Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy

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Guide to Whatcom County Washington ancestry, family history, and genealogy. Birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records, since 1861, when the county was formed.

Upper Falls in Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, Whatcom CO., Washington
County QuickStart:

Whatcom County, Washington
Map of Washington highlighting Whatcom County
Location in the state of Washington (disambiguation)
Map of the U.S. highlighting Washington
Location of Washington in the U.S.
Founded March 9, 1854
County Seat Bellingham
Address Whatcom County Courthouse
311 Grand Avenue
PO Box 1144
Bellingham, WA 98227
Phone: 360.676.6777
Whatcom County Website

County Overview[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

The County was named for the Lummi word Xwotʼqom, meaning "noisy water." The County is located in the northwest area of the state.[1]

Parent County(s)[edit | edit source]

Whatcom County, Washington was created 9 March 1854[2] from Island County.

County Seat: Bellingham [3]. See also Towns and Communities in Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy. For Courthouse, see Archives, libraries, etc.

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

Courthouse[edit | edit source]

Whatcom County Courthouse
311 Grand Avenue
PO Box 1144
Bellingham, WA 98227
Phone: 360.676.6777
Whatcom County Website

County Auditor has birth and death records 1891-1907,
marriage records from 1869 and land records;
County Clerk has divorce, probate and court records.

See also Archives, libraries, etc. in Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy.

Dates of Major County Records[edit | edit source]

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[5]
Marriage Court Land Probate Census
1891 1854 1891 1883 1854 1872 1850
*Statewide registration for births and deaths began in 1907.
General compliance by 1917.
Record Loss[edit | edit source]

There is no known history of courthouse disasters in this county.

Topics for Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy[edit | edit source]

The topics or headings on this page describe records that are used for genealogy and family history. They include links to web sites with indexes, images, or information about the county.

Bible Records[edit | edit source]


Biography[edit | edit source]

History of Whatcom County,[1] WorldCat: Author: Lottie Roeder Roth, Publisher: Chicago : Pioneer Historical Pub. Co., 1926. Brief biographies of well-known citizens of the era of publication, as well as history of the early years of the community.

Biographical information is often found in state and local histories or genealogies. See also Washington Biography.

Business and Commerce[edit | edit source]


Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Tombstone Transcriptions Online Tombstone Transcriptions in Print List of Cemeteries in the county
FindAGrave Family History Library FindAGrave
Tombstone Project WorldCat Interment.net
Billion Graves (name) Washington Periodicals WA State Digital Archives
WAGenWeb Archives Linkpendium
Billion Graves Genealogy Trails
WAGenWeb FamilySearch Places
See Washington Cemeteries for more information.

Cemetery records often reveal birth, death, relationship, military, and religious information. Tombstones, sextons (caretakers) records, and burial records each have slightly different information. See Washington Cemeteries.

  • Cemeteries, 1884-2007 Part of: County Records, 1856-2009 FamilySearch Historical Collections (Free, browse images)
  • See what genealogical information may be in these records.
    • Includes Lot and burial record 1884-1959; Lot purchase record 1887-1904; Woodlawn Cemetery burial list 1886-2007.

Census[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 352
1870 534 51.7%
1880 3,137 487.5%
1890 18,591 492.6%
1900 24,116 29.7%
1910 49,511 105.3%
1920 50,600 2.2%
1930 59,128 16.9%
1940 60,355 2.1%
1950 66,733 10.6%
1960 70,317 5.4%
1970 81,950 16.5%
1980 106,701 30.2%
1990 127,780 19.8%
2000 166,814 30.5%
2010 201,140 20.6%
Source: "Wikipedia.org".
Federal Census Contents
Names, ages, birthplaces 1850–1940
Birthplaces of parents 1880–1940
Relationships 1880–1940
Family and Neighbors All years
Immigration year 1900–1930
Citizenship 1910–1940

Censuses 1) Give names, ages, and more about the family; 2) Pinpoint the area to find other records; and 3) Provide clues for further research.

  • School census, 1885-1933 Part of: County Records, 1856-2009 FamilySearch Historical Collections (Free, browse images)
    • See what genealogical information may be in these records.
    • Includes School census index 1890-1932; School census records 1885-1933.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

The information church records provide depends upon the church practices and the record keepers. Records may include names, ages, and dates of events such as baptism, marriage, or burial. See Washington Church Records.

  • Church records (microfilmed originals or published transcripts) for Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy are listed in the FamilySearch catalog. (Press space bar to select town.)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit | edit source]
Lutheran[edit | edit source]
  • Records of Central Lutheran Church, Bellingham, in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America database at Archives.com ($).

