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18 September 2018

The Apple Tree Parable

A neighbor's apple tree
A neighbor's tree inspired Stewart Traiman's thoughts about our assumptions

CGS Board Member Stewart Blandòn Traiman has recently launched his blog, Speaker for the Dead. Check out his post "The Apple Tree: A Genealogy Parable," which illustrates the value of challenging our first assumptions and taking a closer look at evidence.

There may be another parable implicit in the image of the grafted tree. Traiman is interested in the many ways families are constructed beyond the standard mother-father-biological child paradigm. In June, he taught a class on LGBTQ genealogy. His next course, "Excel for Genealogists," will be offered in December.

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

17 September 2018

Report from the field: The Allen County Library Trip

The Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library

Last month, CGS led a research trip to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It ran concurrently with the annual meeting of the Federal of Genealogical Societies. This year for the first time the trip was restricted to intermediate-level researchers. Everyone worked independently but there was a lot of networking and helping one another.

Led by CGS past president Jane Lindsey, the trip yielded some new discoveries for participants. Lavinia Schwarz, current researcher for the Cresap Family Association, was able to extend one of her long-neglected early female ancestors’ lines.  Kate Black was visiting the library for the first time and was so excited with the records available to her there. Wendy Polivka, Pat Smith, Sandy Fryer, Linda Darby, Alison Shedd, Kath Merilo, and Diana Edwards all were taking advantage of the unique resources at this library, the largest public genealogical library in the country. It holds more than 513,000 rolls of microfilm and 55,000 compiled genealogy volumes, as well as privately published family histories, an impressive collection of state and territorial censuses, and much more.

The gang: Diana Edwards, Pat Smith, Lavinia Schwarz, Kath Merilo, Wendy Polivka, Linda Darby, Alison Shedd, Sandy Fryer. Not shown: Kate Black. Photo: Jane Lindsey
We had dinner together every night. (Jane Lindsey notes, “Since my last trip there about eight years ago, the restaurants available have greatly improved!”) Regular breakfasts together at the hotel also provided more time for networking, and on Sunday morning we all gathered to brainstorm until the library opened at noon.

Trip leader and "mother hen" Jane Lindsey hoists a glass after a hard day of research
August is thunderstorm season in Indiana. Two members had flights delayed by a day due to the weather, and we had a few storms while we were in the library, too. Fortunately we didn’t have to go out in them!
For more than 10 years, CGS has organized research trips to this invaluable repository. We trust the tradition will continue.

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

15 September 2018

California Nugget is here!

The California Nugget, Vol. X, Issue 1

Our latest Nugget is out, with a poignant cover story by Stewart Blandòn Traiman. "Geraldine, Who Are You?" describes how Traiman's research into his adopted son's birth family uncovered a multi-generational history of child abandonment. The magazine also includes Darcie Hind Posz's article about chasing probate records across two countries and the Territory of Hawaii; Ellen Fernandez-Sacco's exploration of her family's ties to slavery in Puerto Rico; and Part 3 of Lavinia Schwarz's study on "Reading Records Right." Richard Rands has contributed an article on managing genealogical data with 21st century technology.

And yes, this is the "Spring 2018" issue. Due to a number of snags, we fell behind in our publication schedule this year. We will catch up with a third, "Fall 2018" issue, published before the end of the year, and resume the regular Spring/Fall schedule in 2019.

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

14 September 2018

The Genealogy Collection at Los Angeles Central Library: A Worthwhile Adventure!

By Annie Brenneis
The Los Angeles Library Central Branch
The popularity of the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree has helped direct well-deserved attention to their impressive Family Research Library in Burbank. As a native of Southern California who often makes the trek down I-5 to visit family, many of my own research hours have been spent combing SCGS’s stacks. Los Angeles also boasts a sizeable FamilySearch outpost, of course, but there is one significant genealogy center in Southern California that seems to be undeservedly underutilized! 

West entrance frieze depicts passing the torch of knowledge
In my late teens and young adulthood, while still living in L.A. County, the Los Angeles Central Library was a frequent haunt for this bookworm. Its destruction by fire in 1986 left me quite bereft, but I am happy to report that over the years the L.A. Central Library phoenix has had an impressive rebirth! With seven floors of books and copious other resources available for the inquisitive public, the Richard J. Riordan Central Library (its official name) is “the largest public research library west of the Mississippi,” according to the Self-Guided Tour pamphlet PDF available on their website. 

