Free webinar: “Stump the Archivist”

Free webinar: “Stump the Archivist”
Washington State Archives will present another iteration of “Stump the Archivist,” a Q&A webinar for researchers of all experience levels, on Feb. 18 at 10 a.m.
Bring your questions and a notebook, and chat with Research Archivist Tracy Rebstock! Learn how to use state and local government records in your historical research or family history.
New records are added to our collections all the time. Updates to vital records means more access to birth, death, marriage, and divorce collections. Rebstock will talk briefly about naturalizations, as promised during last month’s webinar, then take your questions so you can dig deeper into your research.
Register here. It is free to attend this event.
Visit our YouTube channel to view past webinars.

Washington State Digital Archives’ 200 Million Contest

He won the Washington State Digital Archives’ 200 million contest, making the closest guess of December 5th for the day Digital Archives would make its 200 millionth entry into its database. There was no science behind this guess. He picked it simply because of the fact that it was his birthday. Gordon took home an Ancestry DNA kit, a fitting gift for the history buff.



Graphic of file cabinets feeding information to a matrix-like binary screen
The Washington State Archives’ Digital Archives reached a milestone achievement last month when it entered its 200 millionth record into the state database. In the months leading up to the milestone, the Washington State Archives ran a public contest to see who could guess the exact date on which Digital Archives reached the record. The winner, who guessed December 5 and was closest to the actual date of November 30, got to take home an Ancestry DNA kit.

The Washington State Archives’ Digital Archives was the nation’s first archives dedicated specifically to the preservation of electronic records from both state and local agencies that have permanent legal, fiscal or historical value. The facility, which opened in 2004, includes a research room, computer research stations, a high-tech presentation classroom, and a world-class data center. Digital Archives delivers broad public access to both digitized and “born digital” records of state and local government, provides government accountability and – in the case of digitized documents – helps preserve the originals.

Great job to our dedicated Archives and IT staff that make this possible!

Sign up for Scribe an join the super scribe’s



Indexing Continues

Have you joined other WSGS members and blog readers indexing records for the Washington State Digital Archives? I hope so. Today, I only had time to index two records. But that’s two records that a genealogist may be looking for. Every indexed record helps!

The list of collections being indexed changes all the time. Currently, the list includes:

  • 1878 King County Census,
  • Marriage records in Benton, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Wakiakum and Walla Walla counties
  • Automobile licensee fee books from 1909 – 1913
  • Polk Directory for Seattle from 1891 – 1893

By signing up for Scribe (the very cool indexing tool), you can choose what collection you’d like to index — it’s up to you! Remember: every record indexed is a win/win for free public access to these invaluable records.

Help Make More Records Available — From Home!

October is Family History Month! Did you know that October is also American Archives Month?

Celebrate with the Washington State Genealogical Society by joining us as we index Washington State records so that genealogists everywhere can search the Digital Archives online.

The Washington State Archives has many records that are relevant to genealogists and other researchers. Their indexing tool, Scribe, allows you to become an honorary archivist by transcribing and indexing records. You choose what you want to index and Scribe keeps track of how many records you complete.

To make the celebration more fun, The Board of the Washington State Genealogical Society would like to challenge you to join us in making more records available. The “Scriber” with the most records completed in October will be featured on our blog.

Washington Archives Month Strange Washington

The Washington State Archives is celebrating its annual Archives Month in October by making “Strange Washington” this year’s theme.|

Three events related to Archives Month will be held in Olympia over the coming weeks:

  • Oct. 7: Tales of Strange Washington – Hear speakers talk about some infamous individuals and incidents in our state. 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., State Archives Building, 1129 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
  • Oct. 27: Haunted Tours – Archives staff will take visitors on a tour of the Archives’ underground stacks. There will be four separate tours in 30-minute increments. 6–8 p.m. State Archives Building, Olympia.
  • Nov. 2: History Happy Hour – Here is a chance to enjoy some fun, historical trivia! There will be prizes, food and drinks. 7-9 p.m., 3 Magnets Brewery, 600 Franklin St., Olympia.

The State Archives’ Puget Sound Regional Branch (Bellevue) is hosting a workshop called The Basics of Historical Research on Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. People attending the event can learn about research sources and how to use them.

Other Archives Month-related events will be held in October at various Washington State Archives branches. Contact the State Archives at (360) 586-1492 or for more details.

As always, the State Archives has a great-looking free poster to commemorate the monthlong celebration. The poster features classic color and black-and-white photos of strange things and events that have occurred here in Washington. The poster is available in the State Archives headquarters in Olympia, the front desk of our Executive Office at the Capitol and at all regional Archives branches in Bellevue, Bellingham, Cheney and Ellensburg, as well as several local historical societies, universities with archives/library collections, museums and heritage centers. Make sure to get a poster while supplies last!

If you want to download the digital version of the new poster, just go here. The poster includes images from archival institutions across the state, including the Odessa Public Library, Seattle Municipal Archives, University of Washington, Western Washington University, the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, and the State Archives.

Join These Super Star Scribers

The Washington State Genealogical Society is asking its members and blog readers to support the state’s Digital Archives in October. We are unbelievably lucky in this state to have a resource like the Digital Archives. What a wealth of information, including historic photographs, BDM records, cemetery directories, maps and land records — many from pre-statehood. All access, all free. Transcribed and indexed by volunteers like you! Click here to join the army of volunteers.

