Closing of Seattle National Archives

Officials from Washington DC were in Seattle meeting with Puget Sound Native American Tribes: Click Here to read the whole story.

Meanwhile, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson continues to weigh legal action, and last week sent document requests to multiple federal agencies involved in the Seattle facility. Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is leading an effort to identify alternatives to the priceless materials being shipped to California.

Closure of Seattle National Archives

Closure of the National Archives in Seattle

On Monday, January 13, 2020, the staff at the National Archives at Seattle received notification that within the next four years, the facility will be closed, and the records will be transferred to the NARA facilities in Kansas City, Missouri or Riverside, CA.

The National Archives at Seattle  has 50,000 case files from the Chinese Exclusion Act from Chinese who entered the U.S. through the ports of Seattle, Sumas, Port Townsend,  Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Vancouver, B.C. from 1882 to 1943.  A dedicated staff of local volunteers is indexing these files.  If these records are moved 1,000 miles away, this valuable work will end.

Anyone who has ever gotten research assistance from the National Archives staff appreciates their vast institutional knowledge of the records. This will be lost if the National Archives is closed and moved from the Pacific Northwest.

More background information on the closure can be found at Save National Archives at Seattle.

For a thorough discussion of the proposed closure and updates go to Feliks Banel’s My Northwest online column

See Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) for the complete report. Submit your comments to the PBRB at

Call the National Archives at 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or contact them at

Please call your senators, congressional representatives and let them know you want these records to remain at the National Archives in Seattle.

Thank you.
Trish Hackett Nicola
Blog Editor

Closing the Seattle National Archives

Seattle Branch of the National Archives to Close

Posted on January 25, 2020 by Leland Meitzler

It has been announced that the Seattle branch of the National Archives is being closed. I’ve spent a lot of time researching at the Sandpoint Way facility. Not only did I research my family (using the Federal Census microfilm prior to digitization), but I’ve done a lot of local history research, most relating to the early history of Pierce and King County, Washington. That was all working with original documents. However, the biggest losers in the move may be the many Native American tribes of the area – some 272 of them!

They say that the records can be stored in Kansas City and Southern California. Historians researching Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho will have a long way to go to search the records. They say that .001% of the collection is digitized, so that’s not going to help. This is about the money. I’d bet that no one working on the OMB board that made this decision has Pacific Northwest roots. Suddenly it all comes close to home, making us realize how much power a few unnamed bureaucrats in D.C. have over us lowly taxpayers.

Following is an excerpt from an article published in the January 25, 2020 edition of the Seattle Times:

The decision to pack up and move the National Archives at Seattle to Southern California and Kansas City, Missouri, has rattled those who have spent hours doing research in the mammoth facility.

A panel charged with looking at ways to trim federal properties deemed excess has recommended the 73-year-old building and its 10-acre site be sold. The U.S. Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) agreed and announced its decision late Friday that the facility should be closed.

“I’m deeply disappointed that OMB failed to heed bipartisan Congressional requests & approved selling #Seattle’s archives facility w/out engaging state & local officials & affected communities as required by law,” tweeted Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Democrat whose 7th Congressional District includes the Sand Point archives property.  “We must get answers about why the law wasn’t followed in this case.”

The move comes despite a letter sent Friday to the OMB  by   all senators from Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Idaho, and eight of the 10 Washington state representatives to Congress. The letter concluded the recommendation to close the archives “was flawed” and should be rejected.

On Saturday, after learning of the approved closure, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said, “Trying to move these articles from the region with their historic content just shows an absolute disregard for the importance of them and their significance to our region.”

Read the full article.

Thanks for letting me post this Leland.

Seattle Genealogical Society Save the Seattle Archives

Your Help is Needed to Keep the National Archives in Seattle!
Act Now! 

The National Archives at Seattle is slated for closure. Please act now to try to keep this invaluable facility in Seattle. In the Seattle Times today, Saturday, January 25, 2020, the article on the closure has the headline, “Terrible and disgusting: Decision to close National Archives at Seattle a blow to tribes, historians in 4 states”. We at SGS agree. Genealogists all over the Northwest will agree. Tribal members and Alaskans will agree. 

The deadline for public comment is Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Please take the time to contact your senators and your representative now! There are some talking points and insight into the issues at the bottom of this message. 

