The Northeast Washington Genealogical Society had its beginnings in 1981 when Susan Dechant placed an article in the Statesman-Examiner to invite anyone interested in genealogy to a get-together. Our first meeting was held in February 1981 in the basement of Freddie’s in Kettle Falls (now Backyard BBQ) with 10 in attendance. We officially organized as the Northeast Washington Genealogical Society in September of the same year. The 13 charter members were Janet & Wally Baucom, Lorraine Best, Peggy Burnett, Susan Dechant, Shirley Dodson, John Gobeil, Harriett Hedrick, Ora Kitt, Sam and Ann McCrea, Edith Oyler, and Ruth Ray.
By February 1983 we were meeting in the Commissioner’s conference room at the Stevens County courthouse in Colville. We offered our first beginner’s class in March and in September had our first fair booth display where we were awarded a blue ribbon for our exhibit. Peggy Burnett and the Baucoms were in charge of that event. Starting in August 1985 we were meeting at Papa’s Place (also in Colville) and in October Susan sent out the first newsletter from the President which was the seed for what became Pioneer Branches.
1986 was a busy year! The first issue of Pioneer Branches was published in April with editors Linda Terry and Chris Wilner. By June our board meetings were held at the D & P restaurant in Colville and by August our regular meetings were held at the community college. In November we began the restoration of Evergreen Cemetery and it was also the official beginning of our cemetery enumeration project. Some members were also busy extracting Ferry County births, marriage and deaths which eventually became one of our early publications.
By 1987 Susan had obtained an offset printing press and set it up in her basement. In October we began printing Pioneer Branches ourselves. We also had our first NeWGS seminar which featured Bill Dollarhide.
In January 1988 NeWGS announced the completion of Cemetery Book #1, which was also printed on Susan’s offset. We held our first Everton workshop in April and a seminar in July with Ron Bremer. Cemetery Book #2 became available in December.
In March 1989 we began having monthly classes in conjunction with the general meetings and also became involved in the Washington Newspaper Project for which we received a Certificate of Participation in July. In August we had our first Heritage Quest Roadshow
The next few years saw members of NeWGS busy and involved. They completed Cemetery Book #3 in April 1990 (also printed on Susan’s offset), the Family History Center opened in Colville in August 1991 and in September 1991 NeWGS held its first Computer Interest Group meeting at the old D & P (now Rancho Grande). In 1992 NeWGS hosted several events including a Heritage Quest Roadshow in March, an Everton workshop in September and Ancestors Unlimited in November. In 1993 the Computer Interest Group and board meetings were then held at Cookies restaurant.
In April 1994 we started meeting at the Family History Center. Over the next few years projects included the collecting of Bible Records in conjunction with Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, extracting births and deaths for Stevens County 1891 to 1907, and the transcription of the Washington Territorial censuses.
In October 1999 we began work on "Little Journeys," which is the first book we published, and the Computer Interest Group began to meet at the Family Fun Center (now Café Italiano) where we could have live computer demonstrations and access to the Internet. In December Susan launched our first NeWGS website.
In June 2000 Pioneer Branches won first place in the Family Tree Newsletter Contest sponsored by the Odom Genealogy Library, Doris Winskie, Editor. By December we had completed “Little Journeys.”
In September 2001 NeWGS held their 20 year celebration in conjunction with a seminar featuring Donna Potter-Phillips and Susan Dechant. Susan was awarded the first “NeWGS Distinguished Service Award.” Shirley Dodson received the second “NeWGS Distinguished Service Award” in 2002. In September 2003 the Computer Interest Group began meeting in the basement of Colville Public Library which had Internet access and the Libraries of Stevens County were now co-sponsoring our classes.
In 2006 we were encouraged to reprint out-of-print local histories that no one else wanted to tackle, so in March we reprinted “Last Bell.” In May we held the first of several “Gatherings” around the county at the Quillisascut Grange to record oral histories and collect images of early Stevens County. In July our library holdings list was posted online and in November we acquired a large newspaper collection through Doris Winskie (Colville, Chewelah, others).
By 2007 we were reprinting one out-of-print book and two more ‘originals.” In February we re-printed “People’s History of Stevens County” in co-operation with the Stevens County Historical Society and in October we acquired Pat Graham’s “Colville Collection #2: Military Fort Colville.” In November we published “Civil War Veterans Buried in Stevens County” by member Roger May. In May of 2008 Roger received the Washington State Genealogical Society award for outstanding service for both his book that we published last year and his work at Evergreen Cemetery. In July Pioneer Branches went digital and we reprinted "Little Journeys."
In January 2009 Sue Witham completed extraction of local funeral home records through 2005 and we now had over 350,000 entries in our databases. In March NeWGS received a “Certificate for Abandoned Cemetery” from the state for Evergreen Cemetery and in June we were a major planner and participant in 150th Celebration of military Fort Colville. By the end of the year we also acquired Pat Graham’s “Colville Collection #3” and reprinted “Northport Pioneers.”
By 2010 NeWGS now had over 400,000 entries in our databases and had added “Colville Collection #4” and “Pioneers of Happy Hill” to its list of books for sale. NeWGS signed on with EasyNetSites in October and launched its new website in December.
2011 saw the completion of our multi-year project involving the extraction of a major collection of Chewelah church records and in March Susan Dechant spearheaded research on the names on our military monument at the courthouse. In 2012 we added “For Whom the Bell Has Tolled” by Louis Tomsha to our publication list. In May of 2013 a new stone was dedicated in the Evergreen Cemetery for Civil War veteran Osner Hall which included the participation by Civil War re-enactors. In November the Stevens County military monument was updated based on Susan’s research and member Sue Richart launched an NeWGS FaceBook page.
In 2014 NeWGS reprinted “Kettle River Country” by Ruth Lakin and published two of Pat Graham’s books, Colville Collection #5 and #6. May 2015 saw two more names added to the Stevens County military monument based on Susan Dechant’s continuing research.
In July 2016 the final issue of Pioneer Branches was published and in April 2017 we held our last computer Interest Group meeting. In May we published “Colville Collection #7” and another Civil War stone was dedicated at Evergreen in July.
In 2018 NeWGS members Kathy Ochs, Karen Struve and Susan Dechant spent several weeks purging and updating our library collection at Colville Public Library and in July we published “Colville Collection #8.” “Colville Collection #9” was published in October 2019.
March 2020 saw the last of our in-person general and board meetings due to the pandemic. Zoom meetings started in April for the board and in June for the general meetings. Also in June, NeWGS database entries reached 491,000! The October seminar was canceled for both 2020 and 2021 also due to the pandemic.
For a small group, the members of NeWGS have been a busy and productive bunch of volunteers. All that we have accomplished has been the result of dedication and teamwork. It’s been a wonderful forty years and we hope for many more fun times together.