Recent Posts

04 October 2017

Judy G. Russell Event: A Smashing Success!

If you weren't able to make it, then check out the photos and see what you missed. Come to our next big event - make plans now to attend our upcoming Blaine Bettinger, aka The Genetic Genealogist, event in March 2018. It should be available on our Eventbrite site by mid-October. 

What happened
Judy G. Russell, aka The Legal Genealogist, was the featured guest lecturer for our September 23rd all-day seminar at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.  It was a wonderful genealogy event!  If you're not familiar with her, then check out one of her recent posts which highlighted our genealogical collections and resources at our genealogy library.

The California Genealogical Society (CGS) had tons of committed volunteers, thanks to Volunteer Coordinator Kathleen Beitiks. Add in a great venue, delicious food, a friendly vibe and a speaker with so much to talk about and we got genealogy magic that day. Many attendees commented on how much they enjoyed the day. The great photos you see were shot by member Ron Madson---thank you Ron!

A special thank you goes to Mary Mettler, a long-term member of CGS and a member of La Puerta de Oro–San Francisco Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) of San Francisco, California. Mary's commitment to genealogy and her generosity (helping to underwrite the event) benefitted all who attended.

See you at the next event!

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

02 October 2017

Stories & Tips for A Genealogy Road Trip

by Chris Pattillo

My Genealogy Journey
One month after retiring I embarked on a 2 ½ month cross-country trip. I drove over 9000 miles through 19 states and did family history research in Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia. Along the way, I visited six county courthouses in four states, sixteen libraries, and made 3390 copies of pages of documents. Sounds tiring, right? I was exhilarated!

During the trip I found several people who helped me find family graves and clues to my family history. One encounter led to a small rural burial plot where my 2nd great grandmother is buried. While in Albany, Texas I found one small clue that enabled me to break down my tallest brick wall – one I’d been trying to topple for over 15 years. 

It was a remarkable trip filled with amusing stories and tales about how dogged determination led to genealogical treasures. Come hear my tales and be inspired to make your own genealogy journey on October 14th from 1pm - 3pm, right after our The California Genealogical society's quarterly membership meeting and Annual Genie Awards!  

Catch up with what happened before the talk by visiting my blog and read about what I experienced. The blog archive is located near the bottom right of the homepage with posts arranged by month.  I can't wait to share with you what I learned!  

About the Speaker

Chris Pattillo first became interested in family history research when she toured the then new Mormon Temple in Oakland in 1963. She started her research while on a family vacation in the late 60s and has continued to work on it in fits and starts ever since. After running her own Landscape Architecture firm for 40 years, Chris retired last April and spent two and a half months traveling across the United States, visiting Texas, Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina where her Pattillo ancestors are from. 

She has self-published four family history books and now writes the Pattillo-Thornally Family History blog. Chris has had a few articles published in the CGS quarterly – The Nugget, and since her trip has had articles published in an Albany, Texas newspaper and the Watauga Association of Genealogists bulletin in Tennessee.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

27 September 2017

Do You Dream of Genie?

by Kathleen Beitiks

It’s almost time for our intrepid California Genealogical Society (CGS) President, Linda Okazaki, to don her shiny gold lame’ turban and present the coveted “Genie Awards” to a special group of volunteers who “make magic happen” at CGS!

CGS members are invited to attend the annual awards presentation and Fall Membership meeting on Saturday, October 14th, noon, in the library, 2201 Broadway, Suite LL2, Oakland, CA. 

Our mystical master of ceremonies will present golden “magic lamps” to members who have been singled out for their dedication to CGS and its mission to help people trace and compile their family histories.

In addition to updates about CGS, members also will hear some tall tales about former board member and current Capital Campaign Chair Chris Pattillo’s 2.5 months long, summer genealogy road trip. 

While on this amazing journeyChris found one small clue that enabled her to break down her tallest brick wall – one she’d been trying to topple for over 15 years!  Please register today for this wonderful talk.

Bring a bag lunch (drinks and dessert will be provided), mingle with old and new friends, and help us celebrate the contributions of our volunteers. Questions? Please contact Kathleen Beitiks.  We can't wait to see you!

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

Finding Your Japanese Roots in the U.S. and in Japan

Are you a Nikkei who is ready to document your family history? Do you want to find those WRA camp files, Enemy Alien files, or other records from WWII? Do you wonder if Obāchan was a picture bride? Or if Ojīchan was arrested and sent to a Department of Justice camp? Are you a genealogist who wants to know about different record groups? Or are you helping a Japanese American friend with their genealogy? Come learn how to find your Japanese roots.

