Sadly, people just don’t come in and say “Hey, show me something really cool,” so some of my favorite things don’t get as much attention as I feel they deserve. However, that’s all about to change. We are now making selected items completely accessible through our website, and will be scouring the history room for great things to share in the coming months.

Our first offering is a catalog from the Henderson-Ames Company of Kalamazoo that dates back about 100 years. It contains products exclusively for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Henderson-Ames boldly claimed, “We are ready to show any Lodge, that the great values which have made us the leaders for many years in the manufacture of Odd Fellow Regalia, Costumes, etc., are increased in this the most complete catalog ever published.” There’s no way to know if their assertion was correct, but with 134 pages of everything from false beards to grave markers, they couldn’t have been far off. Enjoy flipping through the catalog, and be sure to check out the large color images of costumes that begin on page 71.


IOOF catalog

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The Library is 140 years old! Part of our recent celebration included collecting and displaying photos of the library over the years. It was so fun to see the pictures of former staff, earlier buildings, long obsolete equipment, branch libraries, promotions, and library patrons from years ago. The collection spans from the first library building, which was completed in 1893, all the way into the 1990s. The photos were displayed at the Central library, but they are so great we wanted to make them available permanently through the website.

Enjoy this gallery and let us know if it brings back memories.


Kalamazoo Public Library, 1920s

McConnell Photograph Collection

It happens to many of us – a distant relative by marriage or a close family friend passes away. They had no children, and someone delivers a box of old photos to you because there is no one else to take them. You don’t know who any of the people in the photos are and you’re quite sure none of them are related to you. So what do you do with them? Well, you might consider donating them to the library located in the city where most of the photos were taken.

We are very fortunate that thoughtful people have done that very thing from time to time here at KPL, and recently the photo collection of Marion Louise McConnell came to us that way. It is an incredible collection of over 100 photos from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many are portraits taken by Kalamazoo photographers. Unfortunately, very few are identified, but the collection is too good not to share. We have created a Flickr collection and will be updating it with information regarding the photographers and any other clues we can determine. Enjoy the slideshow, and if you recognize any of the people or places please leave a comment on the photo. Families that may be included in the collection are McConnell, Rineveld, Kelder, Born, and Link.


Marion Louise McConnell

Moustaches, Cigars…and Potatoes

This unidentified photo really has to speak for itself, because we have absolutely no information about it. It features two men who clearly like to live large – sporting large moustaches, cigars…and potatoes! They are sitting on a step at the outside entrance of a building. Styles suggest a date around the turn of the 20th century. Let us know if you can shed any light on this image.

Help us! Our local history photograph collection is a wonderful resource, but unfortunately not every photo comes to us with full details of the place, people, or date associated with it. For that reason, we are enlisting your help. Watch our local history blog posts in the coming weeks for photographs that we could use a little assistance with. We’ll tell you what we know and you can respond if you have any ideas. But even if you don’t, be sure to take a minute to enjoy some of our interesting old photos.

View all photos in this “unidentified” series.



Men with potatoes

A Character from 1940s Kalamazoo

Unlike many of our unidentified photos, this amazing image came with just about everything short of a name. The man in the photo has a weathered face full of character, and at first glance it looks like he should be out in the old west. A closer look reveals that he is holding a puppy. The information on the back of the photo identifies him as a former schoolteacher and a “hermit [who] lived on KL Ave.” The photographer, Chester B. Robinson, apparently captured the image around 1942. Can you give this man a name?

Help us! Our local history photograph collection is a wonderful resource, but unfortunately not every photo comes to us with full details of the place, people, or date associated with it. For that reason, we are enlisting your help. Watch our local history blog posts in the coming weeks for photographs that we could use a little assistance with. We’ll tell you what we know and you can respond if you have any ideas. But even if you don’t, be sure to take a minute to enjoy some of our interesting old photos. 

View all photos in this “unidentified” series.  



