Thurston County, WA Genealogy
Welcome To Thurston County Washington
Thurston County is
717 sq. mi. in size, and is located at the southern tip of Puget Sound. Mount
Rainier and the Cascade Mountains are nearby to the east, while Washington's
Pacific Ocean coast is just an hour west. Thurston county is 60 miles south of
Seattle, WA and 100 miles north of Portland, OR. The county seat is
Olympia, which is also the State
The county was created on 12 January 1852 by the Oregon
Territorial Legislature. Initially, the proposed act specified that the new
county, broken off from Lewis County, be named Simmons County for Michael T.
Simmons, leader of the first party of Americans to settle in the Puget Sound
basin. However, prior to passage, the act was amended to change the name to honor
Samuel R. Thurston, Oregon's first delegate to Congress.
is home to more than 190,000 residents. Nearly 100,000 residents live in the more
urban north county areas in and around the cities of
Tumwater. The rest live in and around
the smaller towns of Bucoda, Tenino, Rainier and Yelm, or in more rural areas of
the county. Thurston County is
the eighth most populated county among Washington state's
39 counties, and is among the fastest growing counties in the Pacific Northwest.
(Map courtesy of Mike Sweeney)
About the Washington GenWeb Project
Thurston County, Washington
WATHURST-L -- A mailing list for
anyone with a genealogical interest in Thurston County,
Washington. Send email with only the word SUBSCRIBE in the message area.
-- The same Thurston
County mailing list, but in digest mode. Use only the word SUBSCRIBE in the message area.
Links to Neighboring Counties
Other Genealogical Links
In March and April, 1996, a group of genealogists organized the Kentucky
Comprehensive Genealogy Database. The idea was to provide a single entry point for
all counties in Kentucky, where collected databases would be stored. In addition,
the databases would be indexed and cross-linked, so that even if an individual were
found in more than one county, they could be located in the index.
At the same time, volunteers were found who were willing to coordinate the
collection of databases and generally oversee the contents of the web page. The
Washington GenWeb Project is an extension of the Kentucky GenWeb Project. My name
is Jerri McCoy, and I am the coordinator for
Thurston County. Please contact me, if you would like to add your data to the
Back to Top
Tumwater is the oldest American settlement in the Puget Sound area (1845),
and is located on the falls of the Deschutes River. The name comes from the
Olympia was first named Smithter (1846), which gave way to the more
conventional Smithfield. It was later renamed for the Olympic Mountains at the
suggestion of United States customs collector Isaac N. Ebey.
Lacey was originally known as Woodland, after Isaac Woods, who settled the
area in 1852. When Woods petitioned for a post office, the name was rejected
because it duplicated a town name in Cowlitz County. His attorney, O.C. Lacey,
substituted his own name on the application to expedite matters.
Bush, now Bush Prairie, was named for its first settler, George Bush, who
came in 1845 with the Michael T. Simmons party. He was the first Negro to settle
in what is now Washington State.
Yelm comes from the Indian word chelm, meaning "heat waves rising
from the earth."
Gate was originally called Gate City, as it is situated at a narrow end of a
valley, and was considered the gateway to the Grays Harbor country.
Littlerock was named by an early settler for a stepped boulder which is
shaped by nature for a perfect [horse] mounting stone.
Tenino comes from Chinook jargon, meaning "fork" or "junction". The name
was given to a point on an old Indian trail that later expanded to a military road
during the Indian Wars of 1855-56.
Rainier, which is situated on the Tenalquot Prairie, was named for Mt.
Bucoda was originally called Seatco, an Indian word meaning "devil". The
town was the site of the first territorial prison, 1874-88. Prisoners worked
adjacent coal mines owned by J.M. Buckley, Samuel Coulter, and John B. David. To
avoid name confusion with Seattle, the three men coined a new name by using the
first two letters of their surnames -- Bu-Co-Da. The railroad adopted the name in
1874, the state in 1890.
Grand Mound is situated in Mound Prairie, which is characterized by peculiar
symmetrical humps of earth. The town is located near the largest of the mounds, a
125-foot-high hill covered with trees.
Rochester was originally named Moscow by a Russian immigrant. With the
establishment of the post office in 1890, the town was renamed for the New York
home town of another settler.
Other early settlements in Thurston County included Arcadia, New Kamalchie,
Boston Harbor, Puget City, Sherlock, Guslander, Belmore, Delphi, Plum, Bordeaux,
Mima, McIntosh, Tono, Ramstads, and Meadow.
(From Washington State
Placenames, by James W. Phillips, Univ. of WA Press.)
Another good source for placenames is Postmarked Washington: Thurston County,
by Guy Reed Ramsey, pub by Thurston County Historic Commission, 1988.
Back to Top
Published by the Olympia Genealogical Society, PO Box 1313, Olympia, WA 98507-1313:
- Register of Births, Thurston County, State of Washington, 1891-1907,
compiled by Irma K. Brocha, 1984.
- Register of Deaths, Thurston County, State of Washington, 1891-1907
, compiled by Barbara Dayton Lawrence and Janice Cummings Smith, 1989.
