WSGS Awards Announced at Annual Meeting in Yakima

Many thanks are extended to the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society for hosting the WSGS Annual Meeting and Awards Event on Saturday, 22 April 2017. The annual meeting was held in conjunction with YVGS’s Spring Seminar featuring Jay Fonkert, a Minnesota-based genealogy researcher, educator, and writer who focuses on nineteenth-century Midwest research. Nearly 90 people attended the seminar and annual meeting.

WSGS Vice President Donna Phillips presenting Outstanding Volunteer Award to Patricia McCann Manning from the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society.

Region 6 Representative Janet McKinnon presenting an Outstanding Team member award to husband Mikal McKinnon for his work on the Tri-City Genealogical Society’s Library Recataloging and Renumbering Team.

During the annual meeting and awards lunch, nearly 40 local society members were recognized with Outstanding Volunteer and Team awards. These volunteers were praised for their commitment and energies to promote genealogy and family history in their local communities.

Some of the 2017 local society award winners

Other awards presented included:

  • Outstanding CommunicationWhitman County Genealogical Society for its newsletter filled with personal stories, photos and “snippets from the olden days.” Their newsletter started on in 1984 with just a few pages focusing on Whitman County. Today the newsletter is 10 pages with a continued focus on the county, but has expanded to include a wide variety of genealogy-related articles, designed to educate and entertain the society’s members and other readers. Special acknowledgement was extended to newsletter editor Judy Standar McMurray, with assistance from Monica Bartlett Peters.
  • Outstanding ProjectGrays Harbor Genealogical Society for the preservation of thousands of records from a 100-year-old funeral home that closed suddenly. The records were in danger of being lost or discarded until the society stepped in. Twelve boxes of paper were organized, scanned, cataloged and indexed into 19 binders. While this was an effort tackled by almost half of this small society, special recognition was extended to Cathy Cook, Gary Parfitt, Marlene Payne and Bonnie Johannes.

Five local societies were awarded Innovative Grant Awards. See separate blog feature.

The President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement was presented to Joanne Egbert Calhoun of the Wenatchee Area Genealogical Society. See separate blog feature.

For more photos of the seminar and annual meeting, visit our Facebook page.

Yakima Seminar on Saturday — Not Too Late to Register

Jay Fonkert

You don’t want to miss the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society‘s Spring Seminar  this Saturday, April 22, 2017 at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 7809 Tieton Drive in Yakima. In addition to four lecture sessions with professional genealogist Jay Fonkert, the Washington State Genealogical Society’s annual meeting will be held during the lunch hour honoring outstanding volunteers and projects. For more information on the seminar, click here.

Registration can be done online at the YVGS website or at the YVGS library at 1901 S. 12th Avenue, Union Gap. Day-of-seminar walk-ins are welcome, however, lunch cannot be guaranteed.

Yakima Valley Genealogical Society Spring Seminar


The Yakima Valley Genealogical Society Spring Seminar will take place Saturday, April 22, 2017 at Mount Olive Church, 7809 Tieton Drive in Yakima.

One of America’s foremost genealogists and reputed speaker will be speaking on a variety of interesting topics.  Jay Fonkert is considered to be one of the best and most educated genealogical speakers in the country.

Registration can be online at the YVGS website, or at the local genealogical library at 1901 S. 12th Avenue, Union Gap.  Walkins are welcome, however lunch cannot be guaranteed.   Check in and registration 8:00 – 8:50 and seminar will begin at 9:00 am.  $40. until  April 14, $45 after that.

The Washington State Genealogical Society annual meeting will be during the lunch hour honoring outstanding volunteers and interesting projects.


Yakima Valley Gen Soc and WSGS Partner for Recognition Awards

Featured speaker Jay Fonkert

The WSGS Annual Meeting, which includes the announcement of the Outstanding Volunteers and Teams, Outstanding Communication and Project awards, WSGS President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement and Innovative Grant winners, will be Saturday, April 22, 2017 during the lunch period of Yakima Valley Genealogical Society’s Spring Seminar. The seminar and awards event will be held at the Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Yakima. The seminar’s featured speaker will be professional genealogist Jay Fonkert, a renowned authority on 19th Century Midwest research. His presentations will be:

  • Genealogy Detective Skills: Following Clues from the Census
  • Finding Your Pre-1850 American Ancestors
  • Why Were They There?
  • Who’s on First: Merging and Separating Identities in Family History Research

The YVGS Spring Seminar flyer, including a registration form, can be downloaded here: YVGS Spring Seminar flyer or visit the YVGS website.

Society Spotlight: Yakima Valley Genealogical Society

We’re always trying to “keep it fresh” here on the WSGS blog. “Keep it fresh, you ask? According to the Urban Dictionary, keeping it fresh is “the art of acting spontaneously resulting in your actions being original and generally awesome.” Okay, so we’re going to be generally awesome here introducing a new blog feature: Society Spotlight.

Local genealogical societies are the backbone of WSGS and we’re proud to introduce our readers to each of the 30+ societies around the state. In your upcoming travels, you might want to stop by their library, meeting, ask for local assistance or visit their website.

