Olfactory Stories!

The neighborhood where I work in Seattle is one that just 10 years ago was a commercial/warehouse zone north of the city of Seattle.  In just a few years (and the influx of the headquarters of Amazon), the entire area has changed into large office buildings filled with 30-somethings.  There are a few vestiges of that commercial area left–holdouts mostly. The small antique store has moved south of the city leaving a building that has a development notice on it.  The two story brick building across the street is still there, but now it is a Tesla dealership/maintenance facility! The Athletic Awards store is still there and, so far, in spite of offers, Monty is not selling the family business.

FirestoneAnother of these vestiges is the Firestone dealership, a large two-toned ochre two-story building.  While it is slated for development (read: demolition and new big office building), it and the people within it continue to rotate and sell tires and other related items.  I walked by the open roll up door the other day from lunch and it wasn’t the lifts or the cars that reminded me of my childhood–it was the smell.  It wasn’t strong or unique but it made such an impression I had to stop walking.  The smell of oil and rubber took me back to a simpler time in Iowa.

My dad, Harold Jacobson (1911-1983), ran a service station in Britt, Iowa, with his brother Bob. I would sweep the office and the women’s restroom for a dime so I could go to the store with my friend Susan and get a vanilla phosphate.  I still love the smell of gasoline being pumped into cars (probably lost a couple of IQ points with that!) and I rue the day they added those protective collars on the gas pump nozzles. These smells were a part of the service station (Pure Oil) and of my dad and my strong memories of a small town in Iowa.

When I posted an abbreviated version of this story on Facebook [1], many readers leaped in with their olfactory remembrances as well and I thought I would share them with you. I thank each of them for allowing me to use their stories here.  I have occasionally done a little editing to make the writing flow.

Dave Liesse: One of the more unusual ones would be the sulfuric odor of an oil refinery. Both my lines come from Standard Oil families, and the Sinclair refinery was across the street from the Standard Oil refinery (it seems to me there was a third, as well, but I don’t remember which company). This was in Whiting, Indiana.

Lisa Chan: About a decade ago [my dad] had a contract as a superintendent for one a building up on Capitol Hill of what had been one Seattle’s oldest car dealerships. They needed to install an elevator, so he dismantled an old wooden car elevator lift and scavenged the ancient maple flooring. For a wedding gift, he (and myself and husband) built our simple bed headboard out of some of it… and the grease and oil stains are visible in the wood. The smell of spirits, turpentine, linseed oil and motor oil will always be associated in my mind with love of my father and his support and approval of my best friend in this life.

Eileen Furlani Souza: The smell of homemade spaghetti sauce with meatballs. The way we make it takes many hours with the delicious scent permeating the air making you hungry. Today, when I make it, the great smell immediately takes me back to my family.

Zola Troutman Noble: Boxwood bushes surrounded my grandparents’ front porch in Virginia where we would play on their swing during summer vacations in the ’50s. To this day the smell of those bushes takes me there. My husband planted boxwood bushes by our front porch for me, but they don’t have that aroma of the old bushes. Come to find out, that smell has been genetically engineered out of the new bushes because some people thought it was offensive. I won’t say what they thought it smelled like.

Suzanne M. Johnston: I remember the smell of my grandmother’s basement. A mixture of potting soil (African violets) and coal furnace. Odd, but a vivid memory.

Peter Lehndorf: Italian food on my Sicilian side. Sauerkraut for my dad. My basset’s flatulence of both. That’s all I got.

Emma Norland: Orange with cloves. My grandma hung those in her clothes closets.

Lee Johnson: ….Your father always let me into one of the empty bays to pull, clean and gap my spark plugs and set my points on my Pontiac late Saturday afternoons just in case someone might want to “run the boxes” later in the night. I think he charged me a buck! Those were the days! The smell I remember is burning rubber on concrete!!!!!

Lisa Sbrochi McCurdy: Homemade … “anything” coming from mom’s kitchen, spaghetti sauce, fried chicken, pot roast… then there was always something she was baking, pies, breads. But breakfast food was the most comforting… especially pancakes!!

Amy Kime Arner: The scent of the powder my grandmother used. I don’t know the name of it, and it’s not popular today. Occasionally I smell it when I’m out and about.

Linda Lawson: All my aunts used Pond’s hand cream…don’t know if it still exists. Evening dessert was often toast with butter and cinnamon.

