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

Spotlight on the Twin Rivers Gen Society

On Saturday, March 25th, I shared a great learning day with the eager members of the Twin Rivers Gen Society down in Lewiston, Idaho. (Yes, Idaho, but they identify with Washington especially as pertaining to things genealogy.) We met in a lovely church basement and the TRGS had enough food to feed 50 folks but only about half that number came (which equals their membership). We shared ideas on the Big 4 genealogy websites (Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, MyHeritage) as well as dozens of useful research and resource websites. I stressed to them that thy major key to success in genealogical research these days is successfully using the Internet.  Here’s a shot of the group:

Please continue reading for some history of Lewiston, and the TRGS, and all about their annual July 4th Walking with Ancestors!

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Genealogical Serendipity Across the Pond – and in Lewis County

You never know when genealogical serendipity will happen. For Judy Kalich, a member of the Lewis County Genealogical Society, it happened when a cousin connected her with a “new” third cousin, sometimes removed, Barbara Hargrave of San Francisco. Judy and Barbara discovered they shared their third great grandparents, Joseph and Mary Pettett, both born in Kent in the 1780’s.

Joseph and Mary Pettett

Joseph and Mary Pettett

Judy Kalich's photo of Amy Anne Honeysett who married Albert Pettett in 1853.

Judy Kalich’s photo of Amy Anne Honeysett who married Albert Pettett in 1853.

Last summer, Barbara went to Scotland, Ireland and England searching for her Pettett ancestors. In Kent, England, not only did she find the family home and family graves, she helped break through a brick wall for the current resident of Joseph and Mary’s home in Stilebridge who had been researching the history of the historic tenanted home with an oast house. The fascinating twists and turns of Joseph and Mary’s son Herbert (aka Albert) were featured in a BBC issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine (April 2016). Hint: Always leave open the possibility that the name you’re born with isn’t the one in archival records.

Back to our Lewis County connection: Through her careful research, Judy already had Joseph and Mary Pettett in her family tree, as well as a picture of the house in Stilebridge. What she also had, that Barbara didn’t have, was a priceless picture of Amy Anne Honeysett, who married Herbert (aka Albert) in 1853. The photo was featured in the BBC article, putting a face to the story of the cousins’ ancestors.