On Monday, October 4, Sam Reed, Secretary of State for Washington State, officially launched the new Archives Management Center in Cheney, Washington, and also unveiled the beta test of its new Digital Archives Archival Management System.
Archivists have estimated that the state of Washington is missing more than half of its previous electronic records, and many may never be recovered. State archivists have designed a system that will both preserve critical records and allow access where appropriate. The new permanent archival solution will include e-mail and electronic documents from governors, legislators, and other elected officials, as well as records important to those researching their ancestors.
In announcing the new system, Reed said: “If Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on a laptop, we may not have it today. Electronic records have been disappearing at an alarming rate because we’ve had no means to preserve them. These are records we need to make public policy, to conduct day-to-day business, and to prepare for the future.”
State digital archivist Adam Jensen said the digital archives system will continue to develop in functionality over the next few months and is expected to be in full production by the end of the year. The archives will eventually hold a wide range of material—from birth, marriage, death, census, military, and naturalization records to historic records like the state constitution and the first election results in Washington Territory. The state estimates that in 15 years, citizens might access up to 800 terabytes (the equivalent of 200 billion pages of text) of public records and history from their home computers.
I used the new digital archives system briefly and found it super easy to use: enter a name, click on SEARCH, and watch the "hits" appear on-screen. Here is one record I found, apparently from a less reputable member of my extended family tree. This record is from the Walla Walla Penitentiary records!
Last Name: Eastman
First Name: Frank
Where Convicted: Lewis
Crime: Assault with intent to commit bodily Injury
Year of Receipt: 1894
Page Number: 0
Keep in mind that this new digital archives will collect all the records of the state. However, some records of genealogical interest that are already online include marriage records, naturalization records, census records, death records, birth records, military records, and institution records such as the penitentiary records that I mentioned earlier. To obtain a copy of any record found in the database, contact the State Archives at 360.586.1492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please remember that the Washington State digital archives is still in beta, and data is still being loaded. If you do not find what you seek, check back in a few months.
You can access the beta version of Washington State's digital archives system at: http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov