The Gene Pool: Tips on Doing Genealogical Research in Seattle
Don't get LOST in SEATTLE!

Check these "Tips from the Locals" about
the best genealogy research spots in Seattle


From: jim willhite <>
E-Mail from Roots-L
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 1996
Subject: Seattle Area Research


Thank you for all your good input on my query as to where to do genealogical research in the Seattle area. My wife and I will be leaving in a few days and hopefully the weather will cooperate. The following is a summation of all the recommendations I received for the benefit of others who intend to do research in the area:

National Archives

The National Archives has drawer after drawer after drawer of beautiful census films. They are staffed by very helpful volunteers. At the NA, you'll be given certain privileges for being not local: you won't be bumped off a machine after the two hour limit. Get there at 7:45 AM if you can, leave downtown at 7:15 and take the freeway.

To get there just go north on I-5 to the UW exit (45th Street), and follow it east. It turns to the north and becomes Sand Point (Blvd?). You will find the NA place on the left before the Sand Point Naval Station. The several hundred yards of chain link fence will tip you off. Onsite parking is available.

The National Archives is open Mon-Fri from approximately 7:45 am to 4:00 pm, and the first and second Tue evenings 5:00 to 9:00 pm. Call them to confirm hours if its snowing. Their phone number is (206) 526-6500. Address is 6125 Sand Point Way, NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

Seattle Public Library

The Seattle Public Library has a very extensive genealogy collection, including some historical newspapers, 21,500 volume books and periodicals; 2500 reels of microfilm; 4 drawers of microcards and 3 drawers of microfiche Covers all parts of the US; some Canada and British Isles It's definitely worth a visit. They have more on some states than others. We found Pennsylvania was excellent but Minnesota was scant. They also have census indexes and some microfilms. They have a lot of biographical volumes. Copies are 15 cents a piece so you need lots of change! The Library is located in downtown Seattle on 4th near the SeaFirst Building. Parking is scarce and costs about $6 to $8. I find it easier and less expensive to take the bus. The genealogy section is downstairs. They often have an excellent librarian just for the section. The books cover most of the US and their microfilm collection nearly rivals the National Archives. The microfilms are more regionalized, if I remember right.

I am still impressed with the SPL collection. You can't expect much from their microfilms unless your interest is Washington Territory, as SPL and NA have a deal not to duplicate each other's collections. SPL does have a smattering of stuff that was donated to them, but in most cases the film is well-used and hard to read.

There's a card catalog (yeah, the old-fashioned kind) that is divided into family names and locations. The location file points you to some wonderful history books on the stacks. Pay attention to these! Allow extra time for browsing. The location cards are done by state, then county or subject. "Militia" contains military references. Know your counties!

  • Their temporary address: Seattle Public Library, 800 Pike St., Seattle, WA 98101. New library will open approximately July 2003 at 1000 4th Ave. Seattle, WA.
  • Their phone number (206) 386-4629 (Genealogy Section)
  • Hours: Mon-Thurs 9 am - 9 pm, Fri & Sat 9 am - 6 pm, and Sun (after Labor Day through May) 1-5 pm
  • Their genealogy web site is at:
  • if you have Telnet access & capabilities, their main library home page is at: ttp://

From the main home page you can go to the Electronic Services page, then to the Quest online catalog via Telnet. Then you can search their catalog right from your home before you come to town.

Seattle Genealogical Society

The Seattle Genealogical Society has a good library and is right across the street from the National Archives. They are holders of a large personal collection of New Jersey material willed to them, if that's your interest. SGS also has just about every CD ROM sold. If you have a specific CD ROM you want to check, bring that information and ask for it.

The mailing address of the Seattle Genealogical Society is P.O. Box 15329, Seattle, WA 98115-0329, phone 206-522-8658. The office and library are at 6200 Sand Point Way NE in Seattle and are open (as of January 2003) Tuesdays 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM and closed on Sundays and Mondays. See their web page for directions and other information:

Other Libraries in The Area

If you have ancestors from the Seattle area, you should also try a local historical society. There are several ethnic organizations too, representing the various peoples that have settled in the area. (Lots of Swedes and Norwegians.) Given the large Norwegian population here, both SPL and SGS would be the places to go. SGS might have the edge, though. SPL definitely has the edge on the Great Lakes regions where they settled, though. I'm not doing any Norway research, but I am going through everything in the Lakes region, and got through SGS's collection in a matter of an hour or so. I've been crawling through SPL's collections for weeks now.

For anything Norwegian, go to Ballard, just north of Queen Anne Hill. It can be tricky to get to if you aren't familiar with the area, but the best way is probably going up I-5 or Aurora Ave N and heading west at 85th, but I'm just going by memory.

There is a SEATTLE FAMILY HISTORY CENTER at the LDS church a bit north of the UW. It is just next to I-5 on 8th Ave NE, south of Ravenna. Go in the back door and ring the bell. Here's the address: Family History Center, Seattle North State Center, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 5701 - 8th Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98105, phone (206) 522-1233

Of course, the University of Washington has some excellent resources too, like newspaper archives and old territory census records. Because you are not a student (or alumni?), you might have a rough time getting something at Special Collections if you need it, but a little courtesy and persuasion can go a long ways.

The UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SUZZALLO LIBRARY is located on the main campus in the University District.

Add to the list the FISKE LIBRARY, a private non-profit. I believe they charge $5 for non-members. I seldom get over there (about 15 minutes from downtown at the end of Madison Street next to Lake Washington). The tend to specialize in New England/England material.

The TACOMA PUBLIC LIBRARY is affiliated with the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society, of which I am a member. We are proud of our collection too! The Tacoma library isn't online yet, however, it does have a Topical Shelf List for the collection. It's arranged & cross-referenced by place and subject. The Tacoma Public Library is right up the hill from downtown and is located at 1102 Tacoma Ave. South on the corner of 11th Street & Tacoma Ave. There is a parking lot right next to the library.

The TACOMA LDS FAMILY HISTORY CENTER at 12th & Pearl has a vast collection, I am told. I haven't been out there yet. A newspaper article last weekend said that the FHC there is the largest in the Pacific Northwest. Could be worth a trip out there. I know that several of our members are regular visitors & volunteers. The phone number is 564-1103, the address is 5941 S. 12th, Tacoma. Call them for driving instructions.

There is another resource we visited a while ago which is about an hour south of Seattle in a small town called Orting. It is called the HERITAGE QUEST Genealogy Research Library at 220 West Bridge in Orting. Phone is (206) 863-7372.

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