Meet the Board: Valorie Cowan Zimmerman

Do you know who’s running the show at the Washington State Genealogical Society? Did you know we have an Executive Committee and four standing committee chairs? Who are these people? In the coming months, we’ll introduce them to you.

In today’s “Meet the Board” series, we’re introducing you to Valorie Cowan Zimmerman, WSGS’s Vice President. Valorie lives in Kent with her husband Bob. Her family calls her Val, but as an adult, she uses Valorie. She is very active in the South King County Genealogical Society, serving as President.

Valorie was born in 1953 in the Renton Hospital, which is now McLendon’s Hardware, the daughter of Ted and Lola (McBee) Cowan. Valorie’s father was born and raised in Seattle, while Mom was born at home in Indianola, Iowa, but grew up in Alberta Canada until age 15. She then moved to Seattle to attend high school and work.

Valorie’s professional career was varied: house cleaner, mother and in the securities and insurance business. She is proud to be a lifelong learner and now is a full-time volunteer for her genealogical societies.

Valorie’s maternal grandparents Harvey McBee and Anna Baysinger on their wedding day in 1914.

Valorie’s interest in genealogy was sparked in her teen years by her curiosity about her grandparents’ lives. The world they were born into was so different than anything Valorie had experienced. She is particularly interested in her grandmother’s Swedish ancestry. While she hasn’t been to Sweden (yet!), she connected with Swedish researcher/cousins who have helped her get back to the 1600s on some of her ancestral lines. Valorie says “Finding living cousins is the best!” Lucky her!

On Valorie’s stateside bucket list to visit is a trip to Warren County, Iowa where her mother was born and generations of Baysingers and Disneys lived. She’d also like to visit Grainger County, Tennessee where her McBee’s lived before moving on to Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

Valorie and Bob, 1972

Valorie and her husband Bob, a retired Boeing production engineer, have three children and a bonus: Thomas who now lives in Denver, Colorado at a computer company; Paul who lives in Seattle with his wife Tara and son Oscar; and Anne who also lives in Seattle with her husband Jason and their kitties. Valorie and Bob’s bonus child has been raised by them since their mother Carol, Valorie’s first cousin, died. They and husband Rory live for the time being in Seattle. 

A few more interesting tidbits about Valorie:
• Favorite genealogy websites: FamilySearchAncestry and WikiTree
• Favorite color: Flower colors
• Favorite dessert: Dark chocolate
• When she’s not doing genealogy, Valorie likes to enjoy art, read novels and history books and chat with people
• When asked to describe herself in one word, Valorie replied, “curious.” (Her husband, however, might say “stubborn”!) Aren’t both of those words perfect to describe a genealogist?

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

New Banner Photos Wanted

Photo by Donna Potter Phillips, Spokane, WA

Have you noticed the Blog banner changes every time you visit? The photos are submitted by readers like you — and Donna Potter Phillips of Spokane (& weekly contributor to the Blog). We’re always looking for scenic photos of our beautiful state for the rotating photo gallery on the blog banner.

Guidelines for the photos are few:
•Landscapes, landmarks, and scenery photos are preferred. If, however, you have a perfect photo that includes people, please obtain their permission to post the photo.
•Photo must have been taken in Washington State (this is the Washington State Genealogical Society blog, after all!).
•Photo will be cropped to 1100 x 250 pixels, so keep that in mind. If in doubt, send it to us & we’ll figure it out.
•You may submit as many photos as you want.
•Final decisions on suitable photos will be made by the awesome WSGS Blog Team.
•There’s no prize if your photo is chosen – just the satisfaction that your photo is being showcased on a blog viewed by hundreds of enthusiastic genealogists.
•There’s no firm deadline to submit photos, just keep ‘em coming. We want to rotate lots of photos to keep the blog fresh.

To submit your photo, please email the image (jpg only, please); what, where, when, and by whom the photo was taken to

Got questions? Email the blog team at

2022 Outstanding Volunteers and Team Announced

Congratulations to all the amazing individuals and team who contributed mightily to their local societies! After a three-year hiatus to WSGS’s Outstanding Volunteer Recognition Program and a global pandemic, it’s time to honor those who kept our local societies together and moving forward.