Please join California Genealogical Society president, Linda Harms Okazaki, as she presents: 

Finding Your Japanese Roots in the U.S. and in Japan

Saturday, October 28, 2017
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m

California Genealogical Society and Library
2201 Broadway, Suite LL2
Oakland, California 94612

$40 for non-members (non-refundable)
Free for CGS members

Register on Eventbrite

Part I of the three-hour seminar will be a brief overview of Japanese culture, history and language as it pertains to family history. Records available through the National Archives, USCIS,, and will be covered. 

Topics will include: 
  • the early political climate in the U.S. and laws of the time
  • internment camps
  • post WWII experiences, repatriation, resettlement, and redress
The second half of the seminar will focus on documenting your ancestors in Japan, from using the information in the American records to finding your koseki, understanding ohaka and kakocho, plus visiting relatives, cemeteries and temples.

This seminar is suitable for all levels of research experience.

Limited to thirty participants; the fee may be applied towards membership on the day of the class.

Please visit our Eventbrite page to register for this seminar. Preregistration is required. Confirmations and a parking permit will be sent to the first thirty registrants.

Participants are invited to come early and meet others who share an interest in Japanese research. Use our computers, browse in our library, or bring a bagged lunch and meet at the library before the session. The library is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

26 September 2017

Dismissed from the Union Army

by Georgia Lupinsky

Personal stories abound in Frederick S. (“Rick”) Sherman’s beautifully narrated genealogy book, The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen.  One such story is that of his maternal great-grandfather, Robert Morris Copeland, an accomplished landscape architect. One of his early projects was the design of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, where Ralph Waldo Emerson was the principal speaker at its dedication.

A Sign of Things to Come
However, one episode in 1862 marked Copeland and his family deeply.  Was an event twelve years prior, a precursor to this dark time in his life? In 1850, while a student at Harvard, Copeland was “rusticated” (temporarily suspended) for part of his junior year, due to an alleged lack of respect for the faculty.  Though this apparent challenge to authority put Copeland in good company (earlier British students who had been “rusticated” included renowned poets John Milton, John Dryden and Percy Bysshe Shelley), it did not bode well for a future challenge he was to make.

Volunteers for the Union Army
Shortly after the Civil War began, Copeland volunteered for the Union Army and “likely because of his education, family connections and upbringing, immediately secured a lieutenant’s commission. He was then quickly promoted to major, serving as Asst. Adjutant General to Major General Nathaniel Banks, "Commander of the 2nd Massachusetts.” This regiment was sent to Harpers Ferry and on into the Shenandoah Valley, where it was opposed by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.

In the spring of 1862, Copeland believed that the Union forces under Banks had a wonderful opportunity to combine with those of John C. Fremont and rout Jackson’s forces. However, orders came from Washington for Banks “to fall back and send half his forces to Fredericksburg.” Major General Banks was prepared to follow  orders, but Copeland was so agitated that he persuaded Banks to send him to Washington to explain the situation to Secretary of War Stanton. This stance along with other unwise steps taken by Copeland during this period so enraged Stanton that he dismissed Copeland from the service on 6 August 1862. 

Effort to Clear His Name
Learning of his dismissal by reading of it in a newspaper, Copeland was stunned by this action and spent the next eight years trying to clear his name. He even obtained a personal interview with President Lincoln, who essentially told him “that if he took time to worry about all the grievances of individual officers, he would have none left to run the country.” 

Life After the Army
After his involuntary separation from the Army, Copeland resumed his family life in the beautiful area of West Castleton, Vermont and his career as a landscape architect, completing many worthwhile projects in New England and Pennsylvania. Finally, when Grant became President, he issued a new order in 1870, declaring that Major Copeland was honorably discharged. As the news of Grant’s decision reached Copeland’s neighbors, they celebrated their friend by building bonfires on all the hilltops around West Castleton.

Robert and Josephine Copeland with children, undated:
Robert Morris Copeland seated with William, Ella (in back),
Josephine Gannett (Kent) Copeland and Fred

An Early Death

Robert Morris Copeland died of cancer on 28 March 1874 at the age of 44. He was buried next to a pine tree in the Mt. Feake Cemetery in Waltham, Massachusetts, a cemetery he had designed in 1859. 

Copeland’s descendants continued to write in defense of his service, beliefs and actions during the Civil War. Granddaughter Margaret (Copeland) Blatchford produced an article entitled “Out of Step in the Civil War.” And, almost one hundred years after his great-grandfather’s dismissal, great-grandson Frederick W. Copeland’s article “The Righteous Major” appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1961.

The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen never disappoints in providing heartfelt stories of those who lived before and also provides insights into historical events that they experienced.  The book may be purchased on our website,, by clicking the Publications tab and selecting the title. The price is $37.95 for non-members and $28.46 for members.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society