Betsey Cotter: My mother’s bread baking and my father’s smell of formaldehyde……

Diana Chrisman Smith: Potting soil for me, too. My dad raised African violets to sell to local florists and give to friends. There were always several large tables FULL of plants in various stages of maturity. And I inherited my mother’s ‘black thumb’. Can’t grow anything!

Janice Lovelace: Bakery – bread! There was a bakery across from an “auntie” and I loved the smell of bread baking and then getting [it] fresh out of the oven.

Mary Kathryn Crews Kozy: The smell of rain and smoke from wood fires burning… Means it must be time to go back to school! :-) Probably why fall is my absolutely FAVORITE season!

Laura Flanagan: Sawdust. My father was a woodworker. He had his own business for over 40 years.

Diane Blomgren: We had many bonfires in the fall and I love that smell! We found a good long stick, whittled it down to a point on one end and browned/burned marshmallows over the fire! Another smell I remember well…. Those burned marshmallows! Ate them anyway!

Judy Keller Fox: [F]an belts: Dad had an auto parts store. I get the oil and tires smell, too!

Tami Osmer Mize: Ivory soap. My grandma washed EVERYTHING in Ivory soap and that scent takes me back to her farmhouse kitchen.

Sandy Barnes: I do [have] a very specific smell associated with Nov 1963, the day President Kennedy was shot. My mother was a very avid ironer. She would sprinkle water on the clothes and roll them up before ironing them. Those wet clothes [after being] steam ironed had a very specific, almost metallic, smell. I was in sixth grade; they sent us home early and when I walked in, my mother was ironing.

Michelle Khuon: My great-grandfather had a dirt-floor ‘basement’ under his house that had a very distinct smell that I now realize was really mold/moisture based – but it’s a dirt/earthy smell that I associate with him and that house specifically. I ended up with the old family Bible, which was unfortunately stored in that basement – and the smell of it is such a vivid memory for me that I can’t bring myself to deal with the fact that there is likely mold harming the book.
Sue Gaston: The fragrance of my grandmother’s pantry, Libbie Wallis Hadfield Hannum, at her house at 6608 North 34th St. in Berwyn, Illinois. Must have been the scent of the spices she kept in there. I was brought home from the hospital when I was born to that house since my parents were building a house that wasn’t ready yet. And we spent all the holidays and lots of other times with those grandparents. They had a TV before we did!
I love the fact that more than just the genealogy community weighed in on this.  Do you have a smell that “takes you back?” Thanks to everyone.  Although I did ask, if after reading this, you wish to have your name and description removed, let me know.
Happy Thanksgiving!  Thanks to all my followers–you are terrific.
Happy Hunting!
What I have done since the last posting: My lecture schedule this past fall has been very hectic with presentations almost every weekend. And, of course, the major conferences all want their proposals in about the same time, so I have been submitting “like crazy”.  I have heard from all but the BYU conference.  I will be traveling around the country in 2016 lecturing in Burbank, Ft. Lauderdale, Indianapolis and Minneapolis– speaking at least twice at each.  In addition, I have been selected for a couple of webinars and so I will posting that information in the near future.  I am planning a “genealogy junket” that will take me to Salt Lake, CO, Santa Fe, Tucson, San Diego, Fresno (I hope), and points north back to Seattle in January-February, arriving in Seattle for presentations at two academic conferences.  I will be writing my portfolio along the way so be prepared for blog postings about the trip and the progress.
[1] Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/, Jill Morelli.  > Jill Morelli > commercial businesses Firestone tire dealership neighborhood.  Try some or all of these search items.  You might end up with someone trying to sell you tires but it is worth a try.

Journal: 27 September 2015

bacon & eggsIf you are interested in what I (or actually others) had for breakfast or a cute picture of a cat, I recommend you head over to Facebook.  This journal post will be more about the variety of genealogy events or tasks I have been working on these past few weeks and why I participate in them.  I do this not out of any “bragging rights” but rather as a “confessional” in that I haven’t done much on my KDP and I haven’t had that second “Writer’s Weekend” that I promised myself.

This is the season for Fall seminars and I have been honored to speak at two  so far — Skagit Valley and Whatcom GS.  I will also be speaking at the Nordic Heritage Museum and the Heritage Quest Research Library Fall Seminar in October. These are arranged months in advance. I love to do these.

My presentations take a lot of time to prepare, some of them well over 80 hours each, but I find the enthusiasm of the audience at the time of presentation almost addictive.  I truly feel that I have something to offer others that is useful and helpful.  I also believe that one has to be a born teacher to like to present and not everyone “has that gene.” While the day can get long and my feet can hurt, I enjoy meeting fellow genealogists and listening to their stories and I admit, I like telling mine.

Lecture development:  I am working very hard on a series of presentations on Swedish records research.  My concept is to develop the following:

  • Beginning Swedish Research (I will be giving this at the Family History Fair in November)
  • Using Swedish Parish Records (beginning)
  • Using Swedish Probate Records (intermediate)
  • Using Swedish Clerical Surveys (Intermediate)
  • Using Swedish Tax Records (advanced) I am working on this one now.

I like putting structure around a topic that I am knowledgeable about so it can be shared with others and I like graphically composing the presentation. Too many lecturers use PowerPoint as their outline for their presentation instead of relying on the program’s inherent graphic delivery of images.

I  also learn a lot just doing the research.  For example, for my fire insurance maps presentation I had to learn about the growth of the insurance industry.  Who knew? I like these little diversions of scholarly  investigations, writing the paper (syllabus), putting my knowledge into graphic form (the PowerPoint) and then sharing what I learned.  I can work on a single presentation for just a short time and then put it down–something I cannot seem do with my KDP.  The audience’s questions can be an indication I missed something I should have covered in the presentation so I try to always leave time for questions and discussion.  (I then revise the presentation or add to it responding to he gaps exposed by the Q&A.)

Kinship Determination Project: I have been reading a very pertinent book lately on the issue of 15th and 16th c. impacts on my family.  While not riveting, it fills in a good gap.  I admit to serious procrastination as well.  I need to write!!

I find it hard to write for an hour or only two on the KDP.  I really do want large blocks of time which are only available on the weekends when other events intervene.  It is just a matter of personal priorities–which tells me that I am just a simple, unadulterated procrastinator.  I wish writing came more easily to me; I wish that I could see my errors more easily; I wish I didn’t worry about whether I had enough; I wish …; I wish….; etc.  (observation: this truly looks like a personal problem to me.) :-) I will move on.

Seattle Genealogical Society:  I helped Betty with the layout for the syllabus for the Fall Seminar featuring Tom Jones.  I am excited about him coming to Seattle (along with all the other Fellows).  He is also teaching two intermediate classes on Sunday and I am taking the one on Research Planning.

I enjoy Tom’s classes and this will be a great weekend in Seattle for genealogy.  I suspect will come away with a little nugget of information that I can use in the research plan for my portfolio.

I have applied to lecture at a number of national and regional conferences.

  • Ohio State GS, held in Mason OH: I submitted 8 (?) but was not selected,
  • National Genealogical Society, May, Ft. Lauderdale, FL: They selected two, “On Death and Dying: the Changing Face of Death and Dying in the 19th century” and “The Push and Pull: Decision-making of a 19th c. Emigrant
  • Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, end of August, Springfield IL: I should find out the end of this month — and since there are not too many days left in the month…..
  • SCGS Jamboree, June, Burbank CA, I submitted 6 possible lectures or webinars: I find out the end of October.
  • National webinar series: not yet officially announced but I will be presenting fire insurance maps in April.  I will let you know the particulars when in early April because I would like a lot of folks to dial in and listen live to the session. I haven’t decided whether I should respond to the WI webinar series.
  • Popular Culture Association National Conference (theme: genealogy); Seattle WA in March: My friend, Lisa Oberg and I applied and were accepted to speak at this academic conference.  We will be speaking on the history of genealogy with a special focus on the periods of high interest.  Trying to determine why those peaks occurred and why at that moment in time.

Submissions are usually a brief description of each lecture and sometimes with a brief outline of the proposed topic. The committee, which reviews hundreds of applications, has the very difficult job of filtering through many that may sound good but which relies ultimately on whether the speaker is knowledgeable and is a good speaker.

