WA Secretary of State Blogs

Ancestry Day in Washington State

Friday, August 12th, 2016 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on Ancestry Day in Washington State

ancestry-day-2016SAT, SEP 24 AT 8:00 AM, TACOMA, WA * Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center * Tickets $15 – $35 

buy tickets

          Join Ancestry, Washington State Archives, Washington State Library, Legacy Washington and the Washington State Historical Society as they present Ancestry Day in Washington State, Sept 23-24, 2016. Both novice and experienced genealogists are welcome at this event. Registration for the Ancestry Day on Saturday, Sept 24 is $35.00 and includes admission to all Saturday classes presented by Ancestry. Lunch tickets can be purchased for an additional $15.00, which includes a box lunch and the lunch speaker.

Special presentations will be offered by the Washington State Historical Society and the Washington State History Museum on Friday, Sept. 23, for $15.00. These are limited to the first 225 participants that register for Saturday.

Proceeds benefit the Washington State Archives, Washington State Library, Legacy Washington and the Washington State Historical Society.

Pre-registration is encouraged and available online thru 5:00 pm, September 17, 2016. If you miss the pre-registration deadline, you can purchase a ticket at the door for Saturday’s event ONLY.


Spotlight on Staff: Kathryn Devine

Monday, September 8th, 2014 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Public Services | Comments Off on Spotlight on Staff: Kathryn Devine

Spotlight on Staff: Kathryn Devine

When you think of detectives you may think of the hardboiled Sam Spade or perhaps Sherlock Holmes with his deerstalker hat, but working behind the scenes at the Washington State Library is a detective extraordinaire — Kathryn Devine. KD-picKathryn is one of our Public Services Librarians and an expert at deep genealogical research. As her supervisor Crystal Lentz says, “Kathryn has solved many a genealogical mystery for us.” She has a BA in History from Marysville College in Tennessee, is a hair’s breadth away from a Master’s in Art History and of course a Masters in Library Science. In other words, Kathryn has had a lot of experience with research. When asked what she likes best about her job she answered that she loves to take on the deep research questions, something she can really sink her teeth into. She also mentioned the great team of people she works with at the State Library. She stressed how they all work so well together and willingly take on any task if they see that one of their co-workers is swamped.

Kathryn moved to Washington from Tennessee in 2003 working as a faculty librarian at Centralia Community College and as a reference librarian for Timberland Regional Library. She came to the State Library in 2006, hired as the Genealogy Librarian. If you’ve asked a Genealogy question in recent years you no doubt have experienced her excellent service.  Kathryn does outreach to Genealogy organizations in the state and will be presenting, along with the Washington State Archives, next week at the Eastside Genealogical Society in Bellevue.

Recently Kathryn’s job has morphed into helping field more of the Government and legal questions that our public services staff receive. She also helps to monitor the online chat service that the State library offers. It is not common knowledge but the Washington State Library’s “Ask A Librarian” service is the contact for the AccessWA Help Center, so we handle a lot of government research questions.

A personal project that Kathryn has taken on is working to make our Federal Collection more accessible to the public. She keeps her eyes open for short, non-copywrited federal material, which she then scans and makes available online through our catalog.

While she spends her days in quiet research her nights are anything but. She is married with an almost five year old daughter (and anyone with kids knows how busy THAT keeps you!) and… she skates in the Roller Derby!

Want to hear more about her awesomeness? Here are some quotes from her fans:

“I asked a question on Thursday night, 14-August via email, and received an answer Friday morning, 15-August @10am, @my msn.com inbox! Answer was exactly what I asked for – Thanks so much to Kathryn Devine Reference Librarian Washington State Library, for due diligence and very timely reply!! – Grateful Thanks…”

“Hats off to Ms. Kathryn Devine. Questions answered succinctly and with sufficient information to follow up. You Guys ROCK!”

“I didn’t realize at the last minute that this was for the library instead of the Revenue’s contact us page. Kathryn went ahead and helped me anyway, so she’s awesome!”

So if you need help with a good meaty research question, particularly about Washington State history, contact us. You will make Kathryn’s day and you will no doubt become another true fan.


What can you find in a city directory?

Monday, April 7th, 2014 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Do you know what you can find in a city directory?

If you want to research your home, your family history,
or local history you’ll want to use city directories.

They are similar to telephone books in that they were published every year, and they list the people living in a city….but city directories have so much more information.

You can find out the name of a spouse, both living and deceased.

Everett City Directory 1939

Everett City Directory 1939


You can find out someone’s profession.

cd profession

Wenatchee City Directory 1936


You can look up a company, and find out who was in charge.

Spokane City Directory 1893

Spokane City Directory 1893


If you are researching the history of your house you can search most city directories by street
address, instead of by a name, and find out who lived at a particular address.

