By Darcy Brixey
I have a collection of letters and a book my great-grandfather wrote for his kids, detailing his move from Switzerland to the US. He described the ship passage, the trip through Ellis Island, and even his first breakfast in the US (fried chicken, because he pointed to a random item on the menu when he couldn’t read English.)
The book is complete with dates and facts and anecdotes about marriages, moves and children. While much of the work has been done, there are several more generations to chart.
If you’ve considered researching your own family history, the genealogy collection at the Bellevue library is a good place to start. The collection contains general how-to guides, county records, surname guides, ship passenger lists and more. Most of these books are from the Eastside Genealogical Society collection.
Your search won’t always be confined to old tomes. Genealogy research has gotten very sophisticated over the years as marriage, birth and death records are being digitized. The King County Library system also subscribes to a number of databases to help you on your quest to find ancestors. Databases such as 19th Century Newspapers, Ancestry Library Edition, Heritage Quest and America’s Obituaries and Death Notices give access to a variety of information including census and military records.
This makes it easier to double check a middle name, learn of a mysterious first wife, debate Great-Grandpa’s actual war wound or find his height and weight at enlistment. High school yearbooks are even included in Ancestry Library Edition. Soon none of us will be able to hide those pictures of beehive hairdos, mullets or puffy bangs.
If you still find yourself stuck on a particular branch of the family tree, try seeking help from the volunteers from the Eastside Genealogical Society. Volunteers like Bob and Judy are as sharp as detectives when you feel like you’ve reached a dead end. EGS volunteers are currently at the Bellevue Library on the first and fifth Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. and every Wednesday afternoon from 1-3 p.m.
While there is no guarantee you will find a rich relative, or rights to a noble title, you will find concrete details to mark your family’s place in history. That is priceless.
Darcy Brixey is the teen services librarian at the Bellevue Library. She’d like to tell you she loves to read, but it’s an expectation of the job.