Olympia Genealogical Society

OGS History

The following history through 2014, the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Olympia Genealogical Society (OGS), was compiled by Alma Greenwood. Also see the list of OGS Charter Members and list of OGS Past Presidents. The OGS Board thanks Alma for helping to preserve this history.
1974 -- The Beginning
The Daily Olympian - May 5, 1974The Daily Olympian - June 2, 1974
1975 — First Quarterly
Bea Kenworthy and Don White designed the cover for our first Quarterly which was used for many others afterward. Until 1999 there were only three editors, two of whom had served for many years: Bea Kenworthy, Jan Smith (1975-1990), and Jerri McCoy (1990-1999). The following items appeared in the first issue:
The Olympia Genealogical Society is off and running. Formed less than a year ago it has steadily increased in both size and enthusiasm.
When the temporary officers met together for a meeting to draft the Society’s Constitution and By-laws, one theme kept emerging in discussion and on paper: this Society will be for the benefit of all those who care to participate and join. It was the consensus that special interests and petty politics should not and shall not become part of this Society. The new officers subscribe to that philosophy.
The real purpose of course, is to further each member’s quest for family historical information. This can best be achieved through individual research, workshops, exchange of personal research information, and. most especially, by friend-­helping-friend. It is my earnest hope the Olympia Genealogical Society will provide the proper assistance to each member and never lose sight of our primary goal: genea­logical research. If we continue to grow and learn, I foresee a long and meaningful life for our "new" Society.
--- Don White
by Elizabeth Costigan, Historian
The beginning of the Olympia Genealogical Society can be traced to a program presented by Carol Lind and Ardelle Preston of Seattle on May 10, 1974 which was sponsored by the Friends of the Olympia Public Library. Since the response to this program was so great, a meeting to explore the possibility of establishing a local organization was held on May 22. It was decided to form an organization and temporary officers were selected. At this time it was agreed that the reason for "organization [was] to receive help from established genealogy groups in obtaining information and methods of recording materials; to gather and compile a genealogy library; to assist in collecting historic data on Olympia and the surrounding area; to sponsor workshops; and most importantly to share a mutual cooperation and passion in the study and researching of genealogy." After the Constitution and By-laws were written and adopted in October, a permanent slate of officers was chosen and December 31 was set as the date to close charter membership. By this time the Society had grown to sixty-seven members and much had happened.
Among the occurrences were two open-houses in the home of B.J. Moe where the attendees had an opportunity to use her collection of materials and learn from her experience. Ann Olson had organized a file of materials which members have in their homes and will allow others to use. Jan Smith had types and filed a geographical file of member's research and a surname file. Alma Greenwood had set up files in the Olympia Library of catalogs of genealogical materials, periodicals and other useful materials. Monthly programs have featured discussions of census materials, methods of record keeping, how to make the best use of libraries, special help in vanous geographi­cal locations and naming patters. Finally, two workshops were presented by Arlene Eakle and Nancy Poolman of the Genealogical Institute of Salt Lake City.
Even though all of this has been done in less than a year the Society does not intend to rest on its accomplishments, but has many plans for the future with regard to research in the area, continued monthly pro­grams, increasing the collection in the public library and other worthwhile genealogical projects. Hopefully, this is the first of many quarterly bulletins to be published.
Dues for the Olympia Genealogical Society were increased as of the October 1976 meeting. Anyone paying dues after that date will pay $5.00 for individual membership or $7.00 for couple membership. The first editor of the Quarterly, Bea Kenworthy, died and the Society set up the first Memorial Fund.
Another "FAMOUS SUPER COLOSSAL RUMMAGE SALE" was held on Tuesday, September 13. In June the Society received their non-profit status from the IRS.
1979 – 5 Years
Olympia Genealogical Society moved to the "new" Olympia Library in late 1978 and was now "in rather spacious new surroundings. Of special note is the location of the microfilm readers which are now in close prox­imity to the other genealogical materials. The new filing cabinets allow for ease in perusing the special collections of publications and exchange materials." (1/79)
The Olympia Genealogical Society will conduct a one-day workshop for beginners in observance of our fifth anniversary. The workshop will be held in the Conference Room of the Olympia Public Library on Saturday 19 May 1979, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. There will be no charge. All participants are asked to bring a brown bag lunch. The next issue proclaimed the workshop a success and listed thirteen members who were pre­senters. A successful rummage sale was held to raise funds to purchase a typewriter!!!
