Ghost hunting goes online

Just like an old journalist's saying, if you are willing to dig for the information, then the truth is waiting to be found. This also is true for local genealogy researchers.

  • Wednesday, March 19, 2014 2:20pm
  • News

Just like an old journalist’s saying, if you are willing to dig for the information, then the truth is waiting to be found. This also is true for local genealogy researchers.

The Clallam County Genealogical Society has been perusing libraries, personal wills and public documents since May 1981.

"Finding new documents and people is a hoot," said Roberta Griset, society member.

Griset is one of about 170 members of the genealogical society in Clallam County.

"It really brings history into perspective," Griset said.

She and society members Jerry Behrens and Dorothy Bailey feel that joining the society has made them "history buffs."

"You bet it does," Bailey said.

"You get sidetracked easily … I like it because it keeps your brain working at a high level," Behrens said.

Behrens has traveled the country numerous times seeking old public documents from libraries, city and county buildings.

"The very best thing you can do is go to the source," Behrens said.

She discovered that her great-great aunt’s husband murdered her great-aunt and great-grandfather. He was pulled out of jail and lynched.

"It was so preposterous to find out but apparently it wasn’t uncommon back then," Behrens said.

"I never would have gotten this without going to Bismarck, North Dakota."

However, Behrens said genealogy can be an expensive hobby. The Internet seems to be the cheapest and most accessible route now as groups are digitizing public documents and posting them online.

The society’s spring seminar is geared to help people focus their efforts.

"A lot of people who do genealogy as a hobby start on the Internet, but the seminar should get them on the right track," Griset said.

Donna Potter Phillips, a genealogist from Spokane, will be leading the society’s spring seminar Saturday, May 16, on researching lineage on the Internet. Key topics include tips on researching, an example case study problem and various valuable online resources.

The event includes a syllabus and snacks. An $8 lunch will

be available but participants must register by May 14.

The society is seeking Clallam County family Bibles so they can publish the information. They will not be keeping the Bibles.

While researching, the women and other society members have discovered that many of their ancestors died from common ailments such as strep throat and pneumonia.

Griset said women typically are harder to research because many did not list their maiden names in Bibles or in documents. Oftentimes, researchers find information on women from wills of their fathers. Griset feels the Bibles are a great way to piece together missing links.

Groups are available online that have lineage records including descendants of the Mayflower’s passengers, Civil War veterans and Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. Other groups based on Jewish heritage and the Latter-day Saints are good resources for researchers.

Behrens said, after some research, she discovered that her grandmother divorced in 1916, which was taboo at the time.

"She became a seamstress and supported four children on her own. There was no fallback like today," Behrens said.

"She never spoke about this stuff when she was alive. I had to find it all out by piecing things together."

Bailey said her research hasn’t found anyone famous in her line but she enjoys the hunt. She said many of the males in her family owned butcher shops and pool halls.

The Clallam County Genealogical Society has developed a collection of books, CDs and research materials at its library at 931 W. Ninth St., Port Angeles. There is no charge for use. New members always are welcome. They have membership meetings once a month, put on seminars a few times a year and present beginners’ workshops annually to help newcomers learn to research their genealogy.

Call the genealogy at 417-5000 for hours.

Matthew Nash can be reached at

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