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Family mystery solved at the library

Posted on May 12, 2016 at 6:00 am

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by Gwendolyn Haley

Recently, my father and I were trying to solve a family mystery. He is the sole surviving grandchild on his mother’s side. So if he doesn’t remember something about the family, there is no one left to ask who would know. In our collective family knowledge, we were aware that his grandfather had owned and operated a billiard hall in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle. But Dad didn’t remember the name or address of the business. And that’s where the mystery began. . . .

Like most people, I start with a generic Google search—hey, sometimes we get lucky in the digital world. I found a list of pool halls, but not anything definitively linked with my great-grandfather. Next stop was Ancestry.com, one of the genealogy resources provided by Spokane County Library District and available as an in-library resource from our Digital Library webpage (another great genealogy resource in our Digital Library that you can use from home is HeritageQuest). Armed with my great-grandfather’s name and some family information, I dove in to see what surfaced. Amazingly, I found his draft card (circa WWII) that listed his home address and employer as self-employed at Columbia City Billiards, 4915 Rainier Ave. I was thrilled to share my discovery with Dad.

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Great-grandfather’s draft card

The next time we visited Seattle, my daughter and I spent a morning in Columbia City. We met up with Dad and took pictures of the site where the billiard hall once stood (there’s a new building there now). We also took pictures of the house where Dad’s mother lived as a little girl. We stopped at a branch of Seattle Public Library to search the historical newspapers online for a short profile published in 1943 about the extraordinary murals my great-great-grandfather created on his retaining wall. We had an amazing trip of rediscovering our family roots.

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Location where the original pool hall once stood

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Newspaper 1943

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Wall featuring murals

What family mysteries are awaiting your discovery? Once you dive into the free genealogy resources at the library, you might be surprised at how much you can uncover.

Gwendolyn Haley

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