Plans to close the Olympia Library on Thursday evening were aborted so the Society was able to continue using it as a meeting place. A series of van trips to the Seattle Library and the Federal Archives Branch were initiated for a charge of $12.50. OWLS (observers who answer questions) service begun in the library on the 1st and 3rd Thursday afternoons. These volunteers were "to assist beginning members in filling out pedigree charts and family group sheets; will acquaint all members in the use of the library; and will try to speak to individual problems." The Washington State Genealogical Society formed in Olympia with OGS hosting the meeting.
The July Quarterly featured an article on a "Computer Program for Family Group Sheets Using an Apple II+." A new era be­gins.
1984 – 10 Years
OGS member Jan Smith chaired the first Washington State Genealogical Society convention June 1-2 at the Washington State Historical Society Museum in Tacoma. Excerpt from President's Message of 4/84: "We have many accomplishments—assisting in establishing and building a very useful genealogy section in the Olympia Library replete with many exchanges, nearly ten years of producing our own quarterly, copying many Thurston County record's and publishing our first volume, presenting numerous programs and many beginner workshops and classes, production of annual seminars featuring illustrious speakers, helping some individuals with their research and the formation of many friendships." (Alma Greenwood) And from past presidents there were also congratulatory messages which detailed a bit more of the Society's history and accomplishments: Ann Olson, Frank Moffett, Kathy Masini Fiser, and Don White.
Dues were increased to $10 per single membership, $12 per couple. Binding of the periodicals in the genealogy section begun.
OGS begins Centennial Project "to secure information on many of this county's early pioneers." The Society presented a workshop to 138 individuals interested in obtaining a pioneer certificate.
Quarterly began using historical photographs on the cover, most of them courtesy of Roger Easton. He provided numerous photographs and stories over the next few years. OGS sponsored a very successful "Heritage Fair" on 2 May 1987 chaired by Russ and Gen Hupe. This event was intended to "share with society members and others the results of our genealogical research" by displaying family histories, family history notebooks, photographs, or heirlooms that you have arranged creatively. A second well-attended workshop on completing the application for the WSGS Pioneer Certificate was held.
The Society participated in the Tumwater Independence Day celebration at which time they presented a Real Pioneer certificate (here before statehood) to local resident Retta Peterson.
Began a program of asking people who attended the monthly meeting to bring a 3x5 card with the name of a book that they like to see added to the library's collection. A card was then drawn and that book purchased by OGS. First winner was Jean Laws. Society operated a booth at Community Ser­vice Days at the Capital Mall.
1989 – 15 Years
OGS hosted the 6th annual Centennial WSGS Conference at the Tyee October 13-­15, 1989. A number of our members helped make this a success.
Olympia Genealogical Society's Newsletter begins publication in October under the editorship of Mary Beth Lang.
A "Family History Fair" was held on May 11 featuring scrapbooks, notebooks, photo­graphic displays, quilts or sewing projects, family histories, albums, etc. The NGS Conference, the first national genealogical conference in the Northwest, was attended by a number of our members in Portland. OGS Surname Index containing 18,400 names was published in December.
Card file project headed by Dick Jones completed. This file included the entire Olympia Timberland Library genealogical collection and contained detailed informa­tion on each book—some 1,327 records.
1994 – 20 Years
Dues increased to $15 for individuals and $18 for couples.
Our 3-volume Cemetery Records of Thurston County, Washington published - more than 24,500 names from 21 cemeteries. "The Intrepid Victorian Traveler" by Tames Alan was the program in May and featured five costume changes in describing the fashions and lifestyle of the Victorian woman of the 1850s and 1860s. OGS combined with the LDS branch library to host an educational workshop entitled "Genealogical Smorgasbord" that was attended by 100 people.
The January issue of the Newsletter was the first to include the computer column by Ed Swan. 
