From a bright and airy building, Clallam County residents and visitors can dig into the dark recesses of their family roots at the new Clallam County Genealogical Society Research Center, 402 E. Lauridsen Blvd., Port Angeles.
CCGS president Virginia Majewski said the nonprofit group, established in 1981, had outgrown the space it shared with the Clallam County Historical Society and made the decision to purchase its own building last year. After a remodel to make the structure more user friendly, it reopened just east of the Port Angeles Library in January.
The research center fits neatly into the CCGS’s mission of being “dedicated to the collection and preservation of genealogical materials and to providing supportive and educational opportunities for those who are involved in genealogical research.” Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and from noon-4 p.m. the last Saturday of the month.
“We have a reference library that’s open to anybody for research with volunteers to assist them,” Majewski said, noting the center has more than 3,000 books and hundreds of periodicals with worldwide genealogical information on immigration, military and religious records.
“On Clallam County, we have things from before Washington was a state, back to the mid-1880s, and information from every state and other countries that goes way back.”
In addition to dozens of CDs with state-by-state vital statistics, the center has subscription databases available for online research through Ancestry, Fold 3, American Ancestors, World Vital Records and Genealogy Bank.
The Clallam County collection contains information on early marriages, pre-1889 pioneer family genealogies, obituaries, cemetery records, city and county directories, school annuals, indexes/abstracts of probates, naturalizations, territorial census records and Native American records.
“Most of our Clallam County collection does come from donations and I’d encourage people to continue to bring us their old records,” Majewski said.
The reference library also has resource books on military records, foreign dictionaries, maps, land records and how to find places and archives. The center also has a lending library restricted to CCGS members — dues are $30 annually — and meetings are 9:45 a.m.-noon January-May and September-November and feature speakers or presentations on a variety of genealogical topics.
Three computers have Internet access and a fourth is for searching the vital statistics CDs by state. There also are several large tables where researchers can spread out their work and a microfiche room to peruse old newspapers.
“We’ve had a lot more visitors because the center is a lot more accessible and visible than before. We’ve seen from a couple to 30 people a day — it just varies — it can get very busy in here,” Majewski said, “and that’s fun because people talk and share their stories and get ideas where to look for records.”
Majewski has traced both of her parents’ families to 1525 in Switzerland and recommends starting with the present generation and working backward one generation at a time. Challenges for amateur genealogists, she said, are finding records on female ancestors, who had few if any legal rights, and adoptions because records are sealed or no records were kept on orphaned children who were taken in by relatives, friends or strangers.
There’s no time like the present to unearth the past at the CCGS Research Center.