Unidentified man 

Interesting Costumed Group

This photo has to be one of the most unusual in our collection. It features a group of robed or costumed women, a man with a skull and cross bones, and a goat. Historic photos really don’t get any better. Unfortunately, it was not identified in any way. It may be a fraternal organization or possibly a theatrical production of some sort. Whatever it is, there must be a good story associated with it. Do you know the tale behind this photo?

Help us! Our local history photograph collection is a wonderful resource, but unfortunately not every photo comes to us with full details of the place, people, or date associated with it. For that reason, we are enlisting your help. Watch our local history blog posts in the coming weeks for photographs that we could use a little assistance with. We’ll tell you what we know and you can respond if you have any ideas. But even if you don’t, be sure to take a minute to enjoy some of our interesting old photos. View all photos in this “unidentified” series.



Unidentified group photo

Does this neighborhood look familiar?

This week’s unidentified photo is a great one of a children’s bicycle parade. Unfortunately, it came to us with only the caption “World War II – Kalamazoo” for identification. However, it is full of clues for anyone with memories of that neighborhood or time period in Kalamazoo. At least six of the children’s faces are in good view. Many details of three houses and some of a fourth are visible. There is even a man in the background with ladders set up, working on one of the homes. Does this neighborhood look familiar to you? What about the children?

Help us! Our local history photograph collection is a wonderful resource, but unfortunately not every photo comes to us with full details of the place, people, or date associated with it. For that reason, we are enlisting your help. Watch our local history blog posts in the coming weeks for photographs that we could use a little assistance with. We’ll tell you what we know and you can respond if you have any ideas. But even if you don’t, be sure to take a minute to enjoy some of our interesting old photos. View all photos in this “unidentified” series.



Unidentified Photos



Who are these people?

Help us! Our local history photograph collection is a wonderful resource, but unfortunately not every photo comes to us with full details of the place, people, or date associated with it. For that reason, we are enlisting your help. Watch our local history blog posts in the coming weeks for photographs that we could use a little assistance with.

Our first offering has always been one of my favorites. It came to us with the Wallace White collection, but appears to be a photo taken earlier and copied by White. It features two young children, seated and facing the camera. We have estimated the date to be around 1850. The only identification given was “Miss Howard’s sisters.” Can you help us discover their identity?


Portrait of two unidentified children, possibly Kalamazoo, roughly 1850


Unidentified Photos

The Telegraph is Here!

We have some exciting new additions to report, beginning with our new Regional Publications & Images database! This new database will allow users to browse and perform online keyword searches of historic newspapers, photographs, and other Kalamazoo Public Library holdings that were previously only available as hard copy or on microfilm.

For starters, the database includes freshly digitized issues of the Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph from the years between 1868 and 1885, plus issues of the (weekly) Kalamazoo Saturday Telegraph from 1893 to 1899. And more issues of the Telegraph are being digitized “as we speak.” Additional publications (and eventually images) will be digitized and added to the database as resources allow.


The Kalamazoo Telegraph was published under varying ownership between 1844 and 1916. Somewhat of a mirror to the staunchly Democratic Gazette, the Kalamazoo Telegraph reflected local happenings from a Republican perspective, which can be a boon for researchers. Many times, the two competing papers offered strikingly different accounts of local events; from politics to sports, entertainment, and most everything else in between. An event that appeared rather insignificant in the pages of the Gazette might have received in-depth coverage by the Telegraph, and of course vice versa.

Learn more about the Kalamazoo Telegraph in a newly written essay, which is part of the State History Award-winning “All About Kalamazoo History” section of KPL’s website. And now, search issues of the historic Kalamazoo Telegraph newspaper in our new Regional Publications & Images database. Give it a try!

And as if that’s not exciting enough, yet another project coming down the pike will be a newly digitized version of the Grand Army Memorial Record, a book “designed expressly for Grand Army posts throughout the national department of the Grand Army of the Republic for the purpose of securing and perpetuating the military history of every Grand Army comrade.” Created in 1884, the book is a handwritten account of those who served in the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Michigan, Orcutt Post No. 79 at Kalamazoo. Once digitized, this book should be a welcome addition for family genealogists and Civil War historians. Watch for it soon!


Regional Publications & Images: 1868-1899

Crispus Attucks in American History and Memory

A runaway slave of African and Native American ancestry, Crispus Attucks was immortalized as the first casualty of the 1770 Boston Massacre. But who was Attucks anyway, and why would a fugitive dockworker be revered as a martyr and colonial American hero? Attucks’ story is shrouded in mystery and what is known about his background is more speculation than fact.

WMU associate professor Mitch Kachun has added Attucks’ story to his long list of research projects, hoping to help ensure what he describes as “Crispus Attucks’ place in American history and memory.”

Join us at the Oshtemo Branch Library on Tuesday evening, February 14th, 6 pm, as Dr. Kachun reveals his recent research on Attucks as he lays the groundwork for a major new book about one of America’s most well-known—yet virtually unknown folk heroes.


Mitch Kachun presents Crispus Attucks in American History and Memory

Come to a Lock-In!

Our next Genealogy Lock-In is coming up soon! If you’ve never been to one and are curious, here’s how they work: Lock-Ins are held on Friday nights from 6 to 10 pm three times a year. They begin after the Library closes so that genealogists can have the computers and resources all to themselves. Printing and copying are free during Lock-Ins and there are staff members available to answer questions and give research advice. Lock-ins are fun and friendly, providing a comfortable atmosphere in which to research. The collaborative environment is ideal for both new and experienced genealogists alike, and researchers often help each other solve perplexing genealogical problems. Lock-Ins are not intended to be instructional, although participants often learn a great deal. For those looking for help getting started, the Intro to Genealogy program might be a good option – and there is one coming up at the Alma Powell Branch in February. So if spending a cold winter night searching for clues to your family history sounds good to you, go online or call the History Room desk (269-553-7808) to register for the next Genealogy Lock-In on Friday, January 20.


Genealogy Lock-In

Covert, Michigan and the Smithsonian

A few weeks ago I went to Covert, Michigan to be interviewed by Deborah Tulani Salahu-Din, the Project Director for the Smithsonian Institution African American Museum of History & Culture, and Michele Gates Moresi, the Curator for the museum. They had requested a meeting with the descendants of the early black and white settlers of Covert, Michigan. My great-great grandfathers William Bright Conner and his family, and Dawson Pompey and his family were the first African Americans to settle in Covert, Michigan after the Civil War ended. My great grandfather John Conner and his brother Frank, and his two brother-in-laws Himebrick Tyler and Joseph Seaton and my great grandfather Washington Pompey and his brother Napoleon were all veterans of the Civil War.

Our library has a book titled A Stronger Kinship: One Town’s Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith by Ann Lisa-Cox which tells the story of Covert’s unique history as a racially integrated community during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Covert was a town where blacks and whites went to church and school together. They lived among each other and intermarried. Blacks held public offices and owned businesses. My great grandmother Annis Pompey owned and operated a cider mill and was the first female in Covert to have her own business. Anna Lisa-Cox was instrumental in getting the Smithsonian to take a look at this community.


The new Smithsonian African American Museum of History & Culture will have an exhibition titled “Making a Way Out of No Way” which will include eleven communities from across the United States and Covert, Michigan will be one of the eleven exhibits.

I’m very excited that my ancestors will be a part of this exhibit and proud of the contributions they made to society. If you are interested in learning more about the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture that will open in 2015, you can visit this website: http://nmaahc.si.edu/


A Stronger Kinship

Kalamazoo Telegraph Online Soon

Good news, genealogists and Kalamazoo local history enthusiasts! We are excited to announce a digitization project that has begun here at KPL. We will soon be making digital images of the Kalamazoo Telegraph available through our website with full keyword searching. Daily Telegraph issues from April 6, 1868 to July 24, 1885 have already been scanned, and more will follow in the months to come. We have a bit more work to do before we can get them online, so keep watch on our website for more information in the coming weeks. This valuable resource will soon be just a click away!


Kalamazoo Telegraph 

“All About Kalamazoo History”

If you’ve visited the “All About Kalamazoo History” section of the KPL website lately, you’ve probably noticed a few changes here and there—most notably the addition of a State History Award “gold medal” banner! “All About Kalamazoo History” (KPL’s online collection of local history essays) has been awarded a 2011 State History Award by the Historical Society of Michigan (HSM)! State History Awards are presented to those individuals and organizations that “have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation and understanding of Michigan history.” The State History Awards are the highest recognition presented by the state’s official historical society.

When asked what prompted the judges to select KPL for this prestigious award, Dr. Sharon Carlson, HSM board secretary and director of the WMU Archives & Regional History Collections, responded without hesitation by saying, “it was the breadth and depth of the collection. I regularly refer people to these information rich pages. They are an appropriate resource for researchers ranging from a middle school student competing in History Day to genealogists to more serious researchers looking for core publications about a topic.” HSM education and awards coordinator, Emily Asbenson, added, “the judges were extremely impressed with the way KPL presents and teaches local history.”


“All About Kalamazoo History” has grown considerably since its inception, and now consists of more than 600 pages in twenty one different categories, which collect and preserve the stories of those who helped shape Kalamazoo and its environs. Some are brief vignettes while others offer richly detailed cultural histories; all are painstakingly written and researched by members of the Kalamazoo Public Library staff. These pages attempt to provide interesting reading and valuable research tools for local and regional genealogists, historians, educators, and library patrons.

According to retired KPL Local History librarian Catherine Larson, “we have tried to answer the most frequently asked questions about each topic, (both) for the convenience of our patrons, and to make efficient use of staff time. We have tried to design a structure that is sufficiently flexible that it can grow in any direction that seems appropriate, even if we can’t foresee it right now. As I recall, we established the web site in 1998 or 1999. The initial Local History offering was three essays each in four categories. We have grown quite a bit since then, and the structure has served us well. It feels good to be part of a team that puts out such a useful product.”


“One of the great things about the website,” says current Local History specialist Beth Timmerman, “is that it has allowed us to collaborate with other institutions in Kalamazoo. Many of the house and building histories are from the 1973 Initial Inventory of Historic Sites and Buildings in Kalamazoo which was made available to us by Sharon Ferraro, the city’s historic preservation coordinator. Another great collaboration has given us one of our most popular sections—the Kalamazoo: Then and Now photo gallery. This is an ongoing project with Professor William Davis at WMU and his photography students who re-create historic photos from our collection.” In addition, staff at Kalamazoo Valley Museum and WMU Archives & Regional History Collections have been extremely helpful with providing photographs and information, as have our patrons. Comments and valuable additions to these essays have been received from across the United States, Canada and abroad.

Congratulations to Beth, the Local History staff, and everyone else who contributes to KPL’s virtual branch! Your award-winning library now has an award-winning website!

Read the official Kalamazoo Public Library press release. PDF

Read the official Historical Society of Michigan press release. PDF


2011 State History Award

Genealogy: Summer Style

While genealogy is a great pursuit any time of year, many people take a break from serious research in the summer. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the thrills of a genealogical search. Whether you’re soaking up sun at the beach, on your way to a fantastic vacation destination, or just hiding inside your air conditioned house, there are many engaging books related to genealogy to enjoy. Buzzy Jackson’s Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist is a fun account of a historian-turned-genealogist and her quest to track down her Jackson (20th most common American surname) ancestors. With chapters entitled “Information Wants to be Free; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love DNA Testing” and “Beaches and Burke’s Peerage; or, The Genealogy Cruise” you know you’re in for an entertaining read that is definitely NOT a typical genealogy how-to.

If you prefer your leisure reading in the form of a mystery, there are many books and series to choose from. The Torie O’Shea Mysteries by Rett MacPherson and the Family Tree Mysteries by Patricia Sprinkle are both series that feature a main character who is a genealogist. A keyword search in the library catalog for ‘genealogy and mystery’ or ‘genealogy and fiction’ will turn up many other genealogy-themed summer reads like; Legacy by Danielle Steel and Out of the Shadows by Joanne Rendell.

