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A library to lose sleep over!

On the ground floor of a building on a street called Sand Point Way is a real genealogical treasure. And if you live anywhere in the Pacific Northwest or have ancestors from there, it’s one you really should know about.

It’s called the Seattle Genealogical Society. A vibrant organization of active genealogists where you can feel the enthusiasm whenever you’re around them.

And it has a library to die for.

Talk about a winning combination!

The Legal Genealogist had the great pleasure of being the speaker at the SGS Spring Seminar this past Saturday where the huge gymnasium of an old school house was filled with people wanting to learn more about genealogy and the law.

And yesterday, the SGS Research Library was the scene for a workshop on using circumstantial, or indirect, evidence to link a woman married before the 1850 census to her family where there was no birth, marriage or death record. It’s a tribute to the commitment of this group to methodology and standards that the workshop was sold out and had a waiting list.

But after seeing the library and talking to some of the members and the volunteers, that commitment and that enthusiasm didn’t surprise me at all.

This is an organization that could serve as a model for a lot of genealogical societies. And its library is at its heart.

First and foremost, it’s open long hours — some 30 hours a week — staffed entirely by volunteers. There are state archives that don’t offer that much research time. That allows for lots of activities — a Canadian Interest group, an Irish Interest group, a German Interest group and more. Some of the interest groups are big enough that they won’t fit in the library meeting space! And SGS is open to sponsoring more and new ones if members just ask.

Second, it’s the scene for classes for beginners and more advanced researchers. SGS offers classes in basic computer skills for genealogists, beginning genealogy and more. One program SGS has that I wish existed where I live: a break-down-the-brick-wall meeting where people help each other brainstorm their genealogical problems.

Third, it has simply amazing resources. From its website comes this description of its key components:

     • Library Books and Periodicals: The SGS book collection complements the resources of The Seattle Public Library’s genealogy collection and close liaison is maintained with SPL. Information is not limited to Washington State; significant resources are available for all states, Canada, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and other international regions.

     • Computer Resources: Computer workstations are available for members to access the SGS collection of computer databases and CD-ROMs. There is wireless Internet access for those who bring their own portable computers. Printing and copying is 15¢ per page, or documents may be saved or scanned to a USB flash drive. … SGS holds a collection of over 200 CD-ROMs with compilations source materials covering both US and international locations, including a special King County, WA, Index to Court Records 1880-1980, compiled by SGS volunteers.

     • Washington State Collections: The library holds a wealth of genealogical information relating to Seattle and Washington state. Resources include:

• Published books, periodicals, and archive collections
• Family Records of Washington Pioneers
• Vertical files of various Washington families
• Rare books relating to the Pacific Northwest
• Seattle City Directories from 1890 to 1990
• Directories for other cities in Washington

     • Microfilm and Microfiche: The SGS microform collection includes the Washington State Death Index 1907-1989, the 1895 Minnesota State Census, assorted national and state census rolls and miscellaneous other donated materials. Microfilm and microfiche readers are available to view the collections.

     • The George F. Kent Collection of New Jersey: The Kent Collection comprises 122 volumes of materials plus a 28-drawer card file. The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey is the backbone of this collection, with a multi-volume index added by SGS. The card file contains thousands of cards indexing cemeteries, church records, deed abstracts, marriage records, military records and family information.

     • Surname Vertical Files: The library holds Surname Files contributed by SGS members. Information in these files includes newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, and short typescripts. Surname Notebooks contain Family Group Sheets submitted by Seattle Genealogical Society members over the last 75 years.

     • Family Histories: The Family History collection includes periodicals, published volumes, typescripts and binders of family materials, cataloged by primary surname.

Dues for SGS are only $40 a year, and the SGS Bulletin — its magazine — and the SGS Newsletter are worth that all by themselves.

What a treasure in the Pacific Northwest.

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