The Genealogical Society of Flemish Americans
by Margaret Roets
A visit to America in the summer of 1976 by Michel Misplon, founder of the Vlaamse Vereniging voor Familiekunde (VVF) and then editor-in-chief of the Vlaamse Stam, sparked the formation of the Genealogical Society of Flemish Americans. A dozen men and women were interested and began meeting in November 1976, gathering data and encouraging others to join them.
The first few months the group met, through the kindness of Morris and Margaret DeFour, in the conference room of their legal office. The next spring the group was invited by Leon Buyse, the unofficial historian of all things Belgian, to visit his home and view his collection of memorabilia. This was an important turning point; he informed the group that he intended to turn over his extensive collection to them. Shortly thereafter, he moved to an apartment in the Taillieu Senior Citizens Residence . He was, at that time, the editor of the Gazette van Detroit, located in that building. He was provided with a large room across the hall from the offices of the Gazette to house all of his papers. In September 1977 this room became the society’s meeting place. Since the society now had a permanent place to store their resources, they began to add material, learned to use new technology and became a real library. It has grown to the point where it can be safely said that, among reference libraries of its type, it is without equal anywhere in America, A CD is available covering its contents The society was fortunate to have as a member Fr Karel Denys who was a great help and inspiration. He is a thorough researcher, has a deep interest in Belgian history, and is invaluable as a translator in Flemish, French and Latin.
As membership grew it was soon realized that a communication tool was needed and so, in 1983, began the publication Flemish American Heritage. Published three times per year, it is included with membership in the GSFA. Members are entitled to publish their queries in the magazine and they are then also published on the gsfa website, reaching many more people.
The library is dedicated to Leon and is officially named The Leon Buyse Library. The building is now known as American House East II.
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