So while you’re enjoying your break, keep sharp by reading about someone else’s family search – whether it be fact or fiction.


Shaking the Family Tree

An Unexpected Encounter with the Triangle Lunch

One of the most interesting and fun aspects of working in the local history room is receiving new (old) materials for the collection. These come to us from a variety of sources and are often a complete surprise. Last week we received one of these unexpected gifts all the way from North Carolina. The donor had apparently never lived here. His father had lived in Michigan but moved away over 80 years ago – however, for some reason he saved a postcard of the Triangle Lunch on old US 131 between Kalamazoo and Plainwell. The family held onto that postcard all these years and then very thoughtfully passed it on to us. I am always amazed and grateful when people take the time to do things like that.

We are having a wonderful time trying to unlock the clues in this photo. Our donor believes that it would have been purchased in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and we know from phonebooks that a Triangle Lunchroom was operating in Cooper Township at that time. We have not yet determined where on old 131 (Douglas Avenue) the diner sat, or the owners, but we have many resources still to check. If you have any information for us regarding the photo, please let us know. Local residents are often our best resources!


One interesting note – we had hoped to get vital information from a sign in the window of the building, but no amount of magnification seemed to help. Finally, Mandana Nordbrock, with her sharp (young) eyes solved this important mystery – it read “Juicy Ham Burgers.”


Historic photos

An Ailment by Any Other Name….

Perhaps the last time you attended a sporting event or concert, you awoke the next day to find you had come down with Clergyman’s Throat (“An impairment of the voice due to excessive or improper use of the voice. Can also be caused by excessive use of tobacco or liquor.” p.29). Then again, there are those who suffer, during the long dry, winter months, from Furfur (Furfaire) (“Any scaling of the skin, such as dandruff” p.53). Or, maybe you were frustrated during your lunch break when trying to quickly place your order to find the individual behind the counter to be quite Starblind (“A condition in which an individual stares with eyes half closed, appears to be slow to understand, and blinks frequently” p.135). There is a wealth of obscure medical ailments and their cures held within this rather slight, economical (just 178 pages including reference citations) and yet fascinating and informative publication, A Medical Miscellany for Genealogists. Dr. Jerger has written, or perhaps it is better to say compiled, her book expressly for the use of understanding antiquated medical terms. It functions like a dictionary. It was created by one who was herself frustrated, despite more than thirty years of experience in the medical field, by inscrutable language when investigating her ancestor’s life histories and the ailments from which they suffered and perhaps succumbed to. Dr. Jerger has also supplemented this list with terms from Native American, European, Asian and African folk beliefs and healing traditions.

Whether your understanding is impeded by neglected medical nomenclature while in the midst of genealogy research, studying old medical records, while attempting to enjoy literature of the time or even if you just have an interest in obscure words and phrases, this book is an excellent resource for being specific to the medical field and terminology that has fallen out of favor, various pseudonyms for the same practice or perhaps practices or medicines that are no longer in use (“Inhalation of Gas- A form of pneumotherapy. Inhalations of carbonic acid and sulfurous acid were used to treat tuberculosis of the lungs, asthma and emphysema.” p. 71). From the completely unheard of (“Spruce Beer- A remedy made by boiling the tops of spruce boughs in beer. Used to treat scurvy in the 18th century.” P.134) to the familiar disguised in strange nomenclature (“Polish Disease- Also syphilis.” P.111, “Scourge of Nations- Also Cholera” p 125 or “St. Hubert’s Disease- Also Rabies” p.122) you can use this book as a research tool or as a source for a few moments interesting and educational diversion.