While I do not love applying it is a necessary task if one wants to speak at conferences and it usually doesn’t take long.  Since compensation is usually low, I first have to figure out whether I want to attend the conference.  Until one is a “star genealogist” and the committee asks me to speak, I am afraid I will be submitting with everyone else. But, I do see my name getting “out there” more which will make it easier to get those society seminars. The good news is that I am developing a nice library of presentations. Sometimes the society or conference selects a presentation I do not have “presentation ready.” Those require more work.  (example: On Death and Dying)

In addition, I submitted an article to the FGS newsletter that was accepted for publication on managing a Family History Writing contest. The editor has asked for another article as well.

I hope you see the juxtaposition of what I am doing and why I am doing it.  But, now, I have to get to work on the KDP!!

Happy Hunting!


note: I had a buttermilk waffle and bacon for breakfast. Monday through Saturday is Cheerios.

Photo: Cyclonebill, Copenhagen, Denmark. licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

How Swede it is! Getting to know Swedish records

MR Bachman ErikI have recently signed up for ArkivDigital (AD), a pay site for Swedish records and am having great fun with the site.  While at NwGC, I attended a session conducted by Kathy Meade, the North American representative for AD.   I have been talking to Kathy at the last two or three conferences about access to tax records which are available on AD. The tax records led me to the record on the left which is a marriage record of Erik Bachman to Maja Ashman in 1722 (I love the record being filmed in color).  This is the couple that was a “low retaining wall” (not a brick wall) for me.  While I haven’t yet proven the couple are the parents of my Ana Marie Eriksdotter Beekman, but given the numbers of Eriks (like, one) and likely candidates with the true surname of Backman/Beekman/Beckman (one), I am probably only a few records away from solving this gap. Thank goodness I wasn’t looking for an Ole Olsson!

My goal is to develop a series of lectures on Swedish research:

  1. Beginning Swedish Research
  2. Using Swedish Parish Records (beginning)
  3. Using Clerical Surveys (beginning)
  4. Using the Swedish Emigration Records (beginning)
  5. Using Swedish Probate Records (Intermediate)
  6. Using Swedish Tax Records (advanced)

My interest in this has been heightened by my work with the tax records which I believe can answer some real problems with Swedish records including gaps, ancestral line extensions (tax records predate parish records) and “burned counties.”

In October I will be presenting a workshop at the Nordic Heritage Museum “An Overview of Scandinavian Records.”  This will cover Sweden, Denmark and Norway and in November I will present at the Family History Fair in Bellevue “How Swede It Is! Beginning Swedish Genealogy,” the first of my planned lectures on Sweden. I am excited about the Nordic Heritage Museum presentation as it is part lecture and part workshop.  Everyone will walk away with a research plan for their next steps.

In my exploration I have found some terrific info that I was previously unaware:

  • Places to look if you do not know your parish of birth:
    • http://www.emiweb.se : This site ($$) includes the Emibas CD index of individuals who declared to their parish pastor they were emigrating.  Great place to look if you don’t know the parish. Swenson also has it.
    • 1880 Swedish census and later censuses (AD, SVAR, Swenson and others)
    • The Gothenburg passenger lists (ancestry.com, and spelled like they do, sorry.)
  • Your Swedes may have left from Norwegian or Danish ports, so don’t forget to look there if you cannot find them in Sweden.
  • Probate records.  I have leafed through these records sheet by sheet trying to find my folks. NOW they tell me there is an index!

Here are some interesting articles on Swedish genealogical records sets that would be helpful even if you do not have AD: http://www.arkivdigital.net/swedish-genealogy

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since my last posting: Although it has not been very long since my last post, some things are new.  The most important is that my hubby installed a new dishwasher! I submitted six proposals to Jamboree (Southern CA GS). I met with Lisa to discuss our proposal for the Popular Culture Conference (focus: genealogy) to be held in Seattle in March (proposals due in mid-September) and did some preliminary research on it, testing our hypotheses.  I found a surprising and little discussed issue, which we are pursuing. I also worked on my KDP and wrote through a particular tough spot. I even like how it reads.  I am excited because I was selected to present two lectures at the National Genealogical Society Conference 2016 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (Push/Pull and On Death & Dying).  It will be fun being in my previous stomping grounds . We lived in FL for about 2.5 years. I will be about 300 feet south of where my husband used to work and about five miles from where I worked.

A KDP Conversation at NwGC

Clock mathI have been struggling with my writing of the Kinship Determination Project or KDP.  First, I procrastinated.  Now, the struggle is with multiple issues but this post is about my conversations with certified genealogists at the Northwest Genealogical Conference (NwGC) and their KDP.

