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26 September 2018

CGS Library Collections: California, Part 2

This book on Alameda County notes that the
county seat is "Oakland the Athens of the Pacific"
Second in a 3-part series. For a fuller listing of our books, journals, and more, consult the CGS Library catalog. Our catalog is also listed in WorldCat.


For Part 2 of a look at our California collection, I decided to explore the large portion devoted to books about California counties. I  focused on five counties where my ancestors lived. I did this as a way of demonstrating what is available in the CGS library that may be of use to other family history researchers – what can be learned about common citizens with no particular claim to fame.

I thought I had narrowed my choices, but it turns out I was overly optimistic! Our library has so many books for the counties where my ancestors have lived that it is way too much to tackle in one blog post. When I thought I was nearly finished looking at books I turned around to find a large section of books on California cities and a very large collection of San Francisco books.

This 1957 Telephone Directory is with the county
books and revealed a few facts about my family
I hadn't known before.
All four of my great-grandfathers arrived in California between 1870 and 1910. My Pattillo great-grandfather James William Pattillo arrived in California by 1887 and lived first in Los Angeles County. By 1920 he was in Fresno County, and he died in Alameda County, so I looked at each of these counties. I know that one maternal great-grandfather, William Gilliat Thornally, was naturalized in San Francisco in 1876. William and his wife, Mary, also lived in Alameda County. My other maternal great-grandfather, Heinrich Menge, was in San Francisco County by 1884 and moved to Alameda County by 1888. Last to arrive was paternal great-grandfather George Vetter, who applied for a marriage license in Los Angeles County in 1910. Contra Costa County is among the places my four grandparents lived, and I had a grand uncle who spent time in Marin County, under rather unusual circumstances.

Alameda County
I started with Alameda County and found 34 books plus one box of newsletters from the Alameda County Historical Society. A telephone book from 1957, confirmed that my family was living at 8450 Alma Avenue which tells me that our street address was changed sometime after 1957 – just an interesting tidbit. I also noted that Daughtry’s Department Store, where my mother worked for thirty-five years, was located at 7464 Castro Valley Boulevard. She started working there in 1950. In the mid-1960s, the store moved to a new location.
A large collection of Blue Books for Los Angeles
A copy of the 1890 Great Register of Alameda County voters gives proof that two of my great-grandfathers were living in Alameda County at that time and provides a number of personal details. William Thornally, aged 40, was living in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Fruitvale (now part of Oakland). He registered on August 6, 1890, and was a naturalized citizen. Henry Menge, aged 38, was living in Oakland. He registered on October 17, 1890, and was also naturalized.

I also found burial records for the San Lorenzo Pioneer Cemetery, indexed by the Hayward Historical Society. This source confirmed that James Pattillo (misspelled Pattello) died on August 13, 1926, and was one of the burials from Fairmont Hospital.

Poultry Farms dot the Castro Valley (where I grew up some years later)
Two other items of interest to me are a biography of H.C. Capwell – founder of the Capwell department store where my Mom worked before Daughtrey’s, and where my father used to go to flirt with her before they were married. I had heard that Castro Valley had chicken farms – I found photographic proof in a photograph labeled "Chicken Farms in Castro Valley."

High-quality portrait of Adolphus
Busch from The County of Los Angeles
Los Angeles County 
Moving on to Los Angeles County, I found nineteen books in our collection. Two contained information about my family. The 1890 Great Register for Los Angeles lists James W. Pattillo, who was then 41 and living at 3443 Delmonte. The County of Los Angeles, published by the American Historical Society in 1923, contains a biography of Adolphus Busch and a story about Busch Gardens. This is another of the many books in the Dorman collection. It piqued my interest because I have a few photographs of my family taken when they visited Busch Gardens more than a century ago. 


One of a few photos I own of my Pattillo ancestors
picnicking in Busch Gardens in Los Angeles County
Fresno County 
There are thirteen books for Fresno County, including a "centennial almanac" published in 1856, histories, biographies, and the quarterly bulletin of the Fresno County Historical Society. I did not find anything about my Pattillo family members who lived there for about nine years.

WWI Monument in
Pleasant Hill
Contra Costa County 
I did not find any family connections in the Contra Costa County section, either, but I did find a photo of the WWI memorial in Pleasant Hill, printed in the book Old Times in Contra Costa County by Robert Doras Tatam. This gives me an opportunity for a sidebar story: One of my other personal passions is cultural landscapes. In 2006, I started a national program called the HALS Challenge which is now run by the National Park Service. Its purpose is to document cultural landscapes. The theme of this year’s challenge was to document landscapes associated with WWI memorials. I chose to write about the WWI Veteran’s Memorial in Pleasant Hill – the one you can see from interstate 680. To learn about the history of the site I drove to the Pleasant Hill library. Well, it turns out I could have saved myself time by just tapping the books in the CGS Library. The point of sharing this story is to tell you that you can use our library for more than just family history research.

Marin County
Finally, I browsed the Marin County collection, because I knew my granduncle Elmer Pattillo spent one year there in 1923-24. The proof can be found in San Quentin Prison List of Convicts from 1851 to 1939.

My granduncle Elmer spent a year in Marin
County as a resident of San Quentin


Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

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