Recent Posts

02 April 2020

Our first online class: "Blogging to share family history"

blog post image
A recent blog post by Chris Pattillo

We recently shared a list of online webinars and related genealogical activities that can be accessed from home. Now CGS is joining the online learning community with our first class: "Blogging to share family history" with Chris Pattillo on Thursday, April 9. This presentation is free to all.

Chris, who blogs about her family at Pattillo Thornally Ancestors, will talk about using the easy platform and offer tips and tricks for tackling family stories and putting them into words. The presentation starts at 10 am. If you join, please sign in by 9:45 to make sure you are able to see the program. We will send you a link the night before the class, which will get you right into our class.

To register and for more details, go to our EventBrite listing.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

01 April 2020

Quarantine Quests: A Hobby With Infinite Possibilities

Chris Pattillo writes:

It’s times like these when I most appreciate being interested in family history research because I can do it from anywhere and the possibilities of how to spend my time are infinite. Now that I have so much extra time while I shelter-at-home, it is nice to enjoy a hobby that keeps me engaged endlessly. There’s no fear of feeling lonely when I am able to find new ancestors and share my discoveries with my siblings and cousins.
From your Ancestry account, look for ThruLines
on the DNA tab, then select "Filters" to view matches.

Two days ago, I was poking around on my Ancestry account on the ThruLines page, which is under the DNA tab, and I noticed for the first time a button labeled “Filters.” I clicked on that and saw a category for “Potential Ancestors.” What I found when I clicked on that choice is something I’ve been pursuing fervently for the past three years – ever since I nailed down my third-great-grandparents Hiram W. Gaines and Hulda Waller, while I was on my 2017 Genealogy Journey and traveling in the Southern United States–South Carolina to be exact.

Ever since that find, I’ve been seeking Hiram’s parents. I have worked pretty hard on this. Various searches led me to well-documented trees for Hiram Gaines (1725-1805) married to Margaret Teliaferro (1775-1783), but no matter how hard I tried I could not prove a connection to this family. These trees included several Hiram Gaineses. As it's a somewhat unusual name, I felt certain this was my family, but I could find no proof and did find negative clues that showed that I was wrong. Has this ever happened to you?
This screenshot shows me with a DNA connection to William S. Gaines

But the beauty of DNA is that it does not lie. ThruLines told me I have a DNA connection to William Shanklin Gaines (1757-1851) and that he is my fourth-great-grandfather: the man I have most wanted to find for three years. As a bonus, it also showed a DNA connection to his father, Hiram T. Gaines, my fifth-great-grandfather! Needless to say, I was pretty excited to find this but before I shared my discovery with others I thought I should make sure it was right, so I called CGS member Vinnie Schwarz and asked her about it. She confirmed that I could trust ThruLines. This is something I appreciate about CGS. I am grateful to be able to reach out to other CGS members, who are more knowledgeable than I am, and to be able to ask for guidance and confirmation. It is one of the best and most valuable things about being a member of our society–especially at times like these.

Have you made any big discoveries while you have been staying at home? Let us know and we will share your story.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

COVID-19 update: Library closed through May 6, Salt Lake City trip canceled

President Jim Sorenson has issued this update:

"The closure of the CGS library has been extended through May 6. All CGS classes and events have been canceled through the end of May. However, we are working on having some classes conducted via remote access; the first of these will be on April 9. Among the events canceled are the CGS research trip to Salt Lake City. Refunds are being issued for all canceled classes and events. 

I'm sure everyone knows that the closure and cancellations are a dynamic process and we can not say for sure when CGS will be able to resume normal operations at either the CGS library or the Oakland FamilySearch Library. The health of our patrons and volunteers is of paramount importance to us."

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

31 March 2020

The Census: It Ain't What it Used to Be

image: United States Census Bureau

Wednesday, April 1, is the deadline for all U.S. households to respond to the 2020 census.  If you somehow haven't gotten around to it, Uncle Sam will soon be in contact (though the current pandemic situation will have an impact on operations). Of course, you really want to respond to this once-in-a-decade survey, because it's essential to get an accurate count of residents in each of the 50 United States and its five territories: population determines how much funding local communities receive and how many seats each state gets in Congress.

It's super easy to fill out your census questionnaire this year: you can do it either online, by mail, or by phone. If you've already filled out your form, you probably noticed how short it is. The 2020 census consists of just 9 questions. It asks the name, sex, and birth date of every person in the household, whether the home is owned or rented, and the relationship of household members to one another. There are two questions about race and ethnicity: one for those of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, and another for all other races, with a subcategory for the respondent's self-identified ethnic origin(s). This is likely to produce a huge variety of responses. For a fascinating look at the country's history of recording race, see this article from the Pew Research Center: "The changing categories the U.S. census has used to measure race."

Genealogists who've scoured earlier censuses for clues to an ancestor's place of birth, education, occupation, or date of immigration may find the current census sadly lacking in detail. Genealogist Judy Russell recently mused about this in a post at her Legal Genealogist blog. In fact, this is nothing new: the 2010 census was similarly brief. The government ditched the long-form questionnaire after 2000, opting instead for the American Community Survey, which is sent out every year to a small percentage of the population. It's a safe bet that most of us who are counted in this year's census won't be around when those records are unsealed in 2092. By then, genealogists will surely rely on different sources and records for their research.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

25 March 2020

An Update from the CGS President

As most of you know, the CGS library has been closed since March 12 and we have canceled all public CGS activities through the end of April. Fortunately, many of our volunteers are able to work from home. The library closure and cancellation of classes may continue into May. Please check our website: for the current status. These are extraordinary times for CGS and this closure is unprecedented in the memory of any of us–but I’m sure you’re aware of why we have taken these steps. Due to the age demographic in the genealogy community, CGS will remain on the cautious side of any government mandates. Although I am not aware of any library or class attendees having tested positive for the coronavirus aka COVID-19, the threat is real and we are concerned for the health and safety of our patrons, friends and volunteers.

Individually, we will come through this and CGS will come through this. We are already planning the transition back to normal CGS operations on the other side although when that transition will start is unknown at this point. Rescheduling of canceled classes or events will have to be coordinated with the instructors and the calendar of events at each venue. We appreciate your support and understanding as we go down this road. The library closure will cause some disruption in our processing of membership dues renewals but we will not drop any members for non-payment of dues until the end of June. Rather than having individuals cancel their class registration, rest assured that all fees paid will be refunded for classes or events if they have been canceled.

I think most genealogists have tasks that have been put aside until someday when they have more time. Well, that time has come for many of us. It’s a good time to organize your family history files. I’ve started writing a narrative history for each of my grandparents based on years of accumulated information. And after that, I have to complete work on eight great-grandparents. Those narratives can be revised if new information is discovered but this is a great time to get started.

Jim Sorenson, President

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society