CWU News

CWU Senior Offering Free Genealogy Tips at Ellensburg Library

Virginia Kuehl gets a genealogy lesson from CWU student Pam Stephenson at the Ellensburg Library on October 10, 2014. (Barb Arnott/CWU)

Pam Stephenson has Researched her Own Family Back to the Early 1600s

Virginia Kuehl began her genealogy session with a single clue: the first and last name of her late grandmother, Anna Erwin.

“She didn’t have a middle name,” Kuehl said. “That always bothered me.”

Kuehl knew her grandmother was born in England. She knew she arrived in the United States at Philadelphia. She knew she married a McKenzie.

With the help of Pam Stephenson, a CWU senior majoring in anthropology and minoring in history and museum studies, Kuehl dug up more details. In no time, the pair found a marriage license recorded in Linn County, Missouri in 1906 when Anna Erwin became Mrs. Claude G. McKenzie.

“Oh, how exciting!” Kuehl said, thanking Stephenson for the impromptu lesson.

Free genealogy tips

To get genealogy tips from Stephenson, drop by the library at 209 N. Ruby St. in Ellensburg from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Fridays and 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. on Sundays through November 21. All you need is a name and a ballpark date to begin. For more information, call the library’s reference desk at 509-962-7250.

As part of her internship at the Ellensburg Public Library, Stephenson is helping community members with family history research 10:00 a.m.-noon on Fridays and 1:00-2:00 p.m. on Sundays. Folks are encouraged to drop in for help getting started, for help locating traditional and Internet-based resources, and to get answers to genealogy research questions.

Stephenson’s interest in genealogy was sparked early in life. “My grandma, when I was little, used to tell me stories about my family history, especially about my great- great-grandma Leah, who was raised in New York City and came out West,” Stephenson said. “The first time she saw a cow she literally fell over backwards.”

Through her own research, Stephenson found that Leah was one of 13 children. Her first husband died, and she divorced her second husband—who was 30 years her senior—over financial difficulties.

“That’s the thing I love about this, taking names and dates and turning them into people,” Stephenson said.

Another ancestor, her great- great-grandfather Isaac from Lincolnshire, England, was said to have spent quite a bit of time in and out of jail. Stephenson discovered that Isaac actually killed a man in an Old-West style shootout in a Wisconsin saloon shortly after coming to the United States.

Once she starts digging into the past, it can get addictive, Stephenson said. And sometimes she discovers so much about a person of a bygone era, it feels like she knows them.

“It’s taking people who’ve been gone a long time and giving them life,” Stephenson said.

She has researched her family back to the early 1600s, and connected her ancestors to published genealogies that go back to the Early Middle Ages. Stephenson is especially interested in 19th and early 20th century England (specifically the East Midlands region), Internet genealogy, 19th century US genealogy, newspaper research, and black sheep ancestors.

Media contact: Barb Arnott, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-2841,

October 14, 2014