OLYMPIA…Have you ever wanted to explore your family’s history but don’t know how? Are you into genealogy and want to learn more about this increasingly popular activity?
The State Archives is hosting an event on January 30 that is open to the public and designed specifically with genealogy and history buffs in mind.
Called the “Ruddell Riddle,” this free event will use exhibits and workshops provided by State Archives and State Library staff to explore the history of the Ruddells, one of Thurston County’s most influential pioneer families.
Secretary of State Sam Reed said the event will show visitors the wide array of resources and information that the State Archives, State Library and Washington State Heritage Center make available to the public, especially those interested in genealogy or Washington history.
“Many Olympia-area residents are familiar with Ruddell Road, but they might not know the Ruddells’ history and how they became an important pioneer family here,” Reed said. “By coming to our State Archives and hearing the remarkable story of this family, people can learn more about this family’s impact on the Northwest and how they can research and preserve their own family’s heritage.”
The State Archives, State Library, Washington State Heritage Center, local heritage organizations and volunteer genealogists are collaborating on the project.
The open house will feature historic photographs and documents dating back to the 1800s. Some Ruddell descendants will share photos and stories about their family history.
“We're inviting Ruddell family members from around the nation, as well as people interested in learning about researching family history. It will be one part Ruddell family celebration and one part genealogy and local history lesson. If you want to explore your family history, this event is for you” Reed said.
About 30 Ruddell descendants, living in Elma, Sequim, Mount Vernon, Raymond, East Wenatchee and Yakima, as well as Oregon and California, already have indicated they will be at the event, with more anticipated to attend.
“The Ruddells are one of many pioneering families who made their mark in this state,” said State Archivist Jerry Handfield. “Their inspiring story is just one story among millions and it demonstrates clearly the value of preserving our basic legal and historical records so future generations can learn more about the people and events that shaped Washington’s early years as a territory and state.”
Here is the event’s itinerary: 9 – 10 a.m. – Open house, with tours of Archives Building. Coffee, juice and pastries provided.
10 – 10:20 a.m. – Remarks by Secretary Reed, Assistant Secretary of State Steve Excell, State Archivist Jerry Handfield and State Librarian Jan Walsh
10:20 – 11:15 a.m. – Stories of the Ruddell family from Ruddell descendants.
11:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Workshop: Finding Families: an Introduction to Genealogy. Using the Digital Archives' online resources.
12 – 12:45 p.m. – Lunch (box lunches must be ordered in advance for $10 apiece. To order, go to http://www.sos.wa.gov/heritage/RuddellRSVP.aspx .
12:45 – 1:15 p.m. – Workshop: Starting your family history. Researching your home.
1:15 – 1:45 p.m. – Workshop: Capturing the oral histories of your family.
1:45 – 2 p.m. – Concluding remarks by Steve Excell and Jerry Handfield with Ruddell family members who wish to participate.
2 – 2:30 p.m. – Shuttle/bus ride or drive to Pioneer Cemetery on Ruddell Road.
2:30 – 3 p.m. – Wreath-laying ceremony at Stephen Duley Ruddell's grave at Pioneer Cemetery.
The State Archives is located in Olympia at 1129 Washington St. SE, one block east of Capitol Way S. The State Archives is a division of the Office of Secretary of State.
Ruddell history The Ruddell family has a long and eventful history, dating back to colonial times. Stephen Ruddell was born in Virginia in 1768. His father, Isaac Ruddell, moved the family to Kentucky in 1774 or 1775. In June 1780, Indian forces attacked a fort located at Ruddell Martin Station, Kentucky, placing most of the captured party among the Shawnee and Deleware tribes. Most of those captured were freed, except for Stephen Ruddell and his brother, Abraham.
Stephen Ruddell lived with the Shawnee tribe for 15 years. He was raised in the same village as Tecumseh, who later became a Shawnee chief who led his tribe in a war against U.S. forces in 1812. Stephen Ruddell and Tecumseh became friends. Stephen Ruddell later became a Baptist preacher, converting many Shawnees to Christianity.
One of Rev. Ruddell’s sons, Stephen Duley Ruddell, moved to Washington territory with his family. They settled in Thurston County in 1852, farming its land on Chambers Prairie.
Stephen Duley Ruddell was Washington’s first territorial assessor, a county commissioner for two terms, and served one term in the state Legislature. According to the Thurston County Historic Commission, Ruddell died in 1891.