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27 December 2007

CGS Annual Membership Meeting - 1/12/2008

The Annual Membership Meeting of the California Genealogical Society will be held on Saturday, January 12, 2008, at 1:30 p.m., at the CGS Library (2201 Broadway at 22nd, Suite LL2, Oakland, CA). Please join CGS President, Jane Lindsey, for a quick review of the society's accomplishments in 2007 and a look forward to what's in store for 2008, our 110th year of helping people find their roots.

This important session will include Colleen Huntley's power point presentation on the history of the society, an update on our Web site and blog, brief committee reports, approval of the society budget and election of new board members. There will be time for questions and answers.

The annual meeting is always well attended so arrive early to get a front seat, see old friends and meet some new ones. Light refreshments will be available before the meeting at 12:30 p.m.

26 December 2007

Some free advice from Maureen

I'm just back from a holiday vacation and while catching up with the various genealogy blogs, I found some great advice in a recent post to 24-7 Family History Circle. Maureen A. Taylor, the Photo Detective, wrote Saving Your Family Treasures: Four Destructive Habits.

Maureen, who will be our special guest lecturer at the California Genealogical Society and Library 110th Celebration, on February 9, 2008, tells how mishandling, poor storage, laminating and mislabeling practices can harm our family photographs.

Maureen has also submitted a sneak preview of her detective skills to Roots Television. In her 4 1/2 minute slide show Solved by the Photo Detective!, Taylor guides us through three examples as she describes in her own voice the clues she used to analyze photos of a building facade, an immigrant woman and her own grandmother.

14 December 2007

CGS Celebrates 110 years with The Photo Detective

The California Genealogical Society and Library will celebrate 110 years of helping people find their roots at a day-long program with Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective at the Concord Hilton on Saturday, February 9, 2008, from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Maureen will present four seminars exploring ways to identify and preserve photographs to enhance our family history:

Tales from The Photo Detective
Identifying and Dating Family Photos
Preserving Family Photographs
Reading Immigrant Clues in Photos

$45.00 includes all seminars, lunch and a silent auction. Private photo consultations with Maureen are available. Contact CGS in advance to arrange.

Maureen Taylor is a nationally recognized photo identification and family history expert. She is the author of a number of research articles and books, including Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs and Preserving Your Family Photographs: How to Organize, Present, and Restore Your Precious Family Images. Maureen was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal.

For further information about this event, visit the CGS Web site or download the event flyer and reservation form.

For additional information about Maureen visit her website or Photo Detective blog.

13 December 2007

CGS Membership Coffee

Another in a series of CGS membership coffees will be held Thursday, January 24, 2008, from 2-4 p.m. in the Berkeley, Oakland and Piedmont area. Members living in these East Bay communities will be receiving a personal invitation by phone or email. The get-togethers are a fun way to meet members who live locally and are designed to help us link up with others who share similar genealogy research interests. The coffees are also a great way to set up car pools for future CGS meetings, events or research trips. CGS President, Jane Lindsey will give guests an update on current events at the society.

If you live in our target area, please save the date and let us know if you can come. You can also feel free to bring a friend who may be interested in joining our society. Let us know if you need transportation - we can help you arrange a carpool.

The first CGS coffees were held in 2006 in the Lamorinda and Rossmore areas (the latter was jointly hosted with the Mount Diablo Genealogical Society.) Future coffees are planned for members living in San Francisco, Marin, the Peninsula, San Jose, Napa/Sonoma and Sacramento. If you are interested in hosting an event in your area or you would like to help coordinate these events, please contact me at or call the society.

12 December 2007

The Universe of Immigration Records, 1882-1954

The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society presents The Universe of Immigration Records 1882-1954 by noted immigration historian Marian Smith, at its membership meeting on Sunday, January 13, 2008. Dr. Smith's presentation will focus on records of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS, now USCIS) found at the National Archives and in Agency custody. It will begin with an overview of all types of records created and maintained over time, and how these records are distributed between the two agencies. Her talk will also cover the services and records becoming available through the new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Genealogy Program. A question and answer session will address the particular interests and concerns of researchers.

