Step-by-Step Washington Research, 1907--Present
Washington Step-by-step research 1907--present
- A suggested approach to genealogy research in Washington family history records.
Research 1900--to the present
Table of Contents
|What sets this era in Washington genealogy apart from earlier time periods are the advent of civil registration (state birth, marriage, and death certificates) and the possibility that you have older living relatives who can provide memories and family records. In addition, U. S. census records (occurred every 10 years--1900-1940), Social Security collections, obituary and cemetery records make it possible to find a lot of genealogical information in just a few rich record types.|
See also, How to use "record hints".[edit | edit source]
Step 1. Find out everything you can from living relatives and their family records:[edit | edit source]
What should you ask?[edit | edit source]
In order to extend your research on your ancestors, you are looking for names, dates, and places. Everything you learn that tells you about when and where a relative lived is a clue to a new record search. Be sure to ask questions that lead to that information, including about their occupations, military service, or associations with others, such as fraternal organizations. See also:
- Fifty Questions for Family History Interviews What to Ask the Relatives
- Genealogy: 150 questions to ask family members about their lives
- Creating Oral Histories
What documents should you look for and ask to copy?[edit | edit source]
Family Members Born After 1940[edit | edit source]
Because the most recent census available was taken in 1940, family documents and the knowledge of living family members play a vital role in identifying these people. Once you have learned names, places of residence, and clues to estimate approximate birth date, the next important step is to send for birth, marriage, and death records for them. Skip to Step 3: Find birth, marriage, and death certificates for your ancestors and their children.
Using the clues to lead to census record searches.[edit | edit source]
Here are two documents you might find in a home search: a newspaper clipping and a family Bible record. Notice how the clues in them let us know other records to search:
1. In the marriage certificate, we see that C.M Jewett and Mamie Austin were married in 1909 in Seattle, King County, Washington. We should look for them in the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 census records of Washington. In the 1900 census we might find both C.M. and Mamie living in the homes of their parents.
- Click on the blue links in each example to see how these searches turned out. Study the original census image, as well as the transcription. Notice the new information found. Later, these clues will help us find them in more records. In particular, notice birth places and information about parents. In both cases, elderly parents show up living with their children, giving important clues to the next generation back.
Step 2. Find your ancestors in every possible census record, 1900-1940, online.[edit | edit source]
A census is a count and description of the population of a country, state, county, or city for a given date. A census took a "snapshot" of a family on a certain day. For each person living in a household you might find (depending on the year) their name, age, birthplace, relationship to head of household, place of birth for father and mother, citizenship status, year of immigration, mother of how many children and number of children living, native language, and whether they were a veteran of the military.
To learn more about census records, including search strategies, see United States Census Records for Beginners.
Look at the samples of census records below. You should find your family members in every possible census, using these convenient links:
United States census records[edit | edit source]
- Here is a sample of a 1900 United States census record. You can see all the different information you can glean from this record once you find your family in the census.
- You will want to find and keep notes on census records from every census during each ancestor's lifetime. For example, if your ancestor was born in 1897 and died in 1945, you will want to find them in the 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses.
- With the census records, you will then be able to estimate approximate birth dates and marriage dates. These records will lead you to new searches because you will find the names of other members of the family. You will find clues to other states and countries your family lived in before coming to Washington.
- You can use what you learned from the census records to help you search for birth, marriage, and death records. Possibly the clues you find in the certificates will lead you back to the census records again for new names of family members.
Using the census clues to lead to a birth certificate.[edit | edit source]
1. In the 1910 census, Charles and Mamie Jewett have a newborn son, Robert. The 1920 census shows another son, Glen, born in about 1912. We can look for the birth certificates of these boys.
2. In the 1930 census, Charles and Hazel Grubb have a son, William, born in about 1921. His birth certificate should also be available.
3. Because Washington is such a young state, it is likely that its residents were born elsewhere. These census records help us find birth records in previous states. Mamie A. Austin Jewett was born in South Dakota, and her husband was born in Tennessee. Hazel Dyer Grubb was born in Iowa, and her husband was born in Illinois. We can then search birth records in those states.
