Hay There! Your Photo Could Be Here!

Have you noticed the banner at the top of the page changes every time you visit the Blog? The photos are submitted by readers like you. I just posted a photo of a field of baled hay that I snapped while driving near Brady, just a little east of Montesano.

Hay in Brady, Washington

We’re always looking for scenic photos of our beautiful state for the rotating photo gallery on the blog banner. It’s easy — just send a Washington State jpg image to wsgsblog@wasgs.org with a description of the photo. The blog masters will take care of the rest!

Book Review: Hardship to Homeland: Pacific Northwest Volga Germans

Review by Brian Charles Clark. Reprinted with permission, Washington State Magazine, Summer 2019. To purchase this book, visit WSU Press.

By Richard D Scheuerman and
Clifford E. Trafzer. WSU Press, 2018

When the Prussian Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst deposed (and possibly murdered) her husband, the Russian Emperor Peter III, she became Empress Catherine the Great. Catherine ruled from 1762 to 1796. She ushered in a golden age for the empire. She had herself inoculated against smallpox and her advocacy and example saved millions of lives. She expanded the Russian empire into Poland in the west, and into Alaska in the east. And to shore up her western border, she invited German peasants to settle along the Volga River.

By paying their way and allowing the settlers to retain their languages and cultures, she enabled 27,000 migrants to settle. For 100 years, the Volga Germans prospered and made good use of die Kaisarina Katarina’s gift of land. Dick Scheuerman grew up in eastern Washington listening to his elder tell the tales of the “historic trek” from Germany to Russia—and the great betrayal that forced the descendants of those settlers to embark on another great trek.

By 1871, the Russian Senate had reneged on the deal that brought the settlers to the banks of the Volga. Faced with poverty, and being drafted into the Russian army, some 100,000 Volga Germans immigrated to North America.

As Scheuerman points out, place names throughout the Pacific Northwest reveal their Russian origins. Moscow, Idaho, and Odessa, Washington, “and smaller rural hamlets like Tiflis and Batum” are part of the story of a great Russian-German immigration to the United States in the late nineteenth century.

In 1881, the first wave of Volga Germans traveled from Kansas to San Francisco by rail, and then on to Portland by steamship. The following year, some families crossed the Cascades “by wagon…to establish homes in eastern Washington Territory’s fertile Palouse Country.”

Some immigrants came to Ritzville, an area around the Big Bend of the Columbia River. The land there had been thought to be uncultivable, but Phillip Ritz, a few others, and the new immigrants proved that wrong. “The loam was dark and rich in the area, but without lumber they had to live in sod houses or dugouts and use sagebrush and cow dung for fuel. Through efficient methods of tillage and fallowing, the industrious farmers achieved remarkable success.” Soon, the new farmers were “a distinctive island in the semi-arid pioneer landscapes of Adams County.”

The immigrants brought seed with them, hardy wheat varieties like Saxonia and Turkey Red. They brought names, too, like Weyerhaeuser and others that still figure prominently in Northwest culture and economics. And they brought stories, which Scheuerman and his wife, Lois, have been collecting since the 1970s.

The stories the kolonisty brought with them, and that the Scheuermans preserve here, tell of ties to the great czarina, a gift of a blue teapot that saved lives, and a moving story about a family, pushed by discrimination out of their Volga River home, who relocate to the American West. Respectful of the Native American families living nearby, they made a new home in the hills of the Palouse.

Hardship to Homeland is a fascinating read. First published in 1980, and revised and expanded for this new 2018 edition, the book is not only a detailed history of one of the largest ethnic migrations in the history of the United States, it is also a valuable resource for folklorists, as the authors painstakingly collected numerous stories handed down within Volga German families. It is also a testament to the value immigrants bring in terms of new political, religious, and social ideas, as well as economically important innovations now ingrained in Pacific Northwest farming and forestry methods.

Olympia Gen Soc Hosts Successful Spring Seminar

More than 150 people attended Olympia Genealogical Society‘s sold-out Spring Seminar on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Everyone left heap full of DNA-rich information and resources after hearing renowned DNA expert and author Blaine Bettinger. His topics included:

Blaine Bettinger autographing his book, “Genetic Genealogy in Practice.”
  • Using Autosomal DNA for 18th and 19th Century Mysteries
  • Using Third Party Tools to Analyze Your Autosomal DNA
  • The Danger of Distant Matches
  • Mapping Your Chromosomes Using DNA Painter

Always a first-rate affair, Olympia’s Spring Seminar also included book sales, non-profit organizations’ information tables and fabulous raffle baskets. It was also a great opportunity to welcome and network with fellow genealogists from the area.

Societies: If you’d like to promote your workshop or seminar on the WSGS Blog, send a flyer or paragraph to WSGSBlog@wasgs.org. We’d love to share it with our readers!

Northwest Genealogy Conference — Early Bird Discount Flying Away Soon

Register by April 15 for the Northwest Genealogy Conference to receive the Early Bird Discount. Held August 14 – 17 in Arlington, WA, this is the region’s premier genealogical conference. Keynote speakers include Thomas MacEntee, Angie Bush and Michael Strauss. 

