Local History and Genealogy
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The Local History Room is filled with a wide variety of books and some of the ones that get used the most by patrons are local high school and college yearbooks. They are a great resource for finding the names of classmates or that photograph of the favorite English teacher. Sometimes people come in to trip down memory lane with family members. The Library has a nice collection but always needs to fill the gaps. If you would like to see what we have, please go to:
We always are interested in receiving additional copies. If you have any questions, please contact the Local History Room.
A number of years ago, the Michigan State University Press introduced a new series called Discovering the Peoples of Michigan which features books on the various ethnic groups in our state. Currently, there are twenty-seven different volumes on such groups as Germans, Irish, Latinos, Scots and African-Americans. The books are not that large, maybe 100 to 150 pages and include photographs. Some of the volumes also may have recipes and other information. The Local History Room has many of these books, shelved around the 320s. Also there are copies available in the general collection that can be checked out. MSU publishes new volumes every year, so if a book on your ethnic group has not come out yet, I’m sure it will come out in the near future.
Scots in Michigan
The Local History Room has a wonderful collection of books on all aspects of local, regional and state history along with many on genealogical topics. They cannot be checked out but can be used in the Local History Room. However, don’t despair; there always is the chance that the Library has a second copy in the circulating stacks. Check the catalog and you can find out this information. An “H” in front of the Dewey Decimal number signifies that the book is in the Local History Room and cannot be borrowed. The same book without the “H” in front of the Dewey number is a book that can be checked out. More than likely you will find it on the second floor shelves.
Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State
Being a lifelong West Michigan resident, I was anxious for the arrival of Marge Beaver’s new book Above West Michigan: Aerial Photography of West Michigan. I really enjoyed her first book, Above the North: Aerial Photography of Northern Michigan, and assumed that photos of familiar areas would make it even better. I was not disappointed. The photos in this book are amazing but to my surprise, not particularly familiar. She has captured the beauty of West Michigan in every season, from lakes to urban areas, in totally unexpected ways. I particularly liked the way she brought bright splashes of color into many of the photos using objects like boats, rooftops, and even blankets. Pick up Above West Michigan from the new books shelf in the local history room or the non-fiction shelves on the second floor and thumb through it. I guarantee you will have to sit down and examine every page.
Above West Michigan
Okay, okay I know I said you should not judge a book by its cover but I have to say there is a 36-volume set on the Local History Room shelves that are very unique. Titled, Historical and Biographical Records (H 920 M 481), they are filled with entries on local organizations and individuals collected by Reverend Robert E. Meader, a Methodist minister. He stressed in an information sheet found in Volume One about those individuals included that, “Some of them are considered prominent and some consider themselves humble.” Most of these people lived in the Kalamazoo area during the first half of the Twentieth Century and some of the entries were written by family members themselves. The photographs and typed sheets were bound in “…the most beautiful, full red Russia leather binders with double metal hinges and metal back and gold tracing with lettering,” as Reverend Meader described it.
The volumes are arranged in alphabetical order but you also can access them if you go to www.kpl.gov and click on “Catalog” then click on “Local Information” and then “All Local Databases” which will bring up a search box. To search this way you will have to have a name or organization you want to find. Also, the books are on microfilm if you would like to view them that way.
If you don’t have anyone particular you need to find, just go to the shelf and choose a volume to look at and be introduced to some of the people who lived in Kalamazoo not that long ago.
A few miles this side of Ann Arbor is a town of 5000 called Chelsea. While many may not have heard of the place, they almost certainly have seen (and tasted) the brand produced there: JIFFY. The Chelsea Milling Company, www.jiffymix.com, today produces over 1.6 million boxes of biscuit and cake mixes every day. This book, by Ann Arbor author Cynthia Furlong Reynolds, is a very high-quality history of the company, its products, and the family that founded it and continues to run it. The inviting cover leads one into the book itself, where the company story includes many photos of and interviews with family and longtime employees. As one devoted to all things Michigan, I love the fact that a commodity used by my mother, and my grandmother before her, is made right here in my beloved home state.
"Jiffy:" A Family Tradition: Mixing Business and Old-Fashioned Values
With our current economy, it seems to me that more people may be looking to stay close to home this summer when it’s time for vacation. Fortunately for us, living in Michigan, there are a countless number of places to go depending on what your mood or interest might be. The Local History Room has several books which can help you pinpoint your destination. Make sure you look at:
You never know what unique and unusual place you might find…remember Mystery Spot? It’s still there.
Michigan Curiosities Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff