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            November, 2004

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor

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 Digital Archives
- by Charles Hansen

        Washington State has five regional archives to go along with the main archives in Olympia. The eastern region, where I am, was the only region that did not have a building prior to this summer. The records for this area were stored in a basement under the basketball court at Eastern Washington University at Cheney, Washington. The eastern region serves Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Pend Oreille, Spokane,Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman counties.

        On September 11, 2001 Sam Reed the Secretary of State and a few other staff were waiting in the Seattle airport to fly to Spokane to start the planning of the new building for the eastern region. néedless to say, the flight was canceled when the airplanes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon... so the group returned to Olympia for some long distance planning.

        Important on the list of "wants", was a lot more space for the paper records generated by the eleven eastern Washington counties and some way to keep the digital records that have been generated in the last thirty years. There was a problem, being that, there were no other digital archives in the USA. So Mr. Reed and his staff asked for help from Microsoft and Electronic Data Systems (E.D.S.) In June of this year the new building was opened with just a few items to still be completed.

        The grand opening was to be in July, 2004 and I received an E-Mail to see if I would be able to come, but a week or so later they canceled that date and rescheduled for October. On September 7th I received a printed invitation with a gold seal of the Secretary of State. Why did I get an invitation? I had indexed some census records, and also sent them some early birth and marriage records from Spokane County. I really wanted the birth and marriage records to be included as they were done years ago on an old DOS database program, I especially wanted the efforts of those who had accomplished the task, not to be lost.

        The main reason for digital archives is to convert and store computer generated records. Many genealogists have wandered through the old archives, just browsing through the stacks of paper records, but it is impossible to wander through digital archives. There were a couple of rooms where old computers were used to convert the data to a format that is capable of using and storing the records so they will be available to future generations. There are also some records on line so you can check their information from home. Sam Reed said that the state lost a lot of digital records before the archives were opened and hopefully the state will no longer lose any more recorded information.

        On October 4th, 2004, Jerry Handfield, Washington State Archivist, began the dedication, and then Sam Reed, the Secretary of State, spoke. Next was Vickie Dalton the Spokane County Auditor, Corky Mattingly the Yakima County Auditor and President of the State Auditors Association, and the last Auditor was Bob Terwilliger of Snohomish County, one of the Auditors that had pushed the digital archives. Gail Thomas-Flynn from Microsoft and Dick Callahan from E.D.S were the next speakers. Then Deborah Markowitz, the Vermont Secretary of State, and officer of the National Association of Secretary of State. Last to speak was Lewis Bellardo the Deputy Archivist for the United States, and he says next spring (2005) the United States will break ground for a national digital archives and he hopes Congress will continue to fund the building.

        The eastern regional archives are located on the first floor, and have a much better place to store records, and a large room for people to read, copy and research. There are also some smaller rooms that are used for volunteers to index records. The general public is not allowed to wander through the records, but instead, the staff will bring the records out for your research. The digital archive area is located on the second floor, and there are classrooms there for teaching students how to use the archives and perhaps, how to become an archivist. The area is also used as a reading area. It looks a little odd, to me, as each desk has a computer, but then, I guess that is what you néed to read a digital record. The digital archive is located online at:

 Another Source
- by Carol Sanderson

        A source that we haven't really covered yet is Passports, yet this source dates back to ancient times. It's purpose was to introduce the bearer to a foreign government and request safe passage for him/her. That concept still exists today even though the appearance may have changed.

        By the 1700s it was becoming more common to use these as the populations of countries grew and travel became easier. In the 1800s most European countries and the United States required two issued by the country of citizenship and the other required by the country being visited. Increased usage of these forced the collapse of the passport policies in Europe. France abandoned passport use in 1861 and other countries followed. World War I saw the passport being used again. It was a way of giving the countries a tighter control of their security.

        Passports have been issued by the United States since 1789. These were issued by the State Department. Nearly one hundred years later a "Passport Bureau" was formed under the Department of Register. In 1956 Congress passed an act making the "Chief Clerk" of the State Department the authority for issuing passports. This had the effect of tightening controls and abolishing the "feud" between the state judicial and centralized the process

        A passport registry was used in the early days rather than having the applicant fill out a formal application. Application forms came into use about 1856.

        A special plan of action should be had in using passports in genealogy. One should:

  1. Check family records for existing passports and number of the application, if possible. The applications from 1790 to 1924 are arranged chronologically and the applications could be alphabetized within these years.
  2. Find a passport application index or passport application register (not always possible). The main repository for these is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Their web site at has more information. The LDS Family History Library (FHL) has some in Salt Lake City. These can be searched at their web site at
  3. Find the application. With the application year and number in hand from the index, one can now search the microfilm covering the application date and number. For those applications prior to 1810 one will have to search the microfilm for those years item by item.

        In the early years, if a family were traveling together, they would all be included on the man's passport. What can one find on a passport application? One can find birthdate and place, a physical description of the person(s), a picture, travel plans, occupation, present address to mention some of them.

        My discussion has been about U.S. passports. Those of other countries are similar. One can check major genealogical repositories for aid in looking for foreign passport information. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has indexes, abstracts or records of passport information for foreign countries. Another source of information on this is Cyndi"s List at

        This is but a brief overview of this subject. but I hope it helps those reading it.

Recommended Reading:
Using Passports to Reach Your Genealogical Destination by Jennifer Blacke, pp 49 -57, HERITAGE QUEST MAGAZINE, February 2004, Volume 20, No. 1, Issue 109; 425 North, 400 West, Suite 1A, North Salt Lake, Utah 84064.

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