Bainbridge Island Genealogical Society

  • Andrea Hoskins
  • Larry Noedel

Clallam County Genealogical Society

  • Genealogy Center Art Committee (Carol Foss, Roberta Griset, Linda Hindes, Consuelo White)

Eastern Washington Genealogical Society

  • Audio/Visual Team (Julie Rosenoff, David Luders, Harold Young, John Wilson, Duane Beck)
  • EWGS Zoom Meetings Team (John Wilson, Carol Anderson)
  • Jennilyn Weight

Eastside Genealogical Society

  • Celia McNay
  • Dorothy Pretare
  • Janet Stroebel

Grays Harbor Genealogical Society

  • Lee Thomasson

Genealogical Society of South Whidbey Island

  • Stephanie Rodden

Jefferson County Genealogical Society

  • Ann McCreery

Lower Columbia Genealogical Society

  • Teresa “Terry” Mattison

Mason County Genealogical Society

  • Cemetery and Obituary Project (Susie Graham, Elizebeth Lawson, Albert Conklin, Roger Newman, Barbara Moore, Stan Graham, Sue Sheldon)
  • Carolyn Gibbons
  • Pat Tostevin (postumous)

Northeast Washington Genealogical Society

  • Evergreen Cemetery Team (Jayne Evans, Lora Rose, Jim Witham)
  • Barbara McGill
  • Jim Witham

Olympia Genealogical Society

  • Eileen Dodge
  • Norman Dodge
  • Kathy Erlandson

Puget Sound Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists

  • Bylaws Revision Committee (Nancy Neville Cordell, Karin Coppernoll)

Seattle Genealogical Society

  • Cary Lynn Bright
  • Library Relocation and Refocus (Kathi McGinnes, Rob Sexton)
  • Christine Schomaker

Skagit Valley Genealogical Society

  • Karen Strelow

South King County Genealogical Society

  • Going Virtual Team (MaryLynn Strickland, Valorie Zimmerman)
  • Tina Lawson

Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society

  • Ruth Caesar
  • Elizabeth Dalton
  • Historic Newspapers Digitization Team (Sue Walde, Michele Heiderer, Suzanne Brown, Karen Looney, Sue McNeill, Ruth Caesar)
  • Lynn Clarke Kennedy
  • LeeRoy Kind
  • SVGS Zoom Team (Karen Looney, Susanne Brown, Dana Carney, Flynn Kennedy, Pam Shoberg)

Wenatchee Area Genealogical Society

  • Diane Gundersen
  • Hank LuBean

Yakima Valley Genealogical Society

  • Richard Adams
  • Cynthia “Cindy” L. Fuerst
  • Florance Irene McDonald Nelson
  • YVGS Team Website (Judy Jones Schuster, Richard Kyle)

Congratulations to all!!

2021 and 2022 President’s Awards for Outstanding Achievement Announced

WSGS President Kathleen Sizer is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021 and 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award:

  • 2021 — Helen McGreer Lewis, Renton, 1923 – 2017
  • 2022 — Jill Morelli, Seattle

Created in 2015, the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement is designed to single out that rare individual, society or organization who has demonstrated exemplary service above and beyond expectations. The award is not given every year as it is based on merit and accomplishments, as you’ll see from reading about the recipients below.

Helen Lewis

Helen Lewis

Helen Lewis’s final years of service to genealogy and family history were not only unfailing but critical to the success of archives and genealogy groups in Washington state and beyond. She not only volunteered in her local societies including South King County Genealogical Society (SKCGS) and DAR, but  also indexed public records for the Washington State Archives as a volunteer for over 25 years. Her work lives on through the Washington State Digital Archives.

She authored a number of books for which she gained no income; she assigned the proceeds to the South King County Genealogical Society. In her DAR work, she helped countless others as they worked to solidify their connection to American Patriots. She also served as liaison between the SKCGS and the DAR. 

Jill Morelli

Jill Morelli, C.G.

Jill is a self-described member of the “Roots” generation of genealogists.  From that spark, Jill has grown into a veritable wildfire of action within the genealogical community at many levels.  She is a writer, lecturer and researcher specializing in U.S. Midwestern, Scandinavian and northern German genealogy.

Jill was president (2012 – 2015), then publications director (2017 – 2020) of the Seattle Genealogical Society (SGS). She continues to provide her insights and energy to SGS as past president and co-chair of the SGS 100th anniversary committee.