Using the census clues to lead to a marriage certificate.[edit | edit source]
1. Charles and Mamie Jewett have a marriage certificate in possession of the family. But another marriage record filed with the state of Washington goes into greater detail about the couple. It gives their parents' names and birth places.
Using the census clues to lead to a death certificate.[edit | edit source]
As Charles M. and Mamia Jewett, and George C, and Hazel Jewett were quite old in the 1940 census, we can search Washington death records 1940 to the present. One of the more useful records to find would be the death record of A. Theodore Grubb, Hazel's father, as that could give us her grandparent's names: Robert Dyer and Elizabeth Todd.
Step 3: Find birth, marriage, and death certificates for your ancestors and their children.[edit | edit source]
States, counties, or even towns in some states recorded births, marriages, and deaths. You have probably seen these types of certificates and have your own. In addition to the child's name, birth date, and place of birth, a birth certificate may give the birthplaces of the parents, their ages, and occupations. A death certificate may give the person's birth date and place, parents' names and birthplaces, and spouse's name.
Remember that for family members born after 1940 you do not have census records to rely on. The information from interviewing family members will hopefully give you enough detail that you know approximate years of birth, marriage, or death. Sending for certificates will help verify identities, prove relationships, and fill in greater detail.
Studying what you have found:[edit | edit source]
- Review what you have found to see if there is missing information that could be found in a birth, marriage, or death certificate for your ancestors and their children.
- If you are missing the names of parents, find a person's death certificate. It may contain the names of the deceased's parents, which would extend your pedigree back one more generation.
- If you find a child listed in a census record, try to find their actual birth certificate to learn their full birth date.
- If a married couple is shown in the census records and you need the wife's maiden name, search for their marriage record or her death record. The mother's maiden name should also be given in her children's birth certificates.
Obtaining the certificates[edit | edit source]
- There are basically three ways to find these certificates, or the information from them: by finding them in an online database, by locating and reading a microfilm copy of them, or by purchasing them through the mail .
Online databases, usually indexes, with some images[edit | edit source]
- This chart gives links to some Washington online databases for these records:
Samples of index entries[edit | edit source]
For more recent records, many of which you will send for in the mail, the certificates will be even more detailed.
Finding Microfilm Copies of Certificates[edit | edit source]
Some Washington state, county, and Indian agency birth, death, and marriage certificates are available on microfilm through the Family History Library. Because there are so many counties named Washington in other states, you will have to scroll down quite far to come to entries for Washington state records. These may be searched at a family history center near you. Most notably, you will find:
- Washington state birth & death registers & returns; 1891-1907, 1938-1969
- Birth index, 1907-1954; births, 1907-1948, delayed birth certificates, 1850-1960 (Washington), Washington. Department of Health. Bureau of Vital Statistics
- Death certificates (Washington (State), 1907-1960 ; Index to death certificates, 1907-1979, Washington (State). Bureau of Vital Statistics
- Washington, county marriages, 1855-2008, Washington State Archives
- Washington, county records, 1856-2009
- Washington, marriage records, 1940-1959, Washington State Archives
Some digitized copies of these microfilms are also available online, as the film description will indicate.
Records at the County Courthouse[edit | edit source]
From the date of the formation of a county until the establishment of state civil registration, birth and marriage records were kept by the County Clerk. They may have been microfilmed, or you can write for them. It is appropriate to write asking for either a single record or for a list of all the marriages for a given surname. This Letter Writing Guide will help you with phrasing a letter. This online directory by Genealogy Inc. will give you the address of the County Clerk. Click on the map to select a county, then scroll down to the "Courthouse and Government Records" to find the address and phone number.
If you are at the main Family History Library, check first to see if microfilms of the county vital records are available. In the search field of the FamilySearch Catalog, enter the state and county. Then click on the "Vital Records" subject. The cost of renting the microfilms at a Family History Center probably makes it less expensive to just write to the County Clerk.