For more information, please read the note written by Trish Nicola Hackett that has been inserted here. Also read the Seattle Times articles in the Saturday, January 25, 2020,  and Sunday, January 26, 2020, editions.   Note from Trish Hackett Nicola, genealogist, historian, and researcher of Chinese Exclusion Act files at the National Archives in Seattle : 
  As you have probably heard from several sources, the Seattle branch of the National Archives will close in the next two to four years and the records will be transferred to Kansas City, Missouri and Riverside, CA.   It is important for genealogists to let our government officials know what an outrage this is and that this move will deprive researchers of access to local records.    As researchers we know that it is a myth that all records are or can be digitized. Records are being digitized as quickly as possible, but it takes time, money, and staff to do this overwhelming job. Archivists add important metadata to enable researchers to find the material they are seeking. Digitization is a goal, but it is far from reality at this point.   I have attached a summary of some more talking points. Please,call or write your senators, congressional representatives, local officials, the members of SGS, and anyone interested in keeping the records from Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho in the Pacific Northwest. If possible add  a short personal anecdote from your research experience.   The Seattle Times will feature a version of this essay in the newspaper on Saturday, January 25. Sunday’s issue will include a dramatic story and photos of a National Archives volunteer finding her aunt’s Native American file with a completed 4-generation pedigree chart.    Help save the National Archives for the Pacific Northwest!   Thank you.   Trish Trish Hackett Nicola
2908 27th Ave West
Seattle, WA 98199-2853
Talking Points and Insight into the issues: 

Closure of National Archives in Seattle

On Monday, January 13, 2020, the staff at the National Archives at Seattle received notification that within the next four years, the facility will be closed, and the records will be transferred to the NARA facilities in Kansas City, Missouri or Riverside, CA.

There was no advance notice of this decision.  The staff or the public was not notified that public hearings were held in Washington, D.C., Laguna Niguel, CA; and Denver, CO in June and July 2019.  No meetings were held in the Pacific Northwest.

The National Archives at Seattle holds 58,000 cubic feet of historic records from the Pacific Northwest for Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska. These records belong in the Pacific Northwest. People here need access. These records should not be stored a thousand miles away.

When the Alaska regional facility of NARA was closed in 2014 and the records transferred to Seattle, the residents of Alaska were promised that the records would stay in the Pacific Northwest in perpetuity. Tribal members use these files to establish or keep membership in tribes. Proof of tribal citizenship is used to obtain education funds. Tribal records have been used for retaining fishing rights, as in the Boldt Decision. Native school records from Alaska and Oregon are included in the NARA collections. Another broken promise to Native Americans…

These historic records are used for research by students at the University of Washington and other local colleges and include Federal court cases for over 100 years, 1890 to 2000, and naturalization records. There are 50,000 case files from the Chinese Exclusion Act from Chinese who entered the U.S. through the ports of Seattle, Portland, Sumas, Port Townsend, and Vancouver, B.C. from 1882 to 1943.
Genealogists and historians rely on these records. They’re the basis for scores of books and articles. Among the many authors who have used the collection are Lorraine McConaghy, Eric Liu, Jennifer Ott, Knute Berger, Karen Abbott, Bennet Bronson, Chuimei Ho, and Marie Rose Wong. Countless stories about the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and the building of the Ballard Locks could never have been written without NARA’s documents.

It is a myth that all records are or can be digitized. Records are being digitized as quickly as possible, but it takes time, money, and staff to do this overwhelming job. Archivists add important metadata to enable researcher to find the material they are seeking. Digitization is a goal, but it is far from reality at this point.

Nothing can replace the feeling of holding an original, historical record of your ancestor. These original documents connect you directly to your ancestor.

If the National Archives is closed and moved from the Pacific Northwest, the vast institutional knowledge of the staff will be lost. The National Archives depends on volunteers to help make records accessible to researchers. If these records are moved 1,000 miles away, this valuable work will end.

Closing the National Archives at Seattle and moving the records to Missouri or California does not reflect the mission and values of the National Archives

Mission of the National Archives
Our mission is to provide public access to Federal Government records in our custody and control. Public access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.

Values of the National Archives
Our Values reflect our shared aspirations that support and encourage our long-standing commitment to public service, openness and transparency, and the government records that we hold in trust.

Purpose of the National Archives

The National Archives holds historical documents of the U.S. Government (federal, congressional, and presidential records) on behalf of the American public so that citizens, public servants, Congress, and the Courts can obtain the information they need to exercise their rights and responsibilities.

FASTA (Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act) identifies the factors for consideration during the review and assessment of property recommended for disposal, consolidation, or re-development of the government property.

According to the FASTA Factors report:
“Mission Alignment: Disposition of the property will better support mission alignment.”
The mission of the National Archives is to provide public access to Federal Government records. Moving the Pacific Northwest historic records 1,000 miles away does not provide public access. It makes it difficult for citizens to participate more effectively in their government.

According to the FASTA Factors report: 
“Access to Services: A portion of the property is open to the public for research purposes. NARA has determined that it can fulfill its mission needs at the target relocation facilities.”

It does not matter if the facility is open to the public. Pacific Northwest citizens would still need to travel over 1,000 miles to have access to their records. This puts an extreme burden on anyone wishing to do research of the Pacific Northwest records.

The FASTA report says their conclusions align with the mission, values, and purpose of the National Archives. They don’t.  NARA is saying that they can fulfill its mission in spite of moving the records. They can’t.

For the complete report, see Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB), 
Go to Recommendations, then go to Official Updated PBRB Submission to OMB, December 27, 2019.  Submit your comments to the PBRB at

And please, if you care about history, call your senators, congressional representatives and anyone interested in access to the past.

Call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or contact them at


Closing Seattle National Archives

Greetings Fellow Family Historians and Pacific NW History Enthusiasts,

I am addressing you in this email not as the president of the Skagit Valley Genealogical Society but as a member of the genealogy community who shares your interest in our regional history. Please be clear that this email reflects my private thoughts and concerns that I wish to share with my  fellow family-historian and enthusiast of local and regional history. At this time, this is not a reflection of SVGS or any other organization that I belong to.

Today, on Dick Eastman’s genealogy  blog ( I came across this surprise announcement (Please see PDF attached). Mr. Eastman’s article was about the Office of Management and Budget’s plans to close the National Archives and Records Administration (aka NARA) branch in Seattle. I thought you would care to be informed about this decision that was made without public input by the Office of Management and Budget.

This behind-closed doors, without public input, decision to close and move this regional archive to either Southern California or Missouri so the Office of Management and Budget can sell the property, and heavens knows what this valuable Seattle property could potentially yield for developers, perhaps building some corporate building or luxury condos, of course, o the highest bidder. To me this seems selfish, greedy and at best, short sighted.

NARA’s facility in Sandpoint, Seattle and its close proximity to the University of Washington has enabled countless academics, professional historians and researchers from the general public to publish theses, books, and a sundry of educational materials to enlighten all of us about the Pacific NW’s rich and fascinating past. Countless genealogy researchers also make the journey to Sandpoint in Seattle from across the Pacific Northwest region to make productive use of NARA’s valuable primary sources.

In 2014 17 genealogist-mentors and 17 Burlington-Edison Alternative High School seniors visited NARA in Seattle. Those students, who were at-risk for not graduating, learned so much about our state and regional history and the shear magnitude of the vast historical resources available to them and to all students of history. I know it left a lasting life-long impression on their young minds. They joined the countless visitors to NARA that left better informed, more knowledgeable about research methodology and with a deeper interest in history.

I tend to be long-winded in my writing, so I will leave off here so I do not overstay my welcome and your attention.
Below is the contact mailing address if you wish to express your opinion about NARA Seattle staying in Seattle – not moving Washington and Alaska’s (etc) historical records and primary sources to Missouri or California where those local communities would have little to no interest in these resources.

Thank you for your time and for joining me in supporting our national and pacific northwest regional treasures housed at NARA in Sandpoint, Seattle, Washington – where they belong and for all of us to freely access and enjoy our region’s history. Please write to:


The email address for Mr. Russell T. Vought is:

With my sincere appreciation,

Margie Wilson
Amateur Family Historian and History Enthusiast

Closing Seattle National Archives

Judy Russell gave me permission to copy her blog post for our readers.

2020 alphabet soup: B is for…

by Judy G. Russell | Jan 23, 2020 | Records Access


One building in particular, that is.

This one.

The National Archives building in Seattle, Washington.

Which the Public Buildings Reform Board has decided should be sold… because the real estate it sits on is a hot property.

Not one whit of consideration for the fact that the records housed within that facility are of enormous value to the people of the Pacific Northwest.

Not one whit of consideration for the fact that records previously housed in Alaska have already been moved once, to the Seattle facility.

Not one whit of consideration for the fact that the alternate repositories proposed — Kansas City for some records and Riverside, California, for others — are not at all easy to access for folks from this part of the country.