CGS Research Director, Nancy Peterson advises: "One should get there early as seating is somewhat limited. With respect to naturalization and immigration records, Marian is the smartest person in the country. You can check out some of her articles on the NARA Web site."

Time and Place:
Jewish Community High School
1835 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA
Doors open at 12:30 p.m. Lecture begins promply at 1:00. Admission free.
Free parking: enter parking garage from Pierce Street.

Marian Smith is the Senior Historian at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security. She regularly lectures at national and international genealogy conferences on the history and uses of immigration and naturalization records held in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development, preservation and distribution of Jewish genealogical knowledge and material, and the sharing of techniques and tools with others who may be searching their Jewish Roots. The SFBAJGS functions through the voluntary efforts of its members, all of whom are encouraged to participate. The Society is governed by a Board of Directors, according to a set of published bylaws. The SFBAJGS is a member of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) and Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS).

10 December 2007

Two ways to give back

The California Genealogical Society and Library is celebrating our first holiday season at our new address in the Breuner Building at 2201 Broadway in Oakland. It was gratifying to receive this from the Breuner Building Operations Manager, Carly Perez-Banuet:

This holiday season we have two great ways to give back! The first is One Warm Coat. Please bring in any coat you no longer need and One Warm Coat will help distribute back into our surrounding area. You can drop off to security or the management office on the mezzanine level. My goal is to have the final coat pick-up on 12/21/07.
The second is our annual food drive with the Alameda County Food Bank. The food collection bin is set up in the lobby and ideally we will have multiple pick-ups. We will have them pick up once the week of the 17th and one the first week of January. I have attached a wish list of needed foods. You may have also noticed their billboards up in the area…our donations going right back into the community!
* The following is a list of the most needed food items:
  • Canned Fruit and Vegetables
  • Canned Meats and Fish
  • Peanut Butter
  • Pasta
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Canned Soup
  • Dry Cereal and Oatmeal
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Powdered Milk

From the One Warm Coat Web site:

Lois Pavlow created One Warm Coat because she wanted a coat to be given to someone in need. Lois organized the first One Warm Coat drive on Thanksgiving Weekend in 1992 at Union Square in San Francisco, California.

In 2002, Sherri Lewis Wood starting expanding One Warm Coat’s efforts beyond San Francisco so that all who had an interest in donating a coat or hosting a coat drive could easily do so. The impact of these simple and meaningful coat drives makes a difference in the lives of many. Today One Warm Coat drives are held in 49 states across the country from September through March, and include international locations.

From Alameda Counyty Food Bank Web site:

The Alameda County Community Food Bank is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has been serving the community since 1985. As the county's clearinghouse for donated food, the Food Bank provides food assistance for 40,000 low-income Alameda County residents each week, which includes 14,000 children and 7,000 seniors. Most adults served are among the working poor.

  • Provide food to 300 community agencies that serve on-site meals and/or food bags for their clients 
  • Distribute bags of food to school children in need
  • Distribute fresh fruits and vegetables several times a week to member agencies
  • Operate a toll-free hunger helpline that makes over 1,000 referrals each month
  • Conduct food stamp outreach clinics
  • Educate the community and public officials about the causes of hunger and poverty

    07 December 2007

    California Digital Newspaper Collection

    I had the pleasure of representing genealogists and CGS at California Newspapers in the Digital Age: Making Our History Available - A Conference in Celebration at the University of California, Riverside, on October 14, 2007. The conference heralded the California Digital Newspaper Collection, a free online resource that is the culmination of 16 years of work by Dr. Henry Snyder and the staff of the Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research.