Bellingham City Directory 1939

Bellingham City Directory 1939

This is a partial list of people and businesses located on Meridian Street in Bellingham in 1939.

In 1939, the Fountain Plumbing Co. could be found at 2309 Meridian.  Today, over 70 years later,  there is still a home improvement business at that address.

Not a plumbing company,  but a store selling recycled and salvaged building supplies.


You can track your ancestors year by year.

You not only find out if their address changed, but also if their employment or marital status changed.  These 1936 and 1938 Wenatchee city directories tell us that Don Miller got promoted during those years, becoming the President/Manager of North Central Chevrolet.






City directories also provide a historical snapshot of the city.  There is usually a profile of the city
at the beginning of each one, along with some statistical data.

Ellensburg City Directory 1968

Ellensburg City Directory 1968

The information provided varies from year to year and city to city.

This example from the 1968 Ellensburg City Directory tells us what their population was, and what their media, entertainment and transportation options were.

It gets even more detailed, and tells us how many beds the hospital had, how many volumes the library held, how many telephones were in use.
*click on the image to read those numbers*

There might not be surviving data from the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce, but since they provided these statistics, along with the historical and economic data for the directory, we still have this historical snapshot of Ellensburg in 1968.



The directories after about 1920 usually have a yellow pages section where the businesses, churches, and government offices are listed by subject.

You can find out who all the local officials were….the mayor, police chief, and so on.
If the town happens to have Federal Government offices, you can find out who was in charge of them, as we can see in this  1955 Moses Lake city directory.

cd government

Moses Lake City Directory 1955


You can even find a future president….living with his mother in Seattle in 1961-1962.


Seattle City Directory 1961-1962


The Washington State Library has a collection of city directories for cities all over the state.

This page on our web site lists all of the city directories in our collection.

Contact us if you have any questions about using our city directory collection.
askalibrarian@sos.wa.gov   /   360.704.5221



WSL and the “Declaration of Learning”

Friday, February 8th, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections, Technology and Resources | Comments Off on WSL and the “Declaration of Learning”

Declaration-of-LearningThe Library of Congress, along with 12 other governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations, including the American Library Association and the  Institute of Museum and Library Services, have recently created the Declaration of Learning.  This document “formally announces their partnership as members of the Inter-Agency Collaboration on Education”.  Each organization involved pledges to utilize its historic artifacts and institutional expertise to create interactive digital media, apps, and websites.

In the spirit of this declaration, Washington State Library would like to highlight some of  our digital services and activities that also share this pledge.

Washington Rural Heritage

Washington Rural Heritage is a collection of historic materials documenting the early culture, industry, and community life of Washington State. The collection is an ongoing project of small, rural libraries and partnering cultural institutions, guided by an initiative of the Washington State Library (WSL). The initiative provides the infrastructure and training to both digitize and serve unique collections to a widespread audience.

Classics in Washington History

The State Library is delighted to present Classics in Washington History. This digital collection of full-text books brings together rare, out of print titles for easy access by students, teachers, genealogists and historians. Visit Washington’s early years through the lives of the men and women who lived and worked in Washington Territory and State.

Special Collections of the Washington State Library

 The Special Collections of the Washington State Library collect and preserve rare and archival materials that enrich research in the history and culture of the Pacific Northwest.
The geographical region comprises the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho in their entirety; the province of British Columbia; and western portions of the State of Montana.  Alaska and Yukon Territory materials are also acquired selectively when they relate to the Pacific Northwest region.

These non-circulating collections are comprised of historic and unique books, pamphlets, maps and manuscripts that are made available for research in our reading room.

Historical Maps

The State Archives and the State Library hold extensive map collections dealing with the Washington State and the surrounding region. Maps for this digital collection will be drawn from state and territorial government records, historic books, federal documents and the Northwest collection.

Genealogy at the Washington State Library

Washington State Library has Wide array of genealogical resources both online and on site, including biographies, bibliographies, vital recordscemetery inscriptions, City and County histories, directories, Immigration records , military records and more.

Historic Newspapers in Washington

Washington State Library’s newspaper collection includes current issues on paper and historic newspapers on microfilm with some searchable online. We subscribe to about 125 daily and weekly newspapers throughout Washington, plus a few out-of-state papers. The microfilm collection consists of over 40,000 reels of newspapers dating from the 1850s to the present.

Spotlight on Staff: Kim Smeenk

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 Posted in Articles, For the Public | 1 Comment »

Kim Smeenk

If the first rule of management is to hire well, then the Public Services group of Washington State Library got off to a good start when reference librarian Kim Smeenk was invited to join the staff over half a decade ago.