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to make your room reservations. Hotels fill up fast!

See www.nwgc.org for more information on the conference, discounted hotel rooms and to register. You don’t want to miss this great event!

Some of the happy attendees at the 2018 conference.

New Blog Banner Photos Posted

Have you noticed the Blog banner changes every time you visit? The photos are submitted by readers like you — and Sue Schack Jensen, Library Director at the Seattle Genealogical Society. Sue recently sent us two beautiful scenic photos:

  • Puget Sound and the Olympics from Myrtle Edwards Park, Seattle.
  • Olympic Mountains from the top of Capitol Hill, Seattle (pictured at right).

We’re always looking for scenic photos of our beautiful state for the rotating photo gallery on the blog banner. It’s easy — just send a Washington State jpg image to wsgsblog@wasgs.org with a description of the photo. The blog masters will take care of the rest!

Okanogan County Gen Soc Uses Their Innovative Grant

 The Okanogan County Genealogical Society recently completed their Book Repair and Preservation project funded, in part, by WSGS’s Innovative Grant program.

On December 31, 2018, OCGS member Phil Brown completed repairs of the “Tonasket Times Newspapers” years 1913 – 1952.  Each of the 22 oversized books, which are located at the Okanogan County Historical Society, took five rolls of a specialized archival document repair tape.

The restoration project began in December 2017 and took almost 200 volunteer hours and 1,230 volunteer miles.

Besides the Okanogan County Genealogical Society, the four other successful 2018 grant winners were:

More information about the Innovative Grant program, including deadlines, will be available soon.

Kudos to WSGS Regional Rep Patty Olsen

WSGS Regional Representative Patty Olsen has been working with the Columbia Gorge Genealogical Society to revitalize their society. In the most recent issue of their “Tales and Trails” newsletter, the society thanked her for her energy and enthusiasm. 

Thank You, Patty Olsen! Our society would like to thank Patty Olsen from the Washington State Genealogical Society for her help in the past year.  She has brought new ideas and energy to our group. We are a small society with various hurdles to leap from time to time and she gave us some new insight for a more productive society.  She really knows her stuff!! Thank You, Patty!

For more information about Regional Representatives, click here.

A Message from the WSGS President

2018 is quickly drawing to a close.  Year’s end is always a good time for retrospection and planning for next year and years to come.  Each year I evaluate my genealogical successes, failures and unfulfilled plans. I use this information to prioritize my to-do lists and come up with a new research plan for the next year.  We are doing a similar process at WSGS.

WSGS President Ginny Majewski

As genealogists, you are aware of all the changes which have come about in our industry.  Some of those changes have drastically changed the way we do business, the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we educate and so much more.  What societies did for years, no longer works as well today.  This means WSGS must continue to change if we wish to remain alive and relevant. 

Several years ago, WSGS began an evaluation of itself by looking at what we were doing well and what we weren’t doing so well.  As a result, we began making changes in the Society. Our first changes were to improve the WSGS website and the Blog. Next, improvements were made to the Recognition and Awards program. We initiated the Innovative Grant program to help societies with special projects and educational events.  For the most part, these endeavors have been successful. 

This past year, we focused on making further improvements to the website.  Our goal was to provide better access to resources for genealogists and for genealogical societies. Information on each genealogical society in Washington was updated and expanded, including info on special collections held by societies. Information on museums in Washington was added to the website. We began revitalizing the Speakers’ Directory. In addition, for the second year in a row, WSGS provided Society Management classes at the Northwest Genealogy Conference in Arlington. We are working on a collaborative relationship with the owners of the Civil War Veterans Buried in Washington State website.

The WSGS Board will be holding a two-day retreat this spring to bring forth new ideas, evaluate, plan and move WSGS forward.  Board meetings are open to the membership.  I welcome any thoughts you have on WSGS.  Just drop me an email at geneahunter@gmail.com

Wishing you all peace, hope and joy in the New Year.

Ginny Majewski, President

New APG Officers Have Washington Ties

The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) recently announced the results of its election for new board and nominating committee members.

Washington is well-represented at APG:

Click here for a complete list of the APG’s at-large board and nominating committee members.

The Association of Professional Genealogists, established in 1979, represents more than 2,700 genealogists in various genealogy-related businesses. APG encourages genealogical excellence, ethical practice, mentoring, and education. The organization also supports the preservation and accessibility of records useful to the fields of genealogy and history. Its members come from all fifty U.S. states, Canada, and forty other countries.

Looking for a Last Minute Christmas Gift?

Looking for that last minute Christmas gift for someone — or yourself? How about a WSGS membership? It’s only $12/year whether an individual or couple — only $1 a month! We need your membership support so we can continue sponsoring this WSGS Blog; promote local genealogical meetings, workshops and conferences; and — it’s the right thing to do to support statewide organizations like the Washington State Genealogical Society.

It’s easy to join (or renew). Just click here to join (new members) or here to renew (current members must log in).