Climbing the family tree: Clark County Genealogical Society reopens library to the public

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Some believe preserving family history is a hobby, while others feel it is their responsibility. Now with Ancestry.com DNA testing and online records, the ways of conducting research have changed.

Groups, like the Clark County Genealogical Society, are finding ways to keep up with the continuous technological advances, even with setbacks caused by the pandemic.

The genealogical society reopened its library to the public on July 13, the first time since spring 2020, said Vice President Marcia Grubb.

“The digital world exists, but we help people get started,” Grubb said.

She said for many members, the pandemic forced them to learn how to use the internet for family research. Even with digital resources, it’s difficult to get the full picture of a family’s history without access to physical documents because some records aren’t digitized yet.

The CCGS Library is in Vancouver, but the 300 members come from all over the county and include people in Ridgefield, Battle Ground and La Center.

The library is sorted by the last names of famous historical figures, like Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, as well as by geographical area. Thick, red binders contain the history of Clark County written by society members.

Ridgefield resident Sharon Cleveland said she became a member about 10 years ago.

Cleveland was interested in learning more about her grandmother who emigrated from Sweden in the early 1900s. Cleveland’s family knew almost nothing about her grandmother’s immigration story, but through research at the society, she discovered how she came to America and more about the family members she left behind, Cleveland said.

Meanwhile, Grubb began her journey to better understand her family’s history about 30 years ago as an amateur.

“When I became a member of this group, it really upped my game,” she said.

People start with what they know and as more information is discovered, the curiosity continues, Grubb said.

Growing up, Grubb’s favorite grandmother was Viola Robertson Lawson. She remembers seeing the two baby grand pianos in the living room of her California home.

While Grubb was researching on Newspapers.com, she found a clipping from the entertainment page in the Oregonian with her grandmother’s photo front and center.

Turns out, she was part of the Wolfe Trio when the group performed at the radio station KGW Portland in 1925.

“I knew my grandmother was talented, but I didn’t know she was a professional musician,” Grubb said. “When you’re growing up, you only vaguely know the details about your family.”

Grubb recently sent a DNA swab to Ancestry.com. Before the test, she knew she had English, Scottish, French, German and some Irish heritage. The results came back and read 39 percent English, 39 percent Scottish and a mix of others.

“Who are all these Scottish people?” She asked. “I only have one Scottish name that I know of, so that’s put me on a track to find those people.”

Residents can check out the library, 3205 NE 52nd St., Vancouver from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

The society’s focus groups and book club are held digitally every month. The free special interest groups include the travel research preparation group, the Scandinavian group and the craft clan, among other topics.

Upcoming events

For the first time, the society will host an online genealogical scavenger hunt as a fundraising event. Anyone can participate.

On Aug. 2-6, those interested can answer a quiz with seven questions about historical figures in the U.S. and American colonies. Questions focus on the 16th to 20th century.

Players will receive a link via email no later than 9 p.m. the night before. After clicking the link, participants should enter their registration code, fill out the questions with the source information and push submit.

There’s a chance to win daily prizes, including various family research books and a grand prize of a one-hour consultation with a professional genealogist.

The society will host an event to end the scavenger hunt at 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 7 in the library.

There is a suggested $10 donation to play. To register, visit ccgs-wa.org/scavenger-hunt/.

Grubb will lead a free beginning genealogy class at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 21 in the CCGS Library. She will share useful tips and methods on how to organize family information.

Reservations are required for the class. Email marcia@ccgswa.org to register.

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