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


One comment on “Seattle Genealogical Society Save the Seattle Archives

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