South King County Genealogy Society Blog - Let's Document Every Washington Pioneer! #blog

Group Integration <Society@...>

Let's Document Every Washington Pioneer! By Valorie








As we know, early pioneers come west in covered wagons, or even on foot! But did you know that because the intercontinental railroad was a reality soon after the end of the Civil War, [1] many also came to the Washington Territory on trains or ships. Fortunately there are records for these pioneers, and although many were single, families also came here and are named in both the 1880 US Census and the many Territorial Census. If you want to submit some pioneers, be sure to start by bookmarking the Hints and Help page on the Pioneer Pursuit contest section of the Washington State Genealogical Society website.
">Sailing Ship Vectors by Vecteezy


You may have some pioneers in your tree already even if they are not ancestors; so you may have most of the research you need to submit one or more pioneers. We would like to document every person who was here on or before November 11, 1889, whether they were born here or arrived just in time to be documented as residents.

In the Hints page, it is suggested that you consult the WSGS Pioneer Index. This database has been created by those who documented their descent from one or more pioneers, in order to get Pioneer Certificates. If you qualify for that certificate, that program is still on-going, but the Pioneer Pursuit is different because we want everyone, even those who did not have descendants. And while you need to pay for a certificate, there are cash prizes for this contest! See the rules for details. The South King County GS would love to be listed on your submission, but if you are a member of another local genealogy society, be sure to add their name to your submission.">Steam Train Vectors by Vecteezy

The Frequently Asked Questions section says, It is estimated there were nearly 350,000 people living here in 1889. We encourage researchers to research special populations such as indigenous people, people of color, women and children. So there is no shortage of pioneers who need documentation.

Many people are joining the free Washington State Genealogy group, at to ask questions, offer help, and coordinate with other Pioneer Pursuit researchers.

Washington Territorial Censuses were done on odd numbered years, every 2-3 years, beginning in 1857. Not all censuses are available for all years or all counties. Washington Territorial census records are available at, “Washington, U.S., State and Territorial Censuses, 1857-1892” and at the Washington State Archives. For instance, the earliest King County Census is here: for searching and browsing.

Census is not the only acceptable proof of residence. The WGS also accepts baptismal and birth records, city directories, Court, death and divorce records, insurance, land and other property, marriage, military records, newspaper stories, obituaries, probate, school, Social Security, tax and voting records, wills, and other records from both the state, county and city archives. 




While some old census records might leave you in despair because there are no first names, only initials, check for other records such as city directories! For instance the Seattle City Directory often had sections for villages far from the city because they wanted the advertisements from the small businesses in those places. And the city directories often listed at least the men's names, and often a detailed occupation.

Please write and tell us how your research is progressing!


1. The Golden Spike Ceremony, which took place May 10, 1869, was held at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory.


Valorie Cowan Zimmerman

Please comment here: Let's Document Every Washington Pioneer!