Library resources nurture family trees

By Melissa Crowe
For Sno-Isle Libraries

Bob Overstreet at work in the library

Bob Overstreet scans photos at Marysville Library

Bob Overstreet, a forester and genealogist, is a regular visitor to the Sno-Isle Libraries online genealogy research center.

He also goes to the Marysville Library, one of 21 community libraries in the two-county district and one of two libraries (along with Lynnwood) that has a Creative Tech Center  with photo scanning equipment. There, he has scanned and digitized more than 100 historical pictures. He helps others do the same.

“Genealogy is not a spectator sport,” Overstreet said. “You have to be involved and dedicated.”

Overstreet’s experience demonstrates how, from deep roots to fresh green shoots, Sno-Isle Libraries is nurturing a forest of family trees.

The library district offers cardholders free access to premium databases with original-source documents, organizational tools and free subscriptions to popular genealogy websites. It provides a comprehensive national collection of newspaper obituaries and death notices, plus access to MyHeritage Library Edition and to

All skill levels welcome

Much has changed since Overstreet started tracing the first lines of his family tree. That was 1981, when Ronald Reagan was president, home computers were a new concept, and genealogy as a hobby was in its infancy. Now, with online databases, sophisticated imaging software and other resources available through Sno-Isle Libraries, finding one’s roots is a much easier and enriching experience.

Library customers can also take part in research classes, technology tutorials and one-on-one training with photo-editing software.

“The library staffers are generous in their allocations of time to help people, to show and guide them to appropriate documentation,” Overstreet said. “And then you have to do the work.”

Library customers interested in genealogy run the gamut in terms of skill. Some are just beginning and need help getting started and staying organized. Others have been building their family history for years and seek library assistance only when they hit a wall trying to find the next piece of evidence they need.

“One similarity shared by all is enthusiasm,” said Jennifer Forman, a Sno-Isle Libraries genealogy specialist based at the Snohomish Library. “At any skill level, they are usually sleuthing for the fun of it and almost every genealogist likes to talk about their family history.”

Elisha and Starr Overstreet in 1903; photo scanned by Bob Overstreet at Marysville Library

The Ancestry Library Edition database is the most popular on-site resource and offers library cardholders free access to the subscription-based website, Forman said.

She especially enjoys helping people find documents such as marriage licenses that include their relatives’ signatures.

“Original documents are very powerful,” Forman said. “They make people feel connected to their relatives. It can be emotional.”

Only a small percentage of documents are available online, she said, but the library’s access to microfilm, books, historical and genealogical societies can help researchers in their sleuthing where online tools leave off.

Leaving a legacy

As a member of Marysville’s Comeford Genealogy Group, Overstreet is passing along lessons he has learned from the library. He pores through historical census data, old diaries, Bibles, deeds and other records in his quest to document the past, not just for himself, but also for others.

His hope is to leave behind something of value for the next generation of Overstreets – a detailed account of the family, something to help make sense of one’s life, something to feel like you’re not just passing through.

“It’s a personal pride knowing I’ve left something for future generations that may be meaningful,” Overstreet said. “Hopefully it will give families a better understanding of what ‘family’ can be. My values and my satisfaction come from my family.”

For more information, visit For personal assistance, call your local library or Book-a-Librarian.


3 responses to “Library resources nurture family trees”

  1. Myrna Overstreet says:

    Well, I unwittingly created this ‘monster’ when I bought some family group sheets at Davis Stationery to put in his stocking one Christmas many, many years ago. It has been an excellent hobby for him, and lots of information for us. Computers have made a huge difference but the original family group sheets had their place in the process!!
    Good article – thank you!!

  2. Maryke says:

    Bob is so much fun and is a great asset to the Comford Genealogy Group!

  3. Ted Peddycord says:

    Good morning Bob — you look well —

    Have you ever met Fred Cruger ? He is our know everything guy at the Granite Falls Museum — he has created a layered mapping system that has attracted national recognition — stay well


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