Kim, who is a specialist in genealogical research and a fine reference librarian as well, is amazingly prolific in answering online queries. This is an especially desirable trait in light of significant loss of librarians the Public Services unit has experienced in the last few years.

Kim, who has been in the field for 16 years, originally became a genealogical librarian by circumstance. While part of the public library staff in Michigan City, Indiana, she realized she enjoyed the critical thinking and detective work involved in answering the queries, and the other librarians were more than happy to let her have this subject area exclusively. As fate would have it, she learned on the front lines how to use the online tools while those resources were in an embryonic state. Kim’s research skills have grown as the Web-based content has evolved.

She has also been active in promoting WSL’s genealogical resources (online and in person) to Washington State genealogical and historical societies, helping our citizens learn about and celebrate their cultural heritage and the role of their families in the development of The Evergreen State. Kim says, “Educating the library patron to the myriad of resources available to them just within the digital world of WSL/Archives alone can be a major eye-opener for them.”

Kim enjoys discovering new areas of the Pacific Northwest, connecting geographic names she has researched in the course of her work with a real place. And she likes to read, a lot.

One of the most surprising facts about her? Interestingly, Kim, whose North American roots trace to very recent Dutch ancestors, has little interest in researching her own family history. For Kim her work is the biblio version of Ars gratia artis.

Thanks you, Kim, for showing leadership in genealogy research at the Washington State Library.

Finding Your Father’s War

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections | Comments Off on Finding Your Father’s War

So you found an old photo of your ancestor in the attic. He or she is clad in what you think must be a World War II uniform.  But you know almost nothing about his or her service. There may be visual clues to help you find out.

That’s when you go to Finding Your Father’s War by Jonathan Gawne.

This book talks about how to track down records on your World War II ancestor. It is also heavily illustrated throughout with both black-and-white and color photographs and drawings.

Appendices include military insignia, military vehicle markings, campaigns of World War II, official abbreviations used in World War II, and a select bibliography for further research.  Finding Your Father’s War is available for use at the Washington State Library.

American Battle Monuments

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections | Comments Off on American Battle Monuments

In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, the Washington State Library is featuring “American Battle Monuments,” edited by Elizabeth Nishiura. 

This guide provides detailed descriptions of battle monuments honoring soldiers from World War I, World War II, and other conflicts. Each monument’s entry includes its location, hours, a description of the site, and a history of its development.  Specific names of soldiers are not included in this guide, but genealogists can track those down using sites like Find a Grave and the Nationwide Gravesite Locator from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The “American Battle Monuments” entry for the Honolulu Memorial and National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific include descriptions of major Pacific Operations of World War II, as well as the Korean Conflict.

New in Genealogy: Stories in Stone

Monday, November 14th, 2011 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections | Comments Off on New in Genealogy: Stories in Stone

Did you ever wonder what that symbol on great granddad’s tombstone meant? Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography is just what you need. 

This is an outstanding resource for deciphering cemetery symbolism. It includes hundreds of beautiful color photographs from cemeteries around the world.

The chapter on fraternal organizations and secret societies is especially fascinating.  If you can identify one of these symbols on an ancestor’s grave, it may lead you down a new path of research!

New in Genealogy: Ancestry’s Concise Genealogical Dictionary

Monday, November 7th, 2011 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections | Comments Off on New in Genealogy: Ancestry’s Concise Genealogical Dictionary

Ever wonder what an anaplerotic is?

How about a faldstool or a knockknobbier?

If you’ve ever run across strange words in historical records, Ancestry’s Concise Genealogical Dictionary can help. It defines a wide range of obscure legal and colloquial words and phrases that you may find when researching your family history.

In case you’re wondering:

Anaplerotic: “Medicine which promoted the healing process and helps renew flesh or wasted parts—often found in medical records.”

Faldstool: “A portable folding seat used by a bishop when visiting other churches; a portable stool or desk used in praying.”

Knockknobbier: “The person whose duty it was to chase dogs out of church if they became a nuisance.”

Free Genealogy Presentation This Weekend in Sumner

Friday, October 21st, 2011 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on Free Genealogy Presentation This Weekend in Sumner

Are you a genealogist or family historian?  Would you like to find out more about the resources available at the Washington State Library and Washington State Archives for researching your Washington relatives?  Then you’re in luck this weekend!  Librarian Kim Smeenk will be highlighting genealogical resources at the State Library and Archives in a free presentation at the Heritage Quest Research Library on Saturday, October 22 at 10 AM in historic downtown Sumner.  HQRL is a nonprofit genealogy library, managed and staffed entirely by volunteers.  You can find directions to HQRL here.  Hope to see you there!