If you visit LAPL’s Central Library main page and click on the Docent Tours link found near the top of the left side-bar, you will see a schedule of daily tours of the library’s gorgeous art collections, garden, and architecture, along with a link to the Self-Guided Tour pamphlet. If you look back at the Central Library main page, under Planning Your Visit, you will find a link to a PDF of their immensely useful Floor Map. 

Once you have basked a bit in the library’s inspirational surroundings, you can take either the elevator or escalator down to the History and Genealogy floor, Lower Level 4. At the top left of the Central Library main web page, click on Collections & Resources and then Research Guides, where you will find the link to a full-page rundown of the History and Genealogy Department’s holdings. 

The beautiful glass-ceilinged atrium
Highlights of L.A. Central’s Genealogy collection of about 45,000 titles include City Directories on microfilm and microfiche from all over the country (some L.A. directories available digitally); U.S. Telephone Directories on paper and microfiche; about 10,000 family histories; and books on Heraldry and Coats of Arms, including Hispanic and German, with a card index of family names. Their map collection is extensive, with all of the USGS topographical maps and a great number of gazetteers and atlases. A perusal of their U.S. and International Genealogy Reference shelves reveals a remarkable array of titles. Having their History collection on the same floor is convenient for background and contextual research. No wonder I keep going back! 

An extra perk at L.A. Central: their very easy-to-use free scanners. Not every floor has one, so you need to ask a librarian where they are, but they produce very clear images that can be stored on a thumb drive or, even better, emailed directly from the machine. 

The library has a nice gift shop that is worth a visit. There is a small, unimpressive food court in the lobby, but it is much nicer to pack a sandwich to eat in the library garden when you need a break. 

Rotunda with murals by Dean Cornwell
The only downside of the L.A. Central Library is its inner-city location. As expected, there are uniformed security personnel at each entrance, but they are as welcoming as they are watchful, and the entire library staff does an excellent job of cultivating a safe atmosphere. The real challenge for patrons is downtown traffic. They have a paid parking lot, and last time I used it the cost was $9 with validation that required my L.A. library card. However, I do not recommend driving in downtown L.A., especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. 

The Central Library main page has a Directions link that includes tips for using L.A. Metro public transit. I think the most fun way to the Central Library is to take a MetroLink train into Union Station and then hop onto the DASH bus B toward the Financial District for the short ride to Grand Avenue and 5th Street. The train ticket includes free use of connecting buses—just show it to the driver. The DASH bus B toward Chinatown takes you back to Union Station, where Historic Olvera Street is right nearby. It's wonderful for a stroll, a little shopping, and some tasty Mexican food. I recommend stopping for taquitos at the Olvera Street food stand where they were invented--Cielito Lindo!

Annie Brenneis is a genealogist, researcher, and writer who lives in northern California. Her website is

@Copyright 2018 California Genealogical Society

08 September 2018

NEHGS Roadshow in Oakland September 21-22: Auction items needed, sign up for seminar and consultations!

By now you have probably heard a lot about the New England Historic and Genealogical Society's "Roadshow," coming Saturday, September 22 to the Oakland Hilton. The gala event features NEHGS experts Robert Charles Anderson and Christopher Child. They will discuss the genealogical and ideological connections among the Puritans who settled New England, the settlement and migrations within early New England, offer valuable research strategies for breaking down genealogical brick walls, and talk about ongoing scholarly contributions to the field of study.

The daylong event includes lunch, door prizes, and a silent auction. Our auction items include: a beautiful handmade quilt, a guided tour of genealogical hot spots in Seattle, research hours by our research team, fun gift baskets, and more. We can still use a few one-of-a-kind auction items, so if you have products or services you'd like to donate, please email Jane Lindsey with your suggestions as soon as possible.

On Friday, September 21, CGS offers one-on-one genealogy consultations at the Library. We still have a few spots available, so sign up soon!

We hope to see lots of our members at the event!

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society