Jill is also program director for the local chapter of the Association for Professional Genealogists. On the wider stage of national and international genealogy, Jill lectures nationally and has been successfully published in many journals, including the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Swedish American Genealogist.

In 2017, Jill founded the highly successful online Certification Discussion Group (CDG) which draws students from all over the globe. She is also a founding partner of the Applied Genealogy Institute, providing online practicum-based education for advanced genealogists.

More about the award

If you want to know more about the qualities needed for this prestigious award, click here. Previous recipients are listed here.

Blog Banner: Visit Grays Harbor County

Are you proud of the landmarks and landscapes in your area? We want to highlight different areas of our beautiful state on our Blog banner.

Elaine Anderson of Hoquiam and a member of the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society sure is proud of her area. An amateur, but talented, photographer, Elaine submitted six photos she snapped in Grays Harbor County. Her photos include:

  • Boat shop and Beacon Hill from a strategic point in Hoquiam
  • Washaway Beach (North Cove near Grayland) looking South
  • A barn in the Quinault Valley
  • The surf at Point Brown, Ocean Shores
  • A drive through the scenic Quinault Rain Forest
  • Overlooking the Wynoochee Valley

Let us highlight your scenic photos of your city or county on the WSGS Blog. It’s easy — just submit 4 – 6 photos of your city or county (horizontal photos are best).

Guidelines for the photos are few:
•Landscapes, landmarks, and scenery photos are preferred.
•Photo will be cropped to 1100 x 250 pixels, so keep that in mind. If in doubt, send it to us & we’ll figure it out.
•Final decisions on suitable photos will be made by the WSGS Blog Team.

To submit your photos, please email the images (jpg only, please); what, where, when, and by whom the photos were taken to

Got questions? Email the blog team at

Imminent Deadlines for Special Recognition Awards

Just a little reminder to local societies: your nominations are almost due for the Outstanding Volunteer, Outstanding Team and President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement awards. The deadline to send your nominations to is Sunday, May 1, 2022. The forms are available here.

For more information about these awards, check out the Recognition page of the website or the Blog posts on March 29, 2022 (Outstanding Volunteer and Outstanding Team) and March 30, 2022 (President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement).

For more information, email

Members: Don’t Forget to Vote on Proposed Bylaws Change

At their 18 Feb 2022 meeting, the WSGS Board approved a change to the bylaws allowing all Board members, regardless of election status, to vote. The change must be approved by the WSGS membership to become official.

Currently, the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and past president are the only members allowed to vote on board matters, while appointed chairs of the standing committees (web master, blog master and Pioneer Certificate program) are expected to attend and participate in Board business, but not allowed to vote. After a discussion about the value of all those who participate on the Board, the Board voted unanimously to allow chairs of standing committees to vote.

All WSGS members received an email with a link to vote on the bylaws change on 20 Mar 2022. If you are a member of WSGS and need a reminder email, please email and put “Bylaws Link” in the Subject Line. Balloting will close at 11:59 p.m., 20 Apr 2022.

The proposed change affects Articles V and VI:


Section 1. The Board of Directors shall consist of the elected officers, and the immediate past president and heads of the Standing Committees. The Board shall:

  1. Conduct the business of the Society, referring major decisions and unusual expenses to the membership for approval or ratification.
  2. Meet at least three (3) times a year, the dates and places to be determined by the Board members.
  3. Potential Board of Directors Conflicts of Interest shall be addressed annually.

Section 2. Members of the Board are expected to attend all meetings, called by the President or three members of the board.

Section 3. All elected Board Members shall be current members of the Society.

Section 4. Notice of all board meetings shall be given to each member not fewer than five (5) days prior to the meeting.


Section 1. The Standing Committees will be: Web master, Blog master, and Pioneer Certificate.

Section 2. The heads of Standing Committees or other Appointed Positions are expected to attend meetings of the Board of Directors and contribute to the deliberations, but are non-voting members of the Board.

1950 Census Is Almost Here

In case you haven’t heard (not sure how you missed the news!), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is releasing the 1950 U.S. Census at midnight on 01 Apr 2022. NARA will provide free online access to the population schedules for U.S. states and territories, enumeration district maps, and enumeration district descriptions.  