- Newspaper Genealogical Abstracts, The Morning/Daily Olympian, Thurston
County, Washington, 1891-1907, compiled by Esther Raymond Knox, 1988.
(Contains abstracts of births, adoptions, licenses to wed, marriages, deaths,
anniversaries, birthdays, citizenships and divorces.)
- 1889 Census, Thurston County, Washington Territory, printed 1987.
- Index to the 1910 Federal Census of Thurston County, Washington,
compiled by Wayne and Mickey Hannah, 1997.
- Cemetery Records of Thurston County, Washington, compiled by
Richard F. Jones, 1994. (Vol. 1, A-F, Vol. 2, G-M, Vol. 3, N-Z)
- Olympia Genealogical Society Surname Index, compiled by Jerri
Thorpe McCoy, 1991. (Contains over 18,000 names of the ancestors of members
of the society. Names are not limited to Thurston County, but the
researchers live here!)
- Olympia Genealogical Society Quarterly, editor Jerri Thorpe McCoy.
(Unpublished Thurston County records are included in each issue. Available
for research at the Olympia Timberland Library.)
Published by the Thurston County Historical Commission:
- Mima Prairie Pioneer Cemetery, Thurston County, Washington, researched and
written by Linda Howerton, 1990.
- Postmarked Washington: Thurston County, Guy Reed Ramsey, 1988.
- Thurston County Place Names: a Heritage Guide, edited by Gayle Palmer and
Shanna Stevenson, 1992.
Other books available in the Olympia Timberland Library:
- Early History of Thurston County, Washington, Together with Biographies and
Reminiscences of those Identified with Pioneer Days, compiled and edited by
Mrs. George E. Blankenship, Pub Shorey Book Store, Seattle, WA, 1914; 1972.
- History of Thurston County, by John C. Rathbun, Pub Shorey Book Store,
Seattle, WA, 1895; 1972.
- Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey: a Pictorial History, by Shanna Stevenson,
Pub Donning Co, Norfolk, VA, 1996.
- Olympia Wins: Washington's Capital Controversies, by David Nicandri and
Derek Valley, Pub Washington State Capitol Museum, 1980.
- Olympiana: Historical Vignettes of Olympia's People and Places, by
Shanna Stevenson, Pub Washington State Capitol Museum, 1982.
- Poncin Estate, Johnson Point, by Carole Rambo Holt, 1989.
- Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen, by Gordon R. Newell, Pub Hangman Press,
Seattle, WA, 1975.
- So Fair a Dwelling Place: a History of Olympia and Thurston County,
Washington, by Gordon R. Newell, 1985.
- The Story of Yelm: the Little Town with the Big History, 1848-1948, by
Richard Loutzenhiser, 1948.
- Thurston County Cultural Resources Inventory, by Shanna Stevenson and
Thomas Constantini, Pub State of WA, Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, 1985.
- Washington State, Thurston County, Olympia: Historical Material from Early
Newspapers, Documents, Memoirs, etc. 1851-1938.
- Where the Potholes Are, by Mary Ann Bigelow, Pub Thurston Regional
Planning Council, 1990.
Thurston County Online Databases
Back to Top
Thurston County Addresses:
Washington State Department of Health
Center for Health Statistics
P.O. Box 9709
Olympia, Washington 98507-9709
|Holds birth and death records dating from July 1, 1907; marriage and divorce records from
January 1, 1968. |
If you are in Washington state and the birth
certificate you are requesting is in the range of 1954 to present, you may contact your local
county health department. Most of the county health departments are linked into the CHS database
and can issue birth certificates state-wide 1954 to present.
Washington State Archives
1120 Washington Street SE
P.O. Box 40238
Olympia, Washington 98504-0238
|Holds pre 1907 vital records (births and deaths from 1891, marriages from 1860).
Holds State and Territorial Census Records for 1871, 1873, 1875, 1877, 1878, 1879,
1880, 1881, 1883, 1885, 1887, 1889, 1892.|
|Thurston County Courthouse
2000 Lakeridge St SW
Olympia, WA 98502
|County Auditor holds pre 1907 birth and death records (from 1891), marr records (from 1860),
deeds (from 1852). Co Clerk holds probate records (from 1889), divorce records, and civil
court records (from 1852).|
|Washington State Library|
PO Box 42460
Olympia, WA 98504
|Federal Census Records for 1850 (as
Oregon Territory), 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920. Also has a large
collection of WA State Newspapers (on microfilm).|
829 Lacey Street SE
Lacey, WA 98503
|Most holdings are related to the Lacey area, although occasionally we may have the broader South Sound region. Research files by subject and surname, often including obituaries and/or funeral notices. Collections that may include documents, photos or artifacts related to local families. Lacey school class photographs. Historic property inventory form notebooks with photos (Lacey proper, not surrounding areas). Lacey Leader newspaper archives plus their negatives.|
Back to Top
Shortcuts to Neighboring Counties:
Back to Top
Thurston County Genealogical Links
Other Genealogical Links
Washington State USGenWeb
This site was last updated on 3 Feb 2017.
Jerri McCoy / Olympia, WA / email: