Identifying your relatives from the past can be challenging when you are looking at your local area, but if you need to look further abroad into other states or countries, it can almost be impossible. It’s incredibly important to find established and authoritative resources in the region you are looking – preferably a local genealogical society that has a long history, good resources and enthusiastic members.
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That is certainly the case with the Seattle Genealogical Society. The society goes all the way back to 1923, when it was founded by eight local researchers. The goal of the society was – and still is – to provide both a forum for discussion and a library collection designed to support genealogical research across the Pacific Northwest. The society has grown from its initial eight founders to around 700 members today, and what started as a few books in a small room has grown to over 12,000 volumes, along with extensive microfilm and CD collections.
The collection at the society is designed to complement genealogical resources held at the Seattle Public Library, and in fact the society works very closely with the library to coordinate efforts. The society’s books and periodicals are a comprehensive resource for genealogical research in the Seattle and Tacoma area – covering things such as burials by the American Cremation & Casket Alliance and other funeral homes in the region – but they also provide a broader perspective across the United States. In fact, they have resources covering every state in the nation – which range from standard works through to obscure titles such as a history of the First Congregational Church in Stonington, Connecticut. All of their library volumes are listed online on the society’s web site, and are updated as members add new books to the collection. There is also an international catalog, covering the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia – this is also available online.
In addition to the paper volumes held by the society, its microfilm collection – which we mentioned previously – is also comprehensive. It includes the Washington State Death Index from 1907 to 1989, as well as – interestingly – a copy of the 1895 Minnesota State census, along with various other national and state census materials. Unlike the volumes in the library collection, however, this society has no online catalogue of its microfilm and microfiche collection, although it does provide reading facilities if you visit in person.
Finally, the library also has a family history collection, which is again quite extensive. This includes a number of periodicals and publications, along with typewritten manuscripts and binders of other family information. Again, a catalog of this material is available online, along with a separate listing of surname files containing information contributed by members of the society over the last 75 years, covering literally thousands of different surnames.
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The library, which is located just east of the University of Washington campus on Sand Point Way in Seattle, is open seven days a week – although opening and closing times do vary. If you are thinking of visiting while you are in the area, then you will be glad to know that the library is open to non-members provided that they pay a small fee for daily access.