A Medical Miscellany for Genealogists

Michigan's Historic Schoolhouses

When it comes to historic buildings, few generate the level of interest that one-room schoolhouses do. It’s hard to pass one by without taking a second look and wondering what life was like for students who were educated there. It’s also fascinating to see how they have been remodeled and repurposed into homes, shops, and other useful structures. On February 24, the Library will host a program for all of us who love these old buildings - Michigan’s Historic One Room Schoolhouses. Presenter Dianna Stampfler will take us on a photographic tour of schoolhouses throughout Michigan and reveal their history and how many are being used today. Dianna always presents a lively, informative program; and as a resident of southwest Michigan her presentation will include many familiar landmarks. Join us at 7:00 pm on the 24th for a great program, and don’t forget that you can always find useful information about Kalamazoo County rural schools under Education in the All About Kalamazoo History section of our website.


Michigan’s Historic Schoolhouses

Researching Our Neighbors to the North

Having Irish ancestors who originally settled in Canada before immigrating to the U.S., I am always eager to find new sources for Canadian research. I’m happy to report that several new resources have recently become available in the history room for those of us searching for clues to our Canadian roots. We now have four volumes of the series Erin’s Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canadaby Terrence Punch. The title suggests it contains passenger lists, but that's just the beginning. The series currently spans from 1761 to 1863 and also includes newspaper articles, census, regimental, church, prison, and marriage records, burials, tombstone inscriptions, and more. Another recent acquisition with a different focus on Canadian genealogy is Margaret Ann Wilkinson’s Genealogy and the Law in Canada. This book tackles Canada’s laws pertaining to personal data protection and access to information, and how they affect genealogical research. These complicated issues are thoroughly explained in Wilkinson’s book, and readers come away with a clear understanding of what records they can and can’t expect to obtain in Canada. Finally, many of Ancestry Library Edition’s newest additions are databases of Canadian records. Dozens of databases that run the gamut from British Columbia Medical Register, 1890 to Quebec Land Grants, 1763-1890 were added in October alone. With all these new resources, there couldn’t be a better time to work on your Canadian research in the Local History Room.


Erin's Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada

Cemeteries of Kalamazoo

While I attest to having a fascination with the art and park-like beauty of many cemeteries, working in the local history room has given me an even greater appreciation for them as a tool in genealogical and local history research. Many times, a tombstone provides just the clue needed to fill in a blank or push the research in a different direction. But with around 70 cemeteries and burial grounds in Kalamazoo County, tracking down a gravesite can sometimes be a challenge.

Over the years, individuals and groups like the DAR and the Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society have published books of cemetery records and tombstone inscriptions for various cemeteries and we have those in the local history collection. In more recent years there have also been some very ambitious projects launched on the Internet that provide burial/tombstone information - and many times even photos of individual stones. The problem is that no one set of books or single website has everything for all the cemeteries in the area.

In response to this issue, the Library has launched Cemeteries of Kalamazoo. This collection of web pages locates all the known cemeteries and burial grounds in Kalamazoo County and identifies all the sources – both print and online – for burial and tombstone data for each individual cemetery. You can search for the information by township or with the Cemeteries A-Z index.

As with many of our projects, this is a work in progress and we intend to update and expand as more information comes our way. So be sure to let us know if we’ve missed anything or you know of a new source and we’ll promise to keep this a tool that will be useful for years to come.


Cemeteries of Kalamazoo

Take a Walk on the Historic Side

Kalamazoo is brimming with great history and there are many ways to enjoy it. One of my favorites is through the Gazelle Sports Historic Walks led by Lynn Houghton. The walks are fun, informative and a great way to slow down and truly appreciate all the wonderful historic architecture Kalamazoo has to offer. As a local historian, regional history curator at the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections, and co-author of Kalamazoo Lost and Found, Lynn’s credentials can’t be beat. She deftly identifies the characteristics of architectural styles like Greek Revival, Italianate, Art Deco and many more that can be found throughout Kalamazoo. But that‘s not all you’ll learn. Every building has a story related to the people involved with it – from designers, to builders, to occupants – and you will have the opportunity to hear many of those stories, and through them, learn a great deal about Kalamazoo history.