List of Churches and Church Parishes

Court Records[edit | edit source]

Your ancestors may be found in court records as defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses, or jurors. Court records can clarify family relationships, places of residence, occupations, and family history. See Washington Court Records for courts used through the years.


For specialized court records, see Divorce  · Guardianship  · Land  · Naturalization · Probate

  • Whatcom Frontier Justice.Part of "Frontier Justice’’: Guide to the Court Records of Washington Territory, 1853-1889 at Washington State Digital Archives. (Free Index, no images)
    • The court procedure of Frontier Justice touch nearly all pioneers of Washington Territory. The index has many abstracts that provide names and what is happening in disputes, settlements in civil and criminal cases as well as probate, equity and admiralty cases.

Directories[edit | edit source]


Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]


Ethnic, Political or Religious Groups[edit | edit source]


American Indian[edit | edit source]
Japanese[edit | edit source]

World War II Files, 1942-1946

Public Welfare/Social Security Department, (Japanese Internment) Assistance Cases, Evacuee Referrals for Resettlement and Assistance, 1945-1946 from the Washington State Archives – Digital Archives

Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]


Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]


British ColumbiaOkanogan CountySkagit CountyIsland CountySan Juan CountyWA WHATCOM.PNG
Click a neighboring county
for more resources

Genealogy[edit | edit source]

Many local libraries and societies have collections of family genealogies. County histories or biographies often include brief genealogies of the featured persons.

A FamilySearch Community Tree is available for this place.

Guardianship[edit | edit source]

Guardianship of orphans or adults unable to manage their own affairs were handled by the probate and the District courts. See Washington Court Records.

History[edit | edit source]

Local histories for Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy may include biographies, history of churches, schools, local government with names of officials, military information, and more. See Washington Local Histories.


  • "Whatcom County, Washington Facts" at StateOfUS.com (it is mis-labeled as Whatcom County, Alabama)
  • "History of Whatcom County", Author: Lottie Roeder Roth, Publisher:Chicago : Pioneer Historical Pub. Co., 1926. [2] There are a few versions of this work beginning in 1926, with later works adding an index and microform format available.
History Timeline[edit | edit source]

Historical County Boundaries from Newberry Library[6]

Emphasis for this timeline is on events that affected migration, records, or record-keeping. Unless otherwise mentioned, the events below were gleaned from Janet Oakley. Whatcom County -- Thumbnail History, History Link.org Essay 7327.

  • In historic times there were three tribal groups in the county: the Lummi, Nooksack, and Semiahmoo.
  • 1791 - Spanish explorer Manuel Quimper sent a sloop into the Strait of San Juan de Fuca and "discovered" Mount Baker.
  • 1827 - The Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Langley north of modern day Lynden.
  • 1853 - Edward Eldridge arrived in Whatcom from California to work at the mill, bringing sawmill machinery.
  • 1853 - March 2, U.S. President Millard Fillmore establishes Washington Territory.
  • 1854 - Settlers filed claims on the south end of the bay, setting the future site of Fairhaven, one of four towns that would develop on the shoreline.
  • 1854 - March 9, Whatcom County was established by the Washington territorial government from a portion of Island County.
  • 1857-1858 - Survey work began on the international boundary at the 49th parallel.
  • 1859 - John Tennant and his Lummi wife Clara filed the first official claim on the Nooksack River.
  • 1881 - The "Washington Colony," a group of utopian Kansans, re-established the mill at Whatcom Creek.
  • 1899 - Whatcom County boomed when the Pacific American Fisheries (PAC) organized in Fairhaven.

Land and Property[edit | edit source]

Land Records reveal
Yes or Maybe  Y  M
Seller (Grantor) Green check.png  
Seller's Spouse Green check.png  
Buyer (Grantee) Green check.png  
Heirs   Green check.png
Witnesses Green check.png  
Land Description and Dates Green check.png  
Tips -or- Land Contents

Land records (especially deeds) may give the name of a spouse, heirs, and witnesses, who may be relatives or in-laws.

County deeds, mortgages, and leases show transfers from person to person. See also Court Records for actions involving real estate. See Washington Land for government-to-person records.

Maps[edit | edit source]


This map highlights the county within the state of Washington. The map soon will have inter-active links.

Migration[edit | edit source]

Most residents came to Washington from other states or crossed the border from Canada. (See Seattle Passenger Lists for those who came from other countries.) Although few other migration records exist, try:

Censuses (use birthdates and places of children as clues)
Land (1st deed may reveal previous residence)
Death-related records of children may give town or county of birth
• Records of relatives and neighbors

Military[edit | edit source]


Naturalization and Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Declarations of Intent before 1906 often include the nation of origin, his* foreign and "Americanized" names, residence, and date of arrival. See Washington Naturalization and Citizenship for more information.     *Women were not naturalized until 1922 in the United States.

  • Naturalization and Citizenship 1884-1947 Part of: County Records, 1856-2009 FamilySearch Historical Collections (Free, browse images)
    • See what genealogical information may be in these records.
    • Includes Applications to take oath of allegiance 1921-1945; Certificate of citizenship 1892; Citizenship petitions granted 1930-1947; Declarations of intention 1872-1947; Final citizenship record 1890-1906; Index to declarations of intention 1884-1945; Index to naturalization certificates 1890-1896; Index to naturalizations 1884-1945; Memorandum of declarations of intention 1906-1907; Minors final citizenship record 1896-1902; Naturalization final record 1890-1906; Petition and record 1906-1946.

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Small town newspapers provide historical content and contain obituaries, birth or death notices, legal notices, and community news, such as visits to or from out-of-town relatives. See Washington Newspapers for tips, resources, and details.

Finding More Washington Newspapers

Additional newspapers abstracts can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy newspapers in online catalogs like:

  • WorldCat (For instructions see WorldCat Online Catalog).
  • Do a search for these and other records in the FamilySearch Catalog. To select a county in Washington, add a comma, slide way down to the county list, then click Search. (Almost every state seems to have a Washington County)

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Obituaries may mention birth, marriage, spouse, parents, living family members, education, occupation, and more. See Washington Obituaries for state level collections and United States Obituaries for tips and insights.


See also: NewspapersLibrariesSocietiesFuneral Homes • Obituaries of neighboring counties or of the person's previous residence • Family records.

Periodicals[edit | edit source]


Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Probate records identify heirs of the decedents, give the (approximate) death dates, and provide specifics about property holdings. The records were kept by the county judge.

These include wills, inheritance records, dockets, and other documents regarding property and estates of individuals who have died. See also Court Records for civil actions involving estates. Also see Washington Probate Records.

Public Records[edit | edit source]

Public records are documents created by civil authorities that either don't fit comfortably in another topic, or that could fit in several topics.

Repositories[edit | edit source]

School Records[edit | edit source]


School Censuses provide name of parent or guardian, name and age of child, and residence.

  • School Records, 1885-1933 Part of: County Records, 1856-2009 FamilySearch Historical Collections (Free, browse images)
    • See what genealogical information may be in these records.
    • Includes School census index 1890-1932; School census records 1885-1933.

Taxation[edit | edit source]

Washington tax records complement land records and can supplement the years between censuses. There may be gaps of several years in the tax records of some counties. For more information, see the wiki page Washington Taxation.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

The county auditors in Washington kept records of birth, marriage, and death. The county clerk has the divorce records - the earliest dates to the present.

Visit the Washington State Department of Health website to order a Washington Birth, Death, Marriage or Divorce Certificate. See Washington Vital Records for details and history of the records. .

Birth[edit | edit source]
Birth Records reveal
Yes or Maybe
 Y  M
Name of Child Green check.png  
Birth Date and Place Green check.png  
Parent's Names Green check.png  
Mother's Maiden Name Green check.png  
Parent's Ages   Green check.png
Parents' State or Country of Birth Green check.png  
Name of Doctor or Midwife Green check.png  

In 1891, coroners, physicians, and midwives were to "return" births and deaths to the county auditor. Many went unrecorded. In 1907, the State Center for Health Statistics assumed this responsibility.[7]


See Washington Online Genealogy Records for indexes.
Also see .

    • Includes Birth registers 1891-1907; Birth returns 1891-1907; Births (delayed) 1871-1907.

For earlier or unrecorded births, search:

Marriage[edit | edit source]
Marriage Records reveal
Yes or Maybe
 Y  M
Date of Marriage or License Green check.png  
Names of Bride and Groom Green check.png  
Ages Green check.png  
Birth Places Green check.png  
Residences Green check.png  
Names of Parents   Green check.png
Husband's Occupation   Green check.png
Witnesses Green check.png  
Minister or Officiator Green check.png  

Marriage records include certificates, marriage returns, license applications or affidavits. Counties kept the records until 1968, when the state took over.


See Washington Online Genealogy Records for indexes.
Also see Washington Marriage Records.

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Divorce records give the names of the parties and may give the date and place of their marriage. See Washington Vital Records for excellent information.

