Sunday, March 7, 2010

History of the Patchen File

Most older people will recognize the card file in the picture with Lee Patchen. Lee joined EWGS in 1946 out of curiosity about his ancestors. EWGS formerly met in the magazine storage room in the basement of the old main library--the Carnegie building on Cedar street. They had access to books on genealogy, but unlike other such libraries that Lee had visited, there was no card index of surnames and genealogical information. The public library could not budget funds for organizing of such an index; so Lee decided to do something about it. He started his cataloging work for the library in 1948 and went through many volumes, page by page.

One of the volumes was a bulky History of Spokane County published by the Reverend Jonathan Edwards in 1900. There were about 8,500 names mentioned, and Lee catalogued all of them. Later volumes of this book were printed with Lee's index, and I guess all those cards have been removed from the Patchen file as they are not there today.

A History of the Big Bend Country, published in 1904, yielded more than 18,000 names for his index.
Over a five year period, Lee indexed all the articles pertaining to family names in a 37 volume, Americana, a quarterly historical and genealogical magazine that last published in 1943 by the American Historical Society of New York.

The index cards contain references to articles about people and families. The cards (each 3" x 5") include data like birth date, where person lived, where he died, to whom he was married, and his parents names. I guess he finished indexing all the books in the genealogy section of the library so then he started cutting out obits from the newspaper pasting the obit on a card and typing the name of the person and when it appeared in the newspaper for each obit. He also made a card for each person listed in the obit. By the time he died in 1970, his card index contained over 200,000 index cards and Lee had personally done about 90 percent of them. EWGS then kept cutting out obits and placing them in the card file till the end of 1979. So now there are over 220,000 cards. From 1980 to 1994 the obits were either cut out and placed in a book (each with its own index) or EWGS just indexed all the obits in the newspapers for that year with the page number(s) to find that obit in the newspaper microfilms.

Most of this information was gathered from the "Patchen Memorial Booklet" done by EWGS in 1970 after Lee Patchen had died. I also wrote a post on Lee Patchen who was EWGS President in 1951 and in 1961.

Written for the 1st Edition of the Carnival of Genealogical Societies.

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