Today, we’re highlighting two Digital Archive transcriber super stars:

Steven Baylor started indexing before there was a Scribe (the super easy online transcription application used to transcribe records).  Since official counting began, he has transcribed almost 150,000 records — and growing every day as it’s something he works into his daily schedule. Whenever he has a half hour here or a couple hours there, he sits down and indexes a dozen or so documents.  According to Steve who is a former President of WSGS and member of the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society:

“It’s all part of paying it forward.  My research has been made easier by others who have spent hours indexing and I’m pleased I can do my part to increase accessibility of public records. Now that my wife has Alzheimer’s, I need to be at home most every day.  Indexing is something I can do and still feel like I am contributing to the genealogical community without having to travel anywhere.

Steve started indexing many years ago when he and other WSGS members worked with the Secretary of State’s office to index the 1910 Federal Census of Washington. After that labor-intensive undertaking, the Archives Office began using a “hybrid” system where they would mail paper copies of documents to transcribers who would index them online or on a disk and mail the paper copies back to Olympia.  Steve’s wife assisted him by reading names to him while he typed, then she would double-check the finished product before they clicked the send button. Great teamwork!

Charles being recognized for his accomplishments by former Secretary of State Sam Reed.

Charles Hansen started in 2003 when the Digital Archives was being built near the Eastern Washington University campus in Cheney (Charles lives in Spokane).  State officials began asking local genealogical societies to donate records to put in the infant digital archives. Charles had some DOS databases (remember DOS????) for early Spokane County births, deaths and marriages. He also had indexed the 1887 Spokane County Census. He generously gave those electronic records to start the digital archives. Shortly thereafter, Archives officials asked for volunteers to help index and volunteer at the archives, so he started indexing — being sent paper copies of the records and a floppy disk with the format to index.

The next transcription and index improvement was Scribe — the online digital application that allows users to become “honorary archivists” of the state’s historically important records. By using Scribe, volunteers are able to add information to the images, making them searchable online. It’s easy to use — just fill in the blanks and save the data. Each record can be viewed by many transcribers, but two transcriptions must match exactly before the record can become searchable.

Charles, a member of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society and WSGS’s Blog Master, has indexed 151,240 records since record counts have begun.

But you don’t have to be a super star like Steve or Charles to make a difference! Any record transcribed or indexed is a record available to the public. To date, I’ve transcribed nine records (yes, 9!), but I’m committed to making these records available for public access. Help me!

To sign up for Scribe, click here.


Support the Digital Archives

Have you ever noticed that the historic photo on the WSGS website home page is from the Digital Archives? We are so lucky in Washington State to have free, unfettered public access to the award-winning Digital Archives. Photographs are available for your society’s newsletter — always free access to use (with proper credit, of course). Or if you’re looking for genealogical records of your Washington State ancestors — they’re a Search Box away.

Regularly named one of the best websites for genealogy, the Washington State Archives’ Digital Archives was the nation’s first archive dedicated specifically to the “preservation of electronic records from both state and local agencies that have permanent legal, fiscal or historical value.”

The Washington State Genealogical Society and its members would like to show our appreciation for this invaluable resource by increasing the transcribed records to be made available online. Beginning October 1, we are encouraging all WSGS members and Blog readers to use the Archives’ online transcription application “Scribe” to transcribe as many records as possible. Use this link to create an account.

Sign up today. Practice transcribing a few records (there’s a very good user’s guide to help you get started). Let’s show our appreciation to the Digital Archives for their commitment to making historical records available to all of us.


Visit the Digital Archives

Resident of Equality Colony (Skagit County), Washington, 1900 – 1914. Photographer unknown. State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, Accessed 12 June 2017.

Are you looking for a record related to an ancestor who lived in Washington State or Territory? Minutes of a local government meeting? An historic photo for your family history, newsletter, flyer or presentation (or any other use under the sun!)?

The Washington State Digital Archives, a division of the Secretary of State, is a treasure trove of digitized records, photographs and publications, including birth, marriage, death, census, cemetery and naturalization records. It currently has more than 195 million records preserved, almost 66 million of them are searchable.

One of the photo collections, the “State Library Photograph Collection, 1851 – 1990) consists of 5,274 images of various subjects related to Washington’s history, people, geography, and economic development, from 1851-1990. Subjects include agriculture, Boeing, bridges, canals, Capitol Campus buildings, cities, civilian conservation corps, counties, dams, expositions, fairs, ferries, fishing, forts, ghost towns, historic buildings and houses, historical markers, Indians, lakes, libraries, lighthouses, logging, mountains, parks, portraits, railroads, rivers, schools, Statehood, steamboats, totem poles, trees, universities and colleges, waterfalls, and other subjects.

All of the photos used on our WSGS home page come from the Digital Archives — all are free to use with the appropriate citation (which is even composed for each photo!).

We are so lucky to have such a rich online resource right here in Washington State!

Support Kim Wyman with Silly Socks!

Clark County Genealogical Society’s Brian Runyan shows his support by wearing his wacky socks.

Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman has been diagnosed with colon cancer and could use our support.

Since her diagnosis, many have asked her how they could bring her cheer and show support. In her April 2017 newsletter “Wyman’s Wire,” Kim encouraged us to take pictures of our silly, wacky socks and post them to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #wymanrocksthesocks. Or you can email your photo to  In addition, WSGS will have a membership table at some of the larger workshops and conferences around the state where you can sign a paper sock with your best wishes. We’ll make sure she gets the messages.

Kim is a good friend to our genealogical community. As Secretary of State, she oversees elections, corporation and charity filings, the Washington State Library, Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, State Archives and Digital Archives.

Show Kim that our genealogical family supports her!  #wymanrocksthesocks