Grays Harbor Fire Update

Members of the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society, a hearty bunch for sure, are picking themselves up by their boot straps and putting together a plan to restore their Research Library. The library was destroyed in a 3-alarm fire on Saturday, June 9, 2018. Besides the research library, the fire at the Aberdeen Amory also devastated the Aberdeen Museum of History, Coastal Community Action and the Aberdeen Senior Center. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Click here for next day news coverage by the Aberdeen Daily World.

A temporary location at the Hoquiam Regional Library has been secured. Under the leadership of GHGS President Gary Parfitt and a small committee (of a small society), plans are being made to purchase everything from computers and a copier to pencils and paper clips. Generous financial donations from local genealogical societies and individuals from around the state have been humbly accepted. In addition, many societies have offered donations of Grays Harbor-related books and family researches. GHGS is particularly interested in early Polk Directories, telephone books, obituaries, funeral records, identified photographs or family histories (with ties to Grays Harbor or Chehalis Counties). Anyone with materials to donate or reproduce can contact Gary Parfitt at Financial donations can be sent to the society’s Research Library Go Fund Me page or directly to the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 916, Aberdeen, WA 98520.

A personal message to all: We are so thankful for the generosity of so many — some known to us, others strangers. We would never want this catastrophe to happen to any individual or society, but if it did, we hope you would experience the kindnesses we have. Sincerely, Roxanne Lowe, Proud member of the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society

Don’t Dilly Dally to Get Your NWGC Banquet Ticket

If you’re planning to attend the Northwest Genealogy Conference, you won’t want to miss CeCe Moore’s presentation “Making History with Genetic Genealogy” at the banquet on Friday, Aug. 17.  You MUST purchase your banquet ticket in advance and it’s nearing capacity! Tickets will not be sold at the door.

CeCe will be talking about a very timely subject: “Making History with Genetic Genealogy.” Recent strides in technology have enabled genetic genealogy to play a leading role in both rewriting and making history, and CeCe has been along for the ride.

Get yourself registered for the conference and don’t forget that banquet ticket!

Celebrating Your Outstanding Volunteer

WSGS Regional Rep Janet McKinnon presented Lawrence Clay his Outstanding Volunteer certificate while Jim Macica, Tri City Genealogical Society President looked on

Thirty local genealogical society members were honored as Outstanding Volunteers at the WSGS Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Washington, on 26 May 2018. Each of these individuals and teams was nominated by their local society for the award, and many societies extend the honor with a special presentation and/or announcement. We encourage you to celebrate your nominee’s accomplishments and contributions through a press release, social media posting, newsletter article or presentation at a meeting. Celebrate their volunteerism!

A cumulative list of all the outstanding volunteers since 2003 is available here.

How to Post Your Event and News

Do you want to broadcast information about your local society, workshop, genealogical tip, or a research query? Just send it to the WSGS Blog and WSGS Meetings and Events! You can reach hundreds of genealogists from around the state. Just email a Word document, text file, PDF or graphic to and  and we’ll do the rest!

We’re always looking to publicize local events and workshops, feature stories, updates from your society, and other genealogical information that might be of interest to our many subscribers and viewers.

We hope to hear from you soon! And don’t forget to encourage your Society members to subscribe to the Blog for the most up-to-date information from around the state.

You may manage your subscription options from your profile.

Five Societies Earn Innovative Grants

In an announcement made at the WSGS Annual Meeting on 26 May 2018 in Vancouver, five local societies were  awarded Innovative Grants for special projects and purchases. The grants, up to $100, are designed to support the inventive and creative efforts of WSGS-member societies and organizations. Each society’s proposal was scored and ranked by a review team.

2018 Innovative Grants were awarded to:

  1. Eastside Genealogical Society to help pay for “The Photo Detective” Maureen Taylor workshop to celebrate the society’s 40th birthday. Ms. Taylor will present “Finding Family History in Your Picture Mysteries” on September 15 in Bellevue. Society members will get to attend for free while the public will pay a small fee. For more information about this workshop, click here.
  2. Lower Columbia Genealogical Society to purchase genealogical books to donate to the Longview Public Library for public use. Lower Columbia has generously donated books for a number of years, using money from membership dues and their coffee stops.
  3. Okanogan Genealogical Society to help purchase supplies to repair and preserve books holding the “Tonasket Times” newspaper from 1913 – 1952. Each book uses an entire roll of special archival document repair tape. This grant will buy a few rolls of tape to stop the destruction of the collection.
  4. Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society to help publish a book on “Early Stillaguamish Valley Schools” in the Arlington Area. It’s taken years to gather historical documents and photographs for this project from the 1800s to the early 1940s and now they’re ready to publish.
  5. Wenatchee Area Genealogical Society For the 4th consecutive year, WAGS has applied for an Innovative Grant to promote genealogy in their area. This year, they’re focusing on the digital preservation of family records, library holdings and archival documents. They plan to preserve family histories and archival materials of their society, its members and the community.