The walks are free and take place on selected Thursday evenings and Friday mornings through summer and into the fall. Dates, times and locations of this season’s Historic Walks can be found on our Local History Community Events Calendar. So put on your walking shoes and get out there and enjoy the history that surrounds you!


Lynn Houghton 

Meet the Author - and His Civil War Ancestor

The Civil War is a topic of great interest to many people - and when you add in a Michigan connection with a portrayal of an actual Civil War soldier you have the makings of a great program. In collaboration with the General Benjamin Pritchard Camp 20 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the library will be presenting just such a program.

Richard Hamilton, author of “Oh! Hast Thou Forgotten," Michigan Cavalry in the Civil War: The Gettysburg Campaign, will entertain and educate his audience when he portrays his ancestor, George Thomas Patten, at the Central Library on June 8. Patten, who served in the 6th Michigan Cavalry Regiment which rode under the command of Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer in the Battle of Gettysburg -- lost his life at the Battle of Falling Waters. Dressed in a Civil War uniform, Hamilton will interact with the audience as he assumes the character of his courageous ancestor.

The program begins at 7:00 - but come early for the book signing at 6:30. The 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War is less than a year away, and this is a great opportunity to commemorate our history.


Oh Hast Thou Forgotten, Michigan Cavalry in the Civil War

Glimpse Kalamazoo’s Past

Wouldn’t you love to peruse historic photos of places you see every day, or that you remember but no longer exist? In the history room we get to work with these photos every day and we know how much interest they engender. For that reason we’ve made our photo collection (as well as portions of the WMU Archives and Kalamazoo Valley Museum photo collections) available for viewing in our local information database. But if you don’t feel like searching for photos, take a look at our photo galleries. We’ve pulled out some of the best photos from our collection and grouped them together under various topics. You can see Washington Square evolve from the turn of the twentieth century into the 1990s, enjoy the beauty of Kalamazoo parks, and stroll down Burdick Street in the 1800s. Or maybe you prefer photos of people like the portraits of the Kalamazoo High School Class of 1872, or people at work at Gibson Guitar or the Michigan Asylum. Our photo galleries provide a wonderful glimpse of Kalamazoo’s past and are available for you to enjoy whenever you feel like looking back.


Businesses - Photo Galleries

Heyday for Genealogy

For decades, local history room staff have witnessed the amazing thrill people get when they locate that lost ancestor, solve a family mystery, or simply find a grandparent recorded in the U.S. Census. Genealogical research enthralls millions worldwide. To those of us involved in this community, it might seem that genealogy could not get any bigger--but that is clearly not the case. Public radio’s Marketplace recently aired a segment “How Big is Genealogy” which discussed the huge popularity of the hobby. This was demonstrated, in part, by two primetime television shows airing this season. Henry Louis Gates, creator of African American Lives, returns to the topic of genealogy with the four part PBS series Faces of America in which he reveals the family history of 12 American celebrities. Part two premiers February 17. NBC has also discovered the allure of genealogy. Partnering with Ancestry.com, they will air a similar show called Who Do You Think You Are? next month. With the influx of retiring baby boomers, this trend will likely continue to grow-- and we’ll be ready for it in the local history room.



Pique Your Interest with ‘All About Kalamazoo’ Essays

The local history room has been bringing Kalamazoo’s past to life for more than a decade through All About Kalamazoo essays on the KPL website. Back in 1998, the website launched with twelve essays written by local history staff, divided into four categories: Houses, Businesses, Biography, and General Topics. Over the years, this feature of our website has grown dramatically through the interests and efforts of dozens of people. Today we offer nearly 150 essays in 17 different categories.

I will never forget when local history specialist Catherine Larson, who pioneered our local history web pages, invited me to start writing essays for the website. She said to write on any topic that interested me, because if it interested me, it would interest other people. That attitude has paid off and resulted in a great collection of essays on a very diverse set of topics - everything from parks to parking and Lassies to Ladies. But please don’t think that we've run out of things to say. New essays are being added to the website all the time - four in just the last month! So keep checking back, because if it interests us…


All About Kalamazoo