A Brief History of the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society

     As with most things in life, the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society began as a small series of events, each one leading to the next. In the Spring of 1966, as the result of calls for assistance in genealogical research, the Yakima Valley Regional Library arranged for a  Genealogical Workshop developed by the Seattle Genealogical Society to be held in Yakima. This workshop spurred increased interest in genealogy in the area.

     For many years the Yakima Herald-Republic had published stories of Old Yakima, which interested those individuals who were searching for their ancestors. Due to this, it was discovered that there were many others interested in the "Family Tree Climbing Hobby." Most were beginners who had not been working on their family lines for very long. Discussions then occurred about the need for a club where people could share materials, genealogical periodicals, census films, etc.

     This small group of interested genealogists approached the Yakima Valley Regional Library for assistance. The library agreed to set up a Genealogy Section, purchase needed books and additional microfilm readers, and even offered the society a place to hold meetings once a month. In October 1967 a notice was placed in the local newspaper announcing the first meeting of the Genealogical Society would be held in the Auditorium of the Yakima Valley Regional Library. At that meeting, provisional officers were elected. As membership grew, a more formal organization became desirable. On Dec. 5, 1968, a Constitution and By-Laws were adopted and in the Spring of 1969, the annual election of officers commenced.

     The first official minutes of the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society (January 1968) listed the following officers: President, Jack Lines; Vice-President, Jean Cox; Secretary, Fran Harris; Treasurer, Maxine Bissell. At that meeting dues were set at $5.00 per year, with the understanding that they would be used to purchase books and microfilm for use at the Yakima Valley Regional Library.

     The arrangement with the Yakima Valley Regional Library continued until January 1978 when permission was granted by the Yakima School District to meet at Garfield School Library. Finally in 1981, the Society moved to the basement of the First Christian Church at 3rd and B Street in downtown Yakima. There, a small room was designated as their Library and they were able to use a common room for their meetings.

     Since the completion in 2005 of the YVGS facility in Union Gap, Washington, all of the society's general meetings have occurred at that facility.

Library: In the beginning, the Society's library books were kept at one member’s home and books could be checked out for a period of two weeks.

     In 1976, the growing collection was moved to the Yakima Valley Museum. In early 1980 the society was requested by the museum to move the library holdings to some other facility. The books were temporarily stored in one of the member’s home until they could be moved to their new home in 1981. At that time, arrangements had been made to use the basement of the First Christian Church at 3rd and B Street in downtown Yakima.

     The library remained housed in the basement of the church until 1999 at which time the church was sold. Once again the YVGS was faced with locating a new home for their ever increasing collection of genealogical materials. With the help of an interested benefactor, the library was moved to a temporary facility on Riverside Road off of Fruitvale Avenue and the idea of building a permanent facility to house the Society and it's library was brought forward.

     At that time, several things came together, which resulted in the YVGS constructing their own facility. Society members, Mack & JoAnn Gardner, donated the land to build on. Norman & Karen Hyatt helped by donating and subsidizing some of the costs. A $100,000 grant from the Petrie Foundation was procured to help pay expenses. And last, but certainly not least, many volunteers spent countless hours in fundraising activities. Construction of the facility began in 2003 and the library was completed in 2005. Fundraising activities continued and in the Summer of 2008 the Society's building debt was retired, insuring that the Society would have a permanent home for many years to come.