Work began on the indexing the 1910 Thurston County census under the direction of Wayne and Mickey Hannah.
The Index to the 1910 Federal Census of Thurston County, Washington becomes available.
E-mail addresses are beginning to appear for members.
1999 – 25 Years
The June issue of the Newsletter commemorated our 25 years as a society and the June meeting honored these individuals who have contributed to our society over the years. They were presented certificates to recognize their efforts:
After twenty six years of meeting in the Olympia Library, OGS moved to the courthouse in September because the meeting room was remodeled.
Spring Seminar canceled because NGS conference held in Portland. OGS donated a computer with genealogy CDs to the Library at a cost of $3400. By the end of the year, OGS had 205 members.
In January the Society had a table at the Capitol rotunda to celebrate the 150th birthday of Olympia. Space limitations caused some genealogy periodicals to be transferred to storage at the Montesano Library. OGS comes to aid of State Library when governor proposes closure.
Thurstoneer program (for individuals with ancestors in the county by 1852 or 1902) handled by OGS for the Thurston County Historic Commission is completed. Another bookshelf helped ease the crowding in the genealogy book section. Interest groups are disappearing.
2004 – 30 years
The costs of producing both a Newsletter and Quarterly caused them to be combined and eventually the Newsletter sent electronically. The 30th anniversary was celebrated in June with special displays and remembrances of the past 30 years.
Library staff conducts classes on the genealogy computers on Ancestry, Heritage Quest, Sanborn Maps and Biography Index. Plans are laid for hosting the WSGS Conference next year.
OGS (co-chairs Dick Johnson and Dave Purtee) hosts the first financially profitable WSGS Conference in a number of years! Conference speakers from our area: Jerry Handfield, Godfrey Ellis, Terry Badger, Jerri McCoy, Steve Morrison, Heather Muller, Terri Nelson, Lynn Red, Marlys Rudeen, Lori Thornton, and Lanny Weaver.
The Genealogy Café program is begun under the leadership of Dave Purtee. There were 14 attendees at the first one. A program on DNA was co-sponsored with the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society.
Membership is asked whether they would be willing to read the Quarterly online since costs have increased until it would cost $1100 to print and mail four issues. Olympia Library undergoes remodeling.
2009 – 35 years
The Quarterly goes to online publishing and a “members only” website is established. New hours at Library reduce Genealogy Cafes. Genealogical Open House scheduled in October to celebrate the 35th anniversary of OGS and a large donation of books from Carolyn Hartsuck Wright.
Annual Seminar features John Colletta, numerous books arrive from Wright collection with surplus ones donated to Yakima Genealogical Society Library or sold by society on Amazon.
Annual dinner was headlined by a travelogue on Germany by David and Karen Purtee and seminar topics related to migration and was presented by four speakers. Quarterly contained an extensive article on the Puget Grange No. 371.
Kerry Upton establishes the OGS Facebook site to provide information and announcements. Jim Hansen from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin was the speaker on “Researching in the Old Northwest” in April at the Phoenix Inn.
Annual dinner at the River’s Edge was headlined by Chuck and Suzanne Hornbuckle with their program on the Oregon Trail. A very successful seminar speaker was Thomas MacEntee who inspired his audience.
2014 – 40 years
Preparations for the 40th anniversary celebration began early in the year and Christine Rose was our seminar guest.
The 2015 Spring Seminar again featured Thomas MacEntee.
The 2016 Spring Seminar featured CeCe Moore.
The 2017 Spring Seminar featured Janice Lovelace and Jill Morelli.
The OGS website was redeveloped in early 2018. New features included online membership join and renewal processes including online payments.
The 2018 Spring Seminar featured Lisa Alzo.
In response to the emergence of member interest in Special Interest Groups (SIGs), work began to organize several SIGs.
The 2019 Spring Seminar featured Blaine Bettinger.
SIG activity continued to grow.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, OGS suspended in-person events indefinitely early in 2020 and "went virtual" including the 2020 Spring Seminar. The 2020 Spring Seminar featured Teresa Steinkamp McMillin.
The 2021 Spring Seminar featured Rick Sayre.
The 2022 Spring Seminar featured Diahan Southard.