Ordering certificates through the mail[edit | edit source]
Even if you find an online indexed entry for a birth, marriage, or death, almost always the full original certificate will contain a wealth of information not contained in the index. A death certificate will usually give the names and birth places of the parents of the deceased. A marriage certificate frequently asks for the parents names of the bride and groom. A birth certificate frequently asks for the birth place, occupation, residence, and age of the parents. Although it costs money, consider sending for the full original certificates at least of your direct line ancestors (grandparents, great-grandparents).
- Click here for information on how to order birth or death records. This will require an application, and a fee.
- Click here for information on how to order marriage or divorce records. This will require an application, and a fee.
Samples of records[edit | edit source]
Here are some samples of Washington certificates. Notice the types of information available in each, particularly the identity of the parents (including their birth places), which adds another generation to your research.
Step 4: Using all the death date information, try to find additional details about your ancestors in Social Security records, obituaries, and cemetery records online.[edit | edit source]
U.S. Social Security Death Index and Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007[edit | edit source]
The U.S. Social Security program began in 1935 but most deaths recorded in the index happened after 1962. The Social Security Death index includes those who had a Social Security number and/or applied for benefits. The index entries give the person's full birth date, last known residence, and residence at the time they first enrolled. Women are listed under their married name at the time of their death. You can search these records online at United States Social Security Death Index. Also at Ancestry.com, ($), index.
The Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off, by providing information filed in the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. Unless the deceased would be at least 75 years old today, the parents' names are not published. You will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI, as criteria for inclusion differs.
If you find your ancestor in the SSDI index, you can order a copy of their original Social Security application (SS-5). If you can prove the individual has died (by sending an obituary or copy of their cemetery headstone), the application will also give the deceased's parents' names, if listed.
Obituaries[edit | edit source]
- Frequently, a death is announced in the newspaper with an obituary.
- These obituaries may supply missing birth or death dates and name the parents of the deceased.
- Obituaries may also name family members, their spouses, their current residences, and whether they died before the person or are still surviving, especially in obituaries written in the last half of the 20th Century.
- Try these Washington links:
- Online Washington Death Records and Indexes: A Genealogy Guide for Finding Obituaries, Cemetery Burials and Death Records by county.
- Online Washington Death Records & Indexes
- Obituary Depot Washington
- Ancestor Hunt
- Washington obituaries
- Obituaries Help
- Washington obituary database
- ObitsArchive.com - Washington ($)
- The Obituary Link Page - Washington Obituary Links
- Washington Obituaries
- United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014 — index and images
Cemeteries[edit | edit source]
- Cemetery records may only give the names and dates stated on the tombstone, but as in the case of FindAGrave, sometimes pictures of the deceased and their tombstone, children's or parents' names and links to their graves, and marriage information have been added. Always verify information added by others.
- Frequently family members are buried in the same cemetery often in neighboring plots.
- Try these Washington links:
NOTE: Each database covers different cemeteries, although some may overlap. Don't be discouraged if you do not locate your individual in the first database. Check each collection.
- Online Washington Death Records & Indexes
- Washington State Digital Archives Cemetery Records
- Washington Cemetery Records at Findagrave.com
- Washington Cemetery Records at Interment.net
- BillionGraves Washington Cemeteries
- BillionGraves Index
- USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project
- Linkpendium scours the Internet for resources.
- USGenWeb Tombstone Project - Washington
- I Dream of Genealogy
- Washington Cemetery Records at LDS Genealogy
- D'Addezio.com Washington Cemeteries
Step 5: Search military records: World War I draft cards.[edit | edit source]
- There are many different types of military records, some covered in online collections, some microfilmed, and some requiring you to order them from government repositories with a fee. For more information, read the U.S. Military Records Class Handout. Information in military records can vary from a simple lists of name, age, and residence, to more detailed records including name, residence, age, occupation, marital status, birthplace, physical description, number of dependents, pensions received, disabled veterans, needy veterans, widows or orphans of veterans, and other information.