And not one whit of consideration for the fact that accessing records at Kansas City is probably the least convenient of all the archival facilities in the country.

But only the fact that “Relocating (this facility) will make 10-acres of highly valuable land available, likely for residential housing, in the Hawthorne Hills neighborhood just to the west of Lake Washington in the Puget Sound region of Washington…”

All without a single opportunity for a single member of the public impacted by this decision to be heard.

A letter sent by Vince Patton, President of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon, to the federal Office of Management and Budget blasted the decision:

“The decision to close this federal repository of public records was made in complete secrecy, with no input from the public or any other government entities in the region. No local hearings or requests for feedback were held in Washington, nor in Alaska, Idaho, Montana or Oregon.

The Seattle National Archives and Records Center holds records, mostly un-digitized, starting in the 1840’s for the five NW states. These records are vital public documents for anyone researching American history.

No consideration of the importance of maintaining archival resources in the Pacific was made. The National Archives goals do not appear to include keeping local resources close to their origin and where most use will occur. We must ask, “Why not?”

It is vital these record are kept in our region and remain accessible. Transferring records relevant to the Pacific Northwest to a records center in Kansas City, Missouri, effectively bars access to those to whom the records are most relevant.

We urge you to keep Northwest records where they will be most used, and to keep the expert archives staff who specialize in Pacific Northwest records.”1

And the Records Preservation and Access Committee — jointly comprised of representatives from all the major national genealogical societies — has joined in opposing the move: “If a decision is made to sell the property, the National Archives Branch needs to be relocated into another facility in the Seattle area. Each National Archives Branch includes original documents from the region that are available at no other location and have not been digitized. If the Archives Branch were closed and not relocated, it is our understanding the records would be moved to Kansas City, Missouri (1,800 miles from Seattle) or Riverside, California, (1,200 miles from Seattle). Either location would make those records inaccessible to most residents of the northwestern United States.”2

And historians, researchers and others in the Pacific Northwest are just appalled.3

A final decision on this building sale could be made by the Office of Management and Budget as early as this Sunday, January 26th. If there’s any chance for us to be heard, we need to speak out NOW.

The Legal Genealogist would love to tell members of our community concerned about this where to write to express their own individual concerns — and our outrage at this decision and its secrecy. But there’s no clear path to comment on this because of the secrecy.

So here are our options:

1. Write (email) to the head of the Office of Management and Budget, acting director Russell T. Vought. His email is

2. Write (email) to the agency proposing the sale of the property, the Public Buildings Reform Board. Its email is

3. Contact the National Archives via its contact page at

4. Contact your United States Senators (find the contact info for your two senators at and your member of the House of Representatives (find the contact info for your representative at

The one option we do not have is to stand silent.

Access to our heritage is at stake.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “2020 alphabet soup: B is for…,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 23 Jan 2020).


  1. Vince Patton to Russell T. Vought, Acting Director, Office of Management & Budget, email, 22 Jan 2020, copy provided to JG Russell.
  2. RPAC to Public Buildings Reform Board, email, 23 Jan 2020, copy provided to JG Russell.
  3. See Feliks Banel, “Officials, historians slam ‘horrendous’ plan to close Seattle National Archives,”, posted 22 Jan 2020 ( : accessed 23 Jan 2020).

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair 2018

October 24, 2018 – Save the date!

Sixth Annual Virtual Genealogy Fair

Every year, the National Archives hosts a virtual Genealogy Fair via live webcast on YouTube. The sessions offer family history research tools on Federal records for all skill levels. Thousands of family historians participate in the live event.

As a virtual attendee, you can:

  • Watch the entire day on YouTube.
  • Join us – from wherever and whenever.
  • Participate with the presenters and other family historians during the live event.
  • Watch individual sessions and download the materials at your convenience — live or after the event.
  • Attend free of charge and registration!

Full Flyer

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair

Good morning,

I hope you will join us for our 3rd annual Virtual Genealogy Fair!

The fair will be streamed live online through YouTube on October 21 and 22. You can find the links for each day’s sessions here:

It’s free, and there no reservations or passwords.
We’ll be taking your question on Twitter during the fair. Tweet your questions to @usnatarchives and use the hashtag #genfair2015.
You can also ask questions through the chatbox on YouTube.
We have a great line up of speakers this year! Our experts will discuss preserving your family’s records, WWI veterans’ records, ancestral migration routes, bankruptcy records, CCC records, and more!
See you there! 

Hilary Parkinson
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20408