Who was the audience for your KDP? Said a different way, for whom did you write the KDP?

The KDP can be written for any number of audiences including BCG, other certified genealogists, for family or for the author. The recommendation of others is that you have a lot more “fun” and write much more genuinely, if you write the KDP for yourself or your family.  There are several specific requirements by BCG (see the application guide) and these have to be dealt with directly.  These inclusions may not be appreciated by your relatives.

If the KDP theme is discordant with the thoughts today, e.g. slavery, Naziism,  how does one prevent a personal perspective or opinion from creeping unknowingly in the story?

Most respondents commented about how important it was to not mistake the moral standards of today with the standards or pressures on our ancestors, something ESM describes as “present-ism”.  The writer needs to be objective, even dispassionate while telling the story. The commonly held belief was that the answer was “yes” — one could, even must, remain dispassionate about the topic. It was also mentioned that if your ancestor was slow to make the change or even strategized against the change at a time when knowledge was available contrary to their commonly held belief, then that is part of the story as well. Our ancestors were not perfect people.  The story still  needs to be told in a way that can enlighten the reader perhaps even pointing out this inability to accept the change.

Do I have to be a super expert about the theme–or context of the writing?

The only reasonable answer is “It depends.”  If your context is “World Peace,” no one is the expert and you cannot convey all you know into 150 pages! :-)  If your context is local, then, yes, you do have to be the expert illustrating exhaustive research.  For those in the middle–you have to decide when enough is enough to tell your story truthfully.  But remember, you are the expert of your family.

I want to thank all the generous genealogists that I quizzed throughout the day at the Northwest Genealogical Conference 2015 and who shared their thoughts and advice.

My next “KDP Writer’s Weekend” was scheduled for Labor Day weekend.  It appears that it will shift to the following weekend. Doesn’t mean that I won’t be working on the document in-between. I will be speaking next at Skagit Valley GS with Mary Kathryn Kozy on 19 September on “Just Do It! Writing Your Family History” and “My Top Ten Tech Tools I Really Use–Really.”

Happy Hunting!


What I have been doing since the last posting:  Attended the NwGC.  Congratulations to Stillaguamish Genealogical Society and Karen and Eric Stroshein for developing this significant NW conference. I continue to educate myself on my theme of my KDP. I am putting together a workshop on “An Overview of Scandinavian Records” so I am reading the materials that Kathy Meade handed out at her sessions she gave on ArkivDigital at NwGC.




KDP Writing Weekend #1: How Did I Do?

2013 0818 writingIn looking back over this intensive writing weekend when I put in a minimum of 21 hours writing on my KDP, I discovered some new/old truths which may help others of you who are also procrastinating about certification….

Truth #1: starting is the hard part.  While I may not be having all the “fun” that Judy Russell did when she wrote her KDP, I did find it liberating to get started. (You can find her webinar by clicking here.)

Truth #2: Mix it up!  I did some reading, some writing, some citations until I found, I really wanted to tackle the genealogical proof summary–and so I did that all day Sunday.

Truth #3: Take breaks.  I didn’t take enough of them but should have taken a few more–maybe even a nap.  These can be as small as watering the plants (Lord knows they need it.) or going to a picnic. They were great ways to disengage the mind.  I even played a few computer games.

Truth #4:  Get some sleep.  I missed on this one.  I didn’t go to bed until 1:00 am most nights and woke up groggy the next mornings.

Truth #5: Take time to read the BCG Application Guide, to remind yourself of what you might have forgotten and re-read Genealogy Standards. (It’s just dawned on my that I don’t have the latest edition on my iPad.)

Truth #6:  Make sure you have Numbering Your Genealogy and Evidence Explained close at hand.  I cannot tell you how many times I opened both.  For a while I thought I was catching a breeze but it was only the fluttering pages of those two books! :-)

Truth #7:  I stunned myself how organized I was when I first started researching my family. I have used Master Genealogist (sigh) since 2002, and my goal then, as it is now, is to find every source with the desired evidence within 20 seconds or less and I can!!  I found a critical 1978 letter that I forgot even existed — in 20 seconds.  Course, I also found that I had misfiled a probate file and now I have to go back and get it. Most of the sources I am missing, I never had.

Truth #8: Don’t store your BCG envelope next to a window.  It can get wet.  Luckily, none of the truly important stuff did–but still–where was my head?

Truth #9:  I found myself losing focus on Sunday at 8:30 pm.  So I quit and watched WDYTYA and went to bed.  It was time.

Truth #10:  Do it again!  The next KDP Writing Weekend #2 is scheduled for Labor Day.  3.5 days!  I don’t know if I can stay focused that long.  I may have to mix it up with some library work.  We’ll see.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  Well, you pretty well know, but I also structured the OGSA program for the 2016 conference in Excel and sent it off to the Board for their review, attended a PS-APG picnic, prepped my next presentation on “House Histories–Thank You Taxman!” for the Northwest Genealogical Conference (NwGC). I present on Saturday.  Saw a Call for Proposal that looked right for my librarian friend and I to apply for. (She and I have been looking for some time to find the right venue for us to present–we are going to sit down and brainstorm a presentation.)


The BCG Application Guide. Board for Certification of Genealogists: Washington, DC, 2011.

Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards. Nashville, Tennessee: Turner Publishing, Company, 2014.

Curran, Joan Ferris, Madilyn Coen Crane and John H. Wray. Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2008.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: City History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Third edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015.

KDP Writing Weekend #1: 7-9 August 2015

2013 0818 writingOK, I know I need to start writing the KDP (Kinship Determination Project).  There is an extra motivation–I will probably have to return about 13 books about “my family” to the library in the next few months.  If returned, I may have difficulty getting them back and I certainly won’t be able to check them out for weeks/months at a time.

So, I have decided that I will schedule two KDP Writing Weekends.  One will be this coming weekend (schedule below) and another will be over Labor Day weekend.  And, why, you ask, would I pick these two weekends?  Because the Hubby will be out of town and it will be just me and the cat.  Although Ollie sometimes walks across the keyboard, in general he is a pretty good writing companion.

Here is my proposed schedule.  On Monday, I will report in a short post, how I did:

August 7, Friday

6:00 – 8:00 (with 20 minutes out for dinner) I will review my books, my Evernote file, and my emails (pre-Evernote, I emailed myself articles about “the fam.”)

8:00-8:30 break

8:30 to 10:00  I will write.

August 8, Saturday

7:00 -7:30 read paper and eat breakfast

7:30 – 8:30 print business cards and extra speaker flyers for the PS-APG chapter table at the NwGC in a week.

8:30 – 11:30 write

11:30 – 12:00 lunch

12:00 – 3:30 write

3:30 : leave for PS-APG picnic in Sumner and have a good time.  Don’t forget to take business cards and speaker brochures with me to the picnic to give to table coordinator.

Take the rest of the night off

August 9, Sunday

6:00 -6:30 have breakfast

6:30 – 9:15 write

9:15 get ready and go to yoga

12:30 – 3:30 start writing again

3:30 – 5:00 take a “Get Out of the House Break.”  This might be a drive over to Discovery Park and a walk to the lighthouse or it might be just a walk by the water.  We’ll see.

5:00 – 6:00 dinner

6:00 – 9:00 write!

KDP Writing Weekend is complete.  I have no goal for how much I will get done or what parts.  We shall see. Your thoughts, comments and criticisms about the schedule would be most welcomed.

Wish me luck.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: Had lunch with Luci Baker Johnson about the “Digging Deeper” series.  She has an idea about the third year of the series that involves my helping out. Could be a great season about House Histories.  Was contacted by a Midwest conference that wants me as a speaker in a year.  Looks like it will happen.  Planning a trip to Peru (Fall 2015) and another to Italy (Fall 2016).  Ramping down my work with SGS but volunteered to do desk duty while Janice is giving her “Finding your Slave Owners” talk which I would have attended anyway.


What’s New in the ‘Hood: Eastside Heritage Center

Eastside Heritage Center
2105 Bellevue Way
Bellevue, WA
Ph: 425.450.1049
Tuesday (10:00 am-4:00 pm), Thursday, Friday and Saturday (10:00 am-2:00 pm)
Tuesday is usually research day, but you can also make an appointment

As part of Historic Seattle’s “Digging Deeper” series of tours of locally available repositories, a group of ardent individuals visited the Eastside Heritage Center (EHC) to learn about the Center’s holdings, and archival and access policies.