Our inaugural article features the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society.

The Yakima Valley Genealogical Society (VYGS) is one of the largest societies in the state with approximately 300 members. That’s a long way from their humble beginnings almost 50 years ago when they started with just 18 members. While most of their members live in the Yakima County area, they attract others from as far away as England.

Under the leadership of President Patrick Bundy and Vice President Sue Ericksen, YVGS is among the most active societies. Besides monthly meetings featuring interesting educational programs, the society sponsors two major seminars each year,  Spring and Fall. This year’s Spring Seminar will be Saturday, April 22 at the Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Yakima. The featured speaker will be professional genealogist Jay Fonkert, a renowned authority on 19th Century Midwest research. His presentations will be:

  • Genealogy Detective Skills: Following Clues from the Census
  • Finding Your Pre-1850 American Ancestors
  • Why Were They There?
  • Who’s on First: Merging and Separating Identities in Family History Research

An added bonus to attending YVGS’s Spring Seminar is the WSGS Recognition Awards and Annual Meeting during the lunch hour. Registration is still open. More details, including a registration form, are available here.

Assistant librarian Sue Ericksen (left) explaining some of the YVGS’s vast library holdings to WSGS President Virginia Majewski.

One of the preeminent gems of the YVGS is their genealogical research library. The 7,200 square foot library, considered one of the top genealogical research facilities in the Pacific Northwest, is located at 1901 S 12th Ave in Union Gap. Besides the main floor of the library, there are three archive rooms, a media room for microfilm/fiche research, a work room and a kitchen. Between the bound volumes on the shelf and the massive microfilm/microfiche collection, the library hosts a collection of 35,000 volumes of genealogical research material covering every state and a large number of foreign countries. Holdings also include a large number of published family histories, as well as being the designated official library for the WSGS. Check out their online book catalog here.

The library is open to the public at no charge for genealogical research. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the Yakima area.

And don’t forget to visit the YVGS website. While there, you’ll learn more about YVGS’s commitment to expanding and preserving genealogical and historical research, including their outstanding Cemetery Project and Early Death Notices Index databases.

We hope you’ll visit the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society online or at 1901 S 12th Ave in Union Gap. We’re proud to call them a member of the Washington State Genealogical Society.

(Note: If  you’d like your society to be featured in Society Spotlight, please contact Roxanne Lowe at

Meet the Board: Virginia Majewski

Do you know who’s running the show at the Washington State Genealogical Society? Did you know we have an Executive Committee, six standing committee chairs and three appointed non-elected officers? Who are all these people? In the coming months, we’ll introduce them to you, so you can say “hi” the next time you see them.

Virginia Forney Majewski

In today’s “Meet the Board” series, we’re introducing you to Virginia Majewski from Sequim. Virginia, more familiarly known to us as Ginny, is WSGS’s new President, having been elected last month. Her dedication to WSGS is longstanding as she has previously served as WSGS’s Secretary, Region 3 Representative and Vice President.

Virginia Ann was born in Yakima to Wesley Roy and Nancy Jane (Grabill) Forney. She is a proud 4th generation Washingtonian and descendant of a Washington State Pioneer family. Ginny’s name was handed down through her mother’s family – great grandmother, great aunts and aunts – even though Ginny’s dad maintains he picked out her name.

Ginny is a graduate of Quincy High School in Quincy, Washington (Grant County) and Sacred Heart School of Nursing in Spokane. She is married to her husband of 30 years, Moe. She is the mother of four grown children and, most importantly, grandmother of eight, ages 17-1. She retired from her career of 42 years as an Obstetrical Nurse in 2013.

Ginny has been involved in genealogy for more than 20 years. It all started with a couple of boxes of “junk” from her grandparent’s estate. She was bitten by the genealogy bug and it became one of her life’s passions. Her maternal and paternal lines go back to exiled Mennonites in Switzerland. In 2000, she took a three-week genealogical tour of Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands – following the path of her exiled ancestors.

Proud 4th generation Washingtonian

Virginia holds a Certification in Advanced Genealogical Studies in both American Records and Methodology from the National Institute of Genealogical Studies in Toronto, Canada. Currently, she is the President of Clallam County Genealogical Society. She is also a member of the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Ohio Genealogical Society, New York Genealogical Society and Polish Genealogical Society.

When asked what she finds most interesting about genealogy, Ginny muses about a bigamist, unknown illegitimate cousins, a civil war hero and many more interesting characters!

A few more interesting tidbits about Ginny:

  • Her favorite color is turquoise.
  • Her favorite dessert is a Cream Puff Cake.
  • She urges anyone searching for their ancestors to use – an amazing resource available to everyone.
  • Besides genealogy, Ginny’s other life passions are quilting, reading, gardening and travel – oh, and don’t forget those grandchildren!
  • When asked what word describes her, Ginny laughs and asks if “genie-nut” is a word. We think it is when it pertains to Ginny!

Now you know a little more about one of the WSGS Board members. The next time you see Ginny, say hello and thank her for her service to the WSGS.