According to NARA’s website, they used Amazon Web Services’ artificial intelligence / optical character recognition (AI/OCR) Textract tool to extract the handwritten names from the digitized population schedules. Because the initial name index is built on optical character recognition (OCR) technology, it will not be 100-percent accurate. NARA, FamilySearch, Ancestry, and a host of others are calling for eager volunteers to help “check and correct” the census — not transcribe names like we’ve done in the past. FamilySearch published a great “how-to” video during RootsTech on how to get involved in their effort. The video is available here.

Even though an index won’t be available for a while (hopefully a short while), you can still find your people (or maybe even yourself!). Steve Morse has published an excellent article on getting ready, including how to find your all-important enumeration district.

President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement Nominations Due May 1, 2022

Does your society have a member who has demonstrated long-term exemplary service above and beyond expectations? Someone who has really made a difference? Consider nominating him/her for the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement. Previous awardees are shown here.

The ideal recipient of the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement has:

• Exhibited long-term, consistent service in the field of genealogy, family or local history, the genealogical community, records preservation or made an important single contribution in those areas that will endure into the future.
• Demonstrated a high degree of energy, commitment, flexibility, and professional conduct.
• Provided significant support and impact to the local genealogical community time and time again.
• Exhibited personal influence and example to society members and/or the general public with their unselfish service.
• Supported or advanced local or statewide genealogical research.

Nominations may be submitted by any individual, local society or organization, regardless of WSGS membership. Nominees do not have to have been officers in their local societies.

Two letters of recommendation must be submitted with the nomination form. Additional documents may be attached, if relevant. Nominations are due May 1, 2022 to

Nominations will be reviewed by the WSGS Board of Directors, resulting in a recommendation to the WSGS President who will make a final decision.

The President’s Award will generally, but not necessarily, be awarded each year. The award will be announced June 1, 2022. The awardee will receive a commemorative gift and their name will be engraved on the perpetual plaque.

For more information, email Please put “President’s Award” in the Subject Line.

Outstanding Volunteer Nominations Due May 1, 2022

Do you have a few questions about the Outstanding Volunteer/Team Awards? We’ve put together a list of FAQs to help you.

  1. Who can nominate an Outstanding Volunteer or Team? Any local genealogical society or organization in Washington State can participate in the Outstanding Volunteer or Team program.
  2. Does my society have to be a member of WSGS to nominate someone? Actually, all local genealogical societies are complimentary members of WSGS. If, however, you’d like to become a paid member (only $12/year!), we’d love it. To become a paid organization, click here.
  3. Does our nominee have to be a member of WSGS? No, your nominee does not have to be a member of WSGS.
  4. Does WSGS choose the Outstanding Volunteer or Team from all the nominees? No. This program is not a competition among the nominees or societies.  WSGS honors every individual and team who is identified by their local genealogical organization for exceptional efforts. This is a means for local society and groups to give widespread recognition to their top volunteers.
  5. How many nominees can my society submit? We know there are a lot of your members who have worked hard since 2018 (the last year we made the awards), so in 2022 you can nominate up to four individuals or two teams.
  6. What does my nominee or team get for being an Outstanding Volunteer or Team? Each nominee will receive a personalized certificate outlining why they were nominated by their local society. He/she/they will also be featured on the WSGS Blog. It is also our hope that the nominating society will honor their volunteer at an upcoming meeting or event.
  7. Can we nominate someone who has been an Outstanding Volunteer before? Absolutely! More than 50 people have been honored more than once since the program’s inception in 2003.
  8. How can I see who my society has nominated in the past? Click here to see a cumulative index of all 1,400 names since 2003, listed by society and by individual name.
  9. Can we nominate someone posthumously? Yes. What a wonderful way show his/her family that you valued their late family member’s achievements.
  10. What if we want the nomination to be a surprise? We love surprises (and keeping secrets!) Just check the box on the nomination form to let us know you want to keep this under wraps until the “big announcement.”
  11. How do we nominate someone? We’ve made it pretty easy. The deadline is May 1 when we’ll need the easy-to-complete form and a photo. After that, you’ll get a chance to review and approve the certificate before it’s announced.
  12. When will the announcements be made? We’re still working out the details, but an announcement will be made on June 1, 2022.
  13. Where is the nomination form? Click here to download the form.
  14. Need more information? Email if you’ve got question we haven’t covered.

Remember: the deadline is May 1, 2022!