The Innovative Grant program was started in 2015 to support the inventive and creative efforts of local societies and organizations. When created, Recognition Chair Roxanne Lowe explained, “We know that local societies can do a lot with very little, so we’re hoping the Innovative Grant Program will be what you need to jump-start a project that has been dreamed about for some time.”

Olympia and Clark County Earn Top Honors

The Olympia Genealogical Society and Clark County Genealogical Society earned outstanding society awards at the WSGS Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony on May 26 in Vancouver.

WSGS President Virginia Majewski presented the Outstanding Project Award to CCGS President Brian Runyan and member Lois Bosland.

The Clark County Genealogical Society, in addition to being the excellent hosts of the Awards Ceremony, were the recipients of the Outstanding Project Award for their Tax Ledger Project which included digitizing, transcribing and indexing original 1886 and 1891 tax ledgers for the City of Vancouver. As we all know, those are critical years for any family history researcher in lieu of the 1890 census disaster. The tax records included who owned property in Vancouver and how much tax was owed and paid (or not). The Clark County Society consulted with the State Archives, Clark County Historical Museum, History Department at WSU Vancouver and the WSU Library – a true collaborative effort. This treasure trove of information is now available to the public and the original records are being turned over to the State Archives.

OGS members Dee Dee Simpson, Dick Moody, Nancy Cordell, seminar speaker David Allen Lambert, and Roger Newman celebrating their accomplishments

Olympia Gen Soc earned the Outstanding Communication Award for their new website. For 20 years, they used a popular web host that is currently unavailable. Understanding the importance and urgency of getting information out to their members and the public in this web-based world, they created a new website, using a web development company that specializes in genealogical societies (EasyNetSites — same as WSGS). Olympia’s site is attractive – and even better, it’s full of current information. Check out their website here. They also use their Facebook page to regularly post informational tidbits, newsy articles and promote their meetings and seminar.

Besides the Outstanding Communication Award, Olympia’s Ann Olsen was awarded the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement while Rebel Romero received an Outstanding Volunteer award.

Update on Grays Harbor Gen Soc Research Library

The GHGS Research Library was housed in the Aberdeen Armory Building, built in 1922. Photo by Bonnie Johannes.

Members of the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society are slowly coming to grips with the fiery loss of their research library. The library was housed in the Aberdeen Armory which also included the Aberdeen Museum of History, Coastal Community Action Program and the Aberdeen Senior Center. The June 9 fire gutted the first and second floors of the building. Amazingly (and thankfully) some of the Aberdeen Museum’s photographs, documents and artifacts were rescued from the basement which was filled with four feet of water. The fire is still under investigation and may be for at least a couple more weeks.

While there is nothing left of the research library, short-term storage has been secured as the society begins to rebuild its holdings and collections. A plea for financial help and Grays Harbor County (and its predecessor Chehalis County) research materials has been sent from GHGS President Gary Parfitt. Financial donations or gift cards (Staples, Amazon, Costco, etc.) are most easily used to avoid duplication, over-supply and will be used when society members can begin researching again.

In addition to financial help, the society is asking for Grays Harbor-related research materials to restore their collections. Suggestions include Polk Directories, telephone books, obituaries, funeral records, identified photographs or family histories (with ties to Grays Harbor or Chehalis Counties). Anyone with materials to donate or reproduce can contact Gary Parfitt at

Financial donations can be sent to the society’s Research Library Go Fund Me page or directly to the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 916, Aberdeen, WA 98520.

Grays Harbor Research Library Destroyed by Fire

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 was housed on the 1st floor of the Amory Building.

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.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Change Is In the Air at WSGS

Please join me in welcoming Heather Murphy as our new Web Manager. Heather is a WSGS member from the Tri-Cities area. She will be transitioning to the position in the next few weeks. Welcome, Heather!

A huge debt of gratitude goes to our outgoing Web Manager, Roxanne Lowe. She has made many improvements to the WSGS website over the past couple of years. We are sorry to see her go, but family obligations come first!

Please consider how you might contribute to our genealogical community. We are still looking for someone to take over the Recognition and Awards Program. If you are interested, please contact me.

Virginia Majewski, President

Ann Olson Awarded President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement

Ann Olson

In an announcement made at the WSGS Annual Meeting on 26 May 2018, Ann Olson from Olympia was awarded the WSGS President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement. The award, made by WSGS President Virginia Majewski, is designed to single out that rare individual, society or organization that has demonstrated exemplary service above and beyond expectations.

Just a few of Ann’s accomplishments:

  • Founding member of the Olympia Genealogical Society 44 years ago.
  • Has served in every board position; more than once in many cases.
  • Organizes and teaches a beginning genealogy course at the local library.
  • Affectionately called the “lead-off batter and team captain” of the society.

Ann’s involvement in her community is broader than genealogy. For example, she is a docent at the Governor’s Mansion; member of the Daughters of the Pioneers (including being president of her local chapter); and registrar of the local DAR, where she’s been a member for more than 30 years. When her children were growing up, Ann was active in the PTA, including being state president and national vice-president.

Ann exemplifies what the President’s Award stands for: long-term, consistent service in genealogy and in the community. Congratulations to her!