Death[edit | edit source]
Death Records reveal
Yes or Maybe
 Y  M
Name of Deceased Green check.png  
Death Date and Place Green check.png  
Age or Birth Date and Place Green check.png  
Parent's Names Green check.png  
Mother's Maiden Name Green check.png  
Name of Spouse   Green check.png
Residence Green check.png  
Occupation Green check.png  

In 1891, coroners, physicians and midwives were to report (or return) all births and deaths under their supervision to County Auditors. On July 1, 1907, the State took over....[8]


See Washington Online Genealogy Records for indexes.
Also see .

    • See what genealogical information may be in these records.
    • Includes Death registers 1890-1904; Death returns 1891-1907; Bellingham death registers 1904-1915; Obituaries 1889-1995.
  • Washington State Digital Archives also has a database of Whatcom County Death Records containing the names and death records of people who died or whose deaths were recorded in Whatcom County from 1891 to 1907.

Voting Registers[edit | edit source]


Websites[edit | edit source]

Sites with online indexes or images of records
WAGenWeb Whatcom County Free Data may be submitted by individuals or complete transcriptions
USGenWeb Free Data may be submitted by individuals or may be complete transcriptions
Washington State Digital Archives Free Includes indexes, some linked to images.
  • Type county name, click Search, then select a collection.
  • Collections were posted to the appropriate headings for this Wiki page in December, 2013.
FamilySearch Historical Collections Free Search indexes or browse images at FamilySearch.org.
  • Click "Last Updated." Collections through December 2013 have been posted to the appropriate topics for this Wiki page.
Sites that search for links pertaining to Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy
Websites at RootsWeb -Whatcom WA Free Data may be submitted by individuals or may be complete transcriptions
Linkpendium Free Click links. Some sites they link to may have fees ($)
CyndisList Free Click links. Some sites they link to may have fees ($)
StateofUS.com Free "Whatcom County, Washington Facts" (mis-labeled "Whatcom County, Alabama Facts")
Major catalogs for hard copy collections of Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy
Books, microfilm, or manuscripts of genealogical records
FamilySearch catalog Select topics. To select towns, add a comma to the search box.
WorldCat To find nearby libraries that have specific items, see WorldCat Online Catalog.
Allen County Public Library (Indiana)
See also local libraries and Washington Archives and Libraries

Archives, Libraries, etc.[edit | edit source]

See also a List of Washington Archives, Libraries, Publications, Historical & Genealogical Societies  

Resources for Whatcom County, Washington Genealogy are available in libraries, archives, and other repositories at all levels: the town, the county, the state (including universities), and the nation.

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

Family History Center and Affiliate Library Locator map - search for local Family History Centers or Affiliate Libraries

  • Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance, free access to center-only databases, and to premium genealogical websites.
  • FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries have access to most center-only databases, but may not always have full services normally provided by a family history center.

Local Centers and Affiliate Libraries

Libraries[edit | edit source]

Local public libraries—even smaller ones—often have Unique Genealogical Collections that are not online for the area they serve. Many libraries in Washington have an area dedicated to local history and genealogy.

Branches, locations and hours
  • Whatcom County Library System
Branches, locations, and hours
Museums[edit | edit source]


Societies[edit | edit source]

P.O. Box 1493
Bellingham, WA 98227-1493

Populated Places[edit | edit source]

For a complete list of populated places, including small neighborhoods and suburbs, visit Hometown Locator. The following are the most historically and genealogically relevant populated places in this county:[9]

Unincorporated communities
  • Beach
  • Blue Canyon
  • Cedarville
  • Chuckanut
  • Clearbrook
  • Clipper
  • Dewey
  • Diablo
  • Saxon
  • Van Buren
  • Van Wyck
  • Van Zandt
  • Wahl
  • Welcome
  • Wickersham
Native American communities
Census-designated places
Ghost towns
  • Park

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Whatcom County, Washington," in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whatcom_County,_Washington. accessed 18/07/2019
  2. The Evolution of Washington Counties by Newton Carl Abbott, Fred E. Carver, 1979. Published by the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society and Klickitat County Genealogical Society.
  3. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).
  4. John H. Long, Atlas of Historical County Boundaries (Chicago: Newberry Library, 2006) online.
  5. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Whatcom County, Washington . Page 732-735 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002; Alice Eichholz, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, Third ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 733-734.
  6. John H. Long, Atlas of Historical County Boundaries (Chicago: Newberry Library, 2006) online.
  7. Washington State Archives - Digital Archives, Birth Records, About this Collection
  8. About Death Records at Washington State Digital Archives.
  9. Wikipedia contributors, "Whatcom County, Washington," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whatcom_County,_Washington, accessed 26 March 2019.