Full disclaimer: The author of this post is a long-time member of the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society and totally devastated by this loss.
The Grays Harbor Genealogical Society’s Research Library, housed in the Aberdeen Museum of History, was one of the victims of a devastating fire on Saturday, June 9, 2018. The massive fire destroyed most of the first and second floors of the historic Armory Building, which was built in 1922. The building was home to the priceless Museum of History, Coastal Community Action Program, the Aberdeen Senior Center, and the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society research library. Investigators are still determining the cause of the fire that raged out of control for hours, drawing fire departments from the whole county and parts of Thurston County.
Representatives from the State Archives were on the scene to offer assistance with recovery and restoration of any surviving historic photos, documents, artifacts — some of which were in the basement of the concrete building. Ironically, Tracy Rebstock, Southwest Regional Archivist with the State Archives was the featured speaker at the GHGS meeting that day, speaking on disaster preparedness and preserving historic documents and heirlooms. Her assurances to shocked GHGS members was much appreciated as she talked about how to recover from this disaster. Servpro of Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties, a fire disaster recovery company, is also helping with recovery efforts.
The GHGS Research Library was housed on the first floor of the building which was destroyed with temperatures reported to exceed 2,000 degrees. All is a loss. Members of the small society are meeting to find another location and begin re-gathering local records, documents and books. The society had recently completed a conversion of the library to emphasize Grays Harbor County (and its predecessor Chehalis County). The research library was known for its extensive collection of now-defunct Whiteside and Elerding funeral records and obituary records, dating back as far as the late 1800s. While some of the records were digitized, others were in hard copy only. The society’s research chairman Bonnie Johannes said much of what they had was permanently lost. “We must’ve had at least 25,000 hard copies (of obituaries), so it’s a tremendous loss.”
Anyone wishing to make financial or resource donations is encouraged to use their Go Fund Me campaign or direct to the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 916, Aberdeen, WA 98520.