    Dr. Snyder, who recently won the National Humanities Medal, Assistant Director, Andrea Vanek and their project teams have been crisscrossing the state, rescuing newspapers and newspaper microfilm from garages, attics and storerooms to amass a collection of over 50 million pages from more than 9000 newspapers. This effort, called the California Newspaper Project was part of the United States Newspaper Program, a partnership between the NEH and the Library of Congress created in 1990 to provide enhanced access to U.S. newspapers. According to Snyder,

     California has the second-largest number of published newspapers in the United States, even though the first one wasn’t published until 1846. Newspapers are the single most important record of local history, yet also the most ephemeral. They don’t survive. People read them one day and burn them in the fireplace the next.
    Over the years and as the technology has changed, the projects have gone from cataloging to microfilming to digitization. The center has received two grants to fund the digitization project. The first grant covered newspapers published between 1900-1910. The Center digitized over 100,000 pages of California newspapers for this period: the San Francisco Call, the Amador Ledger, the Imperial Valley Press, and the Los Angeles Herald. The Center will be digitizing an additional 100,000 pages for the second grant, which targets newspapers published 1880-1910.

    Snyder cautioned that the site is still in the developmental stage and that technicians are working hard to make it user friendly and fast. Commercially available software did not live up to the center's expectations so two programmers developed a special software for the project. Beta versions are available for the San Francisco Call (coverage 1900-1911) and the Daily Alta California (1849-1890 some years missing). The search box includes a "calendar" option that reveals the dates that have been digitized.

    05 December 2007

    Book repair workshop

    Part of this year's October Family History Month line-up was a Book Repair Workshop held Tuesday afternoon, October 16, 2007. Bill O'Neil, the chair of the CGS Book Repair Committee, passed along some of his expertise to several apprentices who paid $15 each to learn from our resident expert.

    Bill is a retired high school art teacher who has loved books since he worked in a library as a kid. He became interested in book making and took a class in the mid-1990s to learn the skill. At about the same time he read that the CGS Book Repair Committee was looking for volunteers and knew it was a perfect fit.

    When Bill joined the book-repairers they were being led by Richard G. Thrift, who created the committee in 1987. Bill has fond memories of Dick Thrift, who had been made an Honorary Life Member of CGS before his death in 2002. Bill has been leading the group ever since.

    The Book Repair Committee, which meets the second Tuesday of every month, has become indispensable to the maintenance of the library collection. The committee recently celebrated the repair of its 2,000th book which represents about 100 books repaired every year. The committee also lends a financial support, since they estimate that the average repair would cost the society about $60, if it was done professionally.

    The workshop participants learned the techniques used in repairing books by actually creating a book for themselves. Bill provided the pages (a copy of the "how to" pamphlet authored by Dick Thrift) and the pupils created the binding. Bill reports that the group proved to be highly skilled which made for a very successful workshop. And everyone went home with a self-made instruction book and souvenir of the day.

    Photographs courtesy of Jane Knowles Lindsey.

    03 December 2007

    NEHGS Comes West

    Oakland's Scottish Rite Center was the scene of this year's joint conference with the New England Historic Genealogical Society "NEHGS Comes West" held on Wednesday, September 26, 2007. 127 guests enjoyed the all-day program featuring 5 presentations, lunch and a silent auction. Two lectures were presented by Online Genealogist David Allen Lambert of NEHGS who started the day with Researching Your New England Ancestors Prior to 1850.

    CGS Research Director, Nancy Simons Peterson, presented New England Holdings at the California Genealogical Society and distributed a two-page summary of the major Northeastern holdings at our library.

    The silent auction raised over $1600 for CGS.

    Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland Regional Family History Center, Debbie Smith and CGS board member and "look-up" maven Lavinia Grace Schwarz were among the attendees.

    The NEHGS book sale was a total success - they sold out.

    Former CGS president, Rick Sherman and 2 guests.

    David Allen Lambert, CGS President Jane Lindsey and NEHGS President and CEO D. Brenton Simons were the featured speakers.

    Most of the waving crowd are members of both societies.

    NEHGS President and CEO D. Brenton Simons made a luncheon presentation What's New at NEHGS. CGS President, Jane Lindsey, spoke about What's Happening at CGS.

    David Allen Lambert, author of the David Lambert Blog, closed the program with Online Resources for Locating Your New England Ancestors.

    Photographs courtesy of Jane Knowles Lindsey.

    01 December 2007

    Steve Harris - Collector of City Directories & Phone Books

    Sometimes the best reason to belong to your local genealogical society is the help you can get from fellow members. It can be as simple as the clarity achieved just by speaking a research problem out loud to a willing listener or being able to informally consult with members who have the expertise you lack and are willing to share their resources. But Dr. Stephen Harris took sharing to a whole new level when he made his collection of city directories and telephone books available to CGS members.

    Steve, who has a doctorate in psychology from U.C. Berkeley, worked for the Contra Costa County health department and is now semi-retired. He is also a CGS member and professional genealogist whose interest in family history dates back to the Oakland hills fire of October 1991. When Steve lost his home he also lost all of the family documents that he inherited from his parents. He admits he hadn't paid much attention to them before but after they were destroyed he began to wonder if it was possible to replace them and to reconstruct the history of his family. Things just took off from there.

    Steve started his collection when he rescued some old phone books that were being discarded by an archive. He has found that most libraries don't like them because they are so fragile and that while city directories have been extensively microfilmed, telephone books seldom are. His collection, which now numbers over 5000 volumes, dating from the mid 1850's to the 1960s, is housed in a space down the hall from CGS in the lower level of 2201 Broadway, Oakland.

    Dr. Harris has generously granted CGS members access to his collection two days every month: the second Saturday and the third Friday. Members are to check in at the CGS desk first. From there they will be directed to Steve's library. Dr. Stephen Harris can be reached at

    Photographs by Kathryn M. Doyle, 27 Apr 2007.

    30 November 2007

    Fort Wayne in August

    President Jane Lindsey led a third CGS sponsored research trip to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, August 19-26, 2007. This year's trip was especially well timed to follow the FGS Conference which was held August 15-18. And while many attendees (Dick Eastman estimated the total to be about 1500) raced to the library to try and cram in some research time before, between and after conference sessions, we from CGS were smugly relaxed with the knowledge that we would be there for a whole week after the crowds had left. (Okay, so actually we did sneak in occasionally - the temptation was just too great and they opened the library at 6:00 am!)

    The conference was my first and was as fun, informative and exhausting as I had expected. One of the high points was hearing Christopher Haley, nephew of "Roots" author Alex Haley and Research Administrator of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland at the Maryland State Archives.

    Even better was Chris's interview of our prez for Roots Television in the Exhibit Hall. Jane used the forum to tell viewers about some of the exciting changes we have made this year, including our long-anticipated online catalog.

    Hmmm - it's daylight and we're not in the library. It must be Sunday - the library was closed but it was not a day of rest for us. Here we are in the dining room of the LaSalle Bed & Breakfast gearing up for our week of research.

    This was the first CGS trip to the Allen County Public Library since the renovation project was completed. The library is a gem from its space-age pods where the littlest readers can curl up with a picture book to the state-of-the-art televison studio available to Allen County residents at no charge. Of course we only saw these things on the tour since we would go straight to the 2nd floor to the genealogy department and stay til closing with only a short break for lunch.

    Jim Robinson is a CGS member and serves as 1st Vice-President of the Marin County Genealogical Society. His parents and grandparents were Indiana natives so his roots are deep there and he was able have Sunday dinner with ten ROBINSON third cousins.

    One very special treat was a private lecture by Curt Witcher on "Fingerprinting Our Families: Using Ancestral Origins/Ethnicity As a Genealogical Research Key." Curt is the Manager of the ACPL Genealogy Department and author of the GenealogyGems Mailing List. He provided a comprehensive hand-out with reference suggestions for context which can be just the thing to help us over our brick walls. Jane arranged the talk for us which is typical of the kind of scrupulous attention she pays to the details on these research trips.

