Climbing around in family trees

In 1961, the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society opened shop with six members. At the end of the first year, their membership had grown to 54 members and currently hovers around 150 folks anxious and excited to look into their past and make new discoveries.
Member Carol Rikerd said she became curious about her family history when she and her brother made a discovery, asked their mother about it and, when she refused to discuss it, Rikerd was determined to learn more.
“That sparked our curiosity because my grandfather was illegitimate and that was the cause of her reticence,” she said.
In 2011, after her mother’s death, Rikerd discovered letters from her grandmother and learned, among other things, that her grandfather was a circuit-riding minister.
“Oh, this was a mystery and I was going to solve it,” she said.
She started her journey into the past by visiting the Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room, where she took a basic genealogy class.
“If you are trying to find family history or just general history, the Northwest Room is a diamond mine,” she said.
On her first visit to the Genealogical Society, Rikerd said she learned more in two hours than she had learned in class. “I was hooked on genealogy,” she said.
Members of the Society are very passionate about their quest to discover the past.
George Snyder is the group’s vice president in charge of education. He joined in 2000 and said the Society offers a lot of tips on doing research, adding that the Internet has made a huge difference in delving into the past.
Snyder said there are three “Cs” to genealogy: Curiosity that helps dig into family lines. Commitment that keeps the research going. And creativity which is required for generating ancestral narratives, as well as creating new questions to ask that aid in future research.
When Snyder discovered his grandfather had served on a jury in 1911 and was picked to serve on a murder trial, his interest was captured.
“I called the Tacoma Public Library and asked if they were aware of a trial for a murder, and they went back and gave me the names and I could go forward,” he said.
Snyder said genealogy “is like opening a door into the past.”
The Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society meets at Bates Technical College’s South Campus at 2201 S. 78th St. in Tacoma. More information about the Society is available at