First of all, you need to know that this was SeaFair weekend. That’s when the Blue Angels perform and cigarette boats race, entertaining hundreds of thousands of people along the banks of Lake Washington. To give you an idea of how big this is, they close down a section of I-90 for this event!

You also need to know that I live on the west side of Lake Washington and EHC, as it’s name implies, is on the east side of Lake Washington! A recipe for disaster, if not in the going to the Center then certainly for the return trip. That’s the bad news.

The good news was that I left for the east side prior to the closing of the interstate and, since most Seattle-ites sleep in on the weekends, I beat even the most rabid of the SeaFair fans. It was just the usual bad traffic on the alternate route home coming back home! Whew!

EHC exterior Winters houseThe EHC houses their collection in three different locations but their most publicly accessible is the Winters House, a 1929 Mission Revival and former home of Fredrick and Cecilia Winters, flower growers. Twisted columns mark the front entry to the house and decorative tile is  under foot and around important features of the house such as the fireplace. Attendees commented about how the house was not so grand as to not feel like a home.

EHC interior collectionIf you have any connection to the near east side communities of the Puget Sound area of Washington, I recommend you give Sarah Fredrick, Collection Manager of EHC, a call and discuss what the EHC has which might help you.

Here are some of the items that you might find of interest:

  • The John Way collection: EHC has the papers and artifacts from Dr. Way’s long career as a medical practitioner and civic citizen in Redmond. This is a new addition to their collection.
  • Textiles: Broadly defined, this collection includes linens and women’s and children’s clothing.
  • Quilts: Many came into the collection in the 1970s and 1980s when the need for provenance was not as well documented.
  • Photographs of the area: Many are located on King County Snapshot page hosted by UW but some are also located on their own website. If you are on the UW site and looking for east side photos, you can improve your chances by selecting the collection from EHC.
  • Lake Washington/Bellevue Reflector: EHC has the only known complete set of this paper that was published until the 1930s.
  • Oral Histories: EHC has over 300 and is still actively collecting these.
  • Lakehill community: Lorraine McConaghy donated her research materials to the center after the completion of her academic work.
  • The Colman Diaries (1886-1900). Check out Historylink for more information on the Colman murder and then check out the diary itself, which led to a renewed effort to attempt to resolve the murder. The diary when transcribed by EHC volunteers yielded clues that had not been revealed before.
  • Organizational Archives: Included in the collection are a number of groups from the area including Bellevue Schools (some), Overlake Service League, Bellevue Chamber of Commerce (1954 — early 1980s), etc.

Sarah recommended researchers wishing to access the collections should call her first to discuss what the collection might contain. You then schedule an appointment to come in and review. Sarah and her volunteers will have the time between your call and your visit to pull relevant documents. Drop-ins, although possible, risk not getting the information that is stored in other locations and, therefore, are discouraged.

EHC interior collection 2The research is conducted and the accessible collection is mostly stored at the Winters House; however, EHC also stores parts of their collection at the McDowell House and in storage. The Center does have scanning and copying capabilities. The house is not fully handicapped accessible; however, I am sure the staff will attempt to assist in any way they can to accommodate your particular request.

If you have ancestors who lived in the communities of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and even as far north at Bothell, I recommend a call to Sarah to find out what she might have.

My BIG take-away: there are thousands of small repositories like Eastside Heritage Center all over the US. Their collections are not accessible through Ancestry, Family Search. or even NUCMC, a national catalog for manuscript collections.  Each of these little known repositories are cared for by passionate volunteers and staff people like Sarah. Each also holds a number of manuscript collections which we can only discover by calling and talking to a knowledgeable person. I want to thank Historic Seattle for bringing all of these important collections to our attention through their “Digging Deeper” series.

And, why don’t you make a call today to a historical society or repository in the town of your ancestors and have a chat!  You never know what you might find! This is my guarantee: If you are not making site visits to the areas where your ancestors lived, you are missing significant numbers and types of records.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I have been consumed by my Fire Insurance Map presentation I am giving at the end of August and again in September. While I am developing that presentation, the use of maps for house histories becomes more apparent. I am adding more sources for my House Histories presentation, which I give on the 15th of August at the Northwest Genealogical Conference. I also worked on my webpage a bit. It is getting closer but for some reason it is not “playing well in the sandbox,” and I need a little assistance from my nephew who put it together.