    Here we all are on the last night - Jane always organizes a closing dinner so we can celebrate our finds. Starting at front left (around the table) are Sandy, Carol, Jane, Kathryn, Lorna, Lavinia, Gail, Jim and Pat. Thank you, Jane for another successful research trip.

    Photographs courtesy of Jane Lindsey.

    29 November 2007

    Open house

    One of the things I love about CGS is that the members are always ready to throw a party. After the move was over and the dust had settled, our volunteers were glad to celebrate and show off our new facility. The Open House was held on Thursday, April 26, 2007. The invitations looked like this and were hand delivered to all of our neighbor tenants at 2201 Broadway.

    Many of our neighbors came to introduce themselves.

    Several of our board members and volunteers were on hand to greet our guests.

    A few were interested in looking for an ancestor in the 1920 or 1930 census.

    I think that we were successful in finding something for everyone and more than a few seemed to catch the genealogy bug. It was another successful CGS event.

    Photographs courtesy of Jane Lindsey.

    28 November 2007

    Our library

    Since its inception in February 1898, the California Genealogical Society has emphasized the sharing of relevant source material and the establishment of a library was one of its earliest goals. Our new home in the Breuner Building is located in a "lower level" (basement) suite that was renovated, painted and customized just for us.

    This is a view of the library through the entrance door to our suite.

    One of our dedicated volunteers, Gloria Hanson, at the reception desk.

    A view of the stacks (notice the matching chairs - a
    bargain negotiated by president Jane Lindsey.)

    On the shelves and in the files are more than 30,000 reference aids and genealogical records including dozens of periodicals, 10,000 local and family histories, reels of microfilm, CDs and many unpublished manuscripts. The library has a wide variety of San Francisco and Northern California materials but is also generously stocked with regional, state and local references for the entire United States. New England, Mid-Atlantic states and the South are particularly well represented in the collection.

    After hundreds of volunteer hours, a beta version of the CGS online catalog is now available and is also accessible from the society home page. Over 10,000 books are now searchable on this user-friendly site. By year end, input of the book titles should be complete and the process of loading the CD collection and periodicals will begin.

    Photographs courtesy of Colleen Huntley and Jane Lindsey.

    27 November 2007

    A new location

    The California Genealogical Society opened its doors in March 2007 at our newest location in the historic Breuner Building in Uptown Oakland at 2201 Broadway at 22nd. The move was one of a series that our genealogy library has made over its 109-year history and lands CGS at its second Oakland address, after a century in San Francisco.

    The entrance to the building is on 22nd Street.

    Annalee Allen, Oakland Tribune landmark columnist and Oakland Walking Tours program coordinator, featured CGS and the Breuner Building in her April 22, 2007 column: Historical building to house society.

    Photographs courtesy of Jane Lindsey.

    26 November 2007

    An Experiment

    I often find myself looking back and retracing my steps to remember exactly how I got to where I am. It's something I do when researching my family genealogy and what I am doing now as I write this first blog entry. For me, the journey into the blogosphere started with a special report in the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine about shrinking membership in genealogical societies by Diane Haddad. Diane quoted Jasia, a "marketing expert who blogged at CreativeGene about societies after hers shrunk by half in three years." Off I went to learn from the master and to read her series of 17 posts: "Declining Membership in Genealogical Societies." Then I attended the 2007 FGS Annual Conference Meeting at the Crossroads of America in Fort Wayne, Indiana with a group from CGS. The keynote address was Societies Going Virtual by David E. Rencher and his conclusion was "Go Virtual or Perish!" I figured it was time to give this a try.

    25 November 2007

    About me

    Welcome to the California Genealogical Society and Library Blog - a Web log for and about