Latest on Grays Harbor Research Library

Fire at Aberdeen Armory, home of the GHGS Research Library, 09 Jun 2018

The Grays Harbor Genealogical Society has had a few ups and downs recently as they begin to rebuild their research library. As you may remember, their library was destroyed by a three-alarm fire that destroyed the Aberdeen Armory on 09 Jun 2018. The fire also destroyed much of the Aberdeen Museum of History, Coastal Community Action Program and the Aberdeen Senior Center.

What GHGS lost

While it may take years to determine everything that was lost, the society is particularly saddened about the loss of:

  • More than 22,000 hard copy obituaries that were taped to index cards and stuffed tightly in metal file cabinets. Fortunately, a digital newspaper obit index was stored off-site. Efforts are being made to find area obituaries at other locations, such as local libraries.
  • Thousands of mortuary records from now closed Whiteside and Elerding Funeral Homes, for funerals from 1907 – 2015. The Washington State Library has graciously offered to scan their collection of over 200 four-inch binders.
  • Birth, marriage and death records from the 1970s to 1907.
  • Chehalis County Marriage Index from the 1850s to 1990s.
  • Unique compilations of cemetery inventories for outlying cemeteries.
  • Tables, chairs, pencils, pens, notepads, wastepaper baskets, bulletin boards, photographs, signage…you get the idea.

Current situation

The cause of the fire is still undetermined. In addition, we are still unable to get inside the building. At last report, the City of Aberdeen (owners of the building) need to hire a structural engineer to assess the building’s integrity. After that, a separate company will be hired to clean up the building, then a third company to carry out the recovery. The City has activated a Board of Museum and History to discuss the future of the Aberdeen Museum.

Thanks to the generous donations from fellow genealogical societies and individuals, we were able to purchase a photocopier and two computers. We were also able to find a temporary space, compliments of the Hoquiam Library. Due to a remodeling project at the library, however, we have had to move again — into members’ spare rooms and storage.

What we’re looking for

Donation from Clallam County Genealogical Society

We’ve been extraordinarily grateful to those local societies and individuals who have offered financial aid and resources. We have suspended our Go Fund Me page, but donations may still be made directly to GHGS, P.O. Box 916, Aberdeen, WA 98520.

We’re very much on the lookout for Grays Harbor-related materials like old city directories, telephone books, school yearbooks, family histories, obituaries, etc. No donation is too small. Many societies have scoured their holdings and sent us area-specific books. If you have materials related specifically to Grays Harbor or Chehalis Counties, we’d love to hear from you at

What’s next

We are sponsoring a workshop fundraiser on Saturday, October 13, from 1:00 – 3:15 at the American Legion Hall, 115 W. First Street, Aberdeen. Professional genealogist Pam Vestal from the Portland area has donated her time and talent for the two-session workshop fundraiser. The cost is $25 per person. Those that sign up early may attend a free class with Pam in the morning. For more information, contact

Final word

No update on our situation would be complete without thanking all those who have contacted us to express their sympathies and support. Every message, donation and kind word has been humbly appreciated.