World War I Draft Registration[edit | edit source]
World War II Draft Registration[edit | edit source]
Likewise, the World War II draft in 1942 may give birth date, birth place, residence, occupation, employer, and other family members as contacts. Search for your male relatives born in this time period at
Step 6: If your ancestor was an immigrant, search immigration and naturalization records online.[edit | edit source]
The census records may show that your ancestor was born in another country. It will be necessary to try to find the town or city they were born in to continue research in the country of origin. Searches of immigration records (usually passenger lists) and naturalization (citizenship) records are the next goal. Immigration refers to people coming into a country, such as the United States, and emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. Usually these records are passenger lists of the ships they sailed on. A typical record will show name, age, and country of origin, but in ship lists after 1906 you can find the actual town of birth, the next of kin still living in the old country and their residence, and the names of relatives in the place they are traveling to.
Census clues to Immigration records[edit | edit source]
Census records can provide important clues about nationality and immigration. This chart lists data that can be found in each of the census records. Gather the information in the census records specifically about immigration, as it will help narrow down your search.
(other information also given but is not listed here)
Immigration records[edit | edit source]
This two page illustration is of a Seattle passenger arrival list. Notice the wealth of information it can give, including birth place, next of kin in the home country, relatives connecting in the U.S., among other things.:
Passenger lists and border crossing lists are the most common immigration records. There are many immigration records available. Click here to see a complete list of available immigration records online. Notice that they are listed by state, but under the letter "U" there is a long list of records that cover all of the United States. Unless family information tells you the port where family arrived, you will need to search all of the United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records for the time period when your ancestors arrived.
There are also many immigration records unique to Washington:
- Washington, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1961 Index and images ($)
- Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, Passenger and Crew Lists of Airplane Departures, 1947-1957 Index and images ($)
- Washington, Seattle, Passenger Lists, 1890-1957 Index and images, also at FindMyPast, ($), index
- North Dakota and Washington, Chinese Passenger Arrivals, 1903-1944, Index/images.
- Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, Passenger and Crew Lists of Airplane Departures, 1947-1957 Index and images ($)
- Washington, Seattle, Passenger and Crew Lists of Airplanes, 1947-1954 Images.
- Index to Alien Arrivals at Canadian Atlantic and Pacific Seaports, 1904-1944 Index and images ($)
Naturalization (Citizenship) Records[edit | edit source]
Naturalization is the process of becoming a citizen. Records can include the immigrant's declaration of intent to become a citizen, petitions for citizenship, and final certificate of naturalization. Naturalization records after 1906 can show birth date and place, spouse's name, marriage date and place, and lists of children with their birth dates.
Washington naturalization records could be recorded at the county court or the Federal District or Circuit Court. You must look for them in both locations. Try searching first in any county where the person lived, unless the census tells you the year they were naturalized, and you have evidence of where they lived that year. If you cannot locate them in the county records, try searching for them in the Federal courts.
Washington Naturalization and Citizenship Online Records[edit | edit source]
- Washington State Digital Archives On the right side of the page, select Naturalizations in the Digital Collection box under Detailed Search heading.
- U.S., Washington, County Records, 1803-2010 Browsable records, incomplete for all counties.
- Washington, Western District, Naturalization Records, 1853-1957 Browsable records, incomplete for all counties.
- Washington, County Naturalization Records, 1850-1982 Images . Also at Ancestry.com, index/images.
- Selected U.S. Naturalization Records - Original Documents for Washington - Superior Court for King, Pierce, Thurston, and Snohomish Counties, Washington, 1850-1974 ($)
- Washington, Naturalizations, 1853-1980 Index and images
- U.S., Naturalization Records for Washington - Eastern District - U.S.District Court - Original Documents, 1890-1972 (World Archives Project) ($)
- U.S., Naturalization Records for Washington - Western District - U.S.District Court - Original Documents, 1890-1957 (World Archives Project) ($)
- Washington, Petitions for Naturalization, 1904-1991 Index and images ($)
Step 7: Study each record for other possible searches.[edit | edit source]
You can now go through a process of working back and forth between all the different record types. Most researchers find clues in the census records that alert them to new certificates to obtain. The certificates then give them ideas of new facts to look for in the census. For example, when a marriage certificate gives you a wife's maiden name, you will then want to look for her in earlier censuses listed with her family as a child. When the census shows you her parents' names, you may then search for their death records. The death records might show their patents' names and take you back to the census to search for them. A naturalization record listing children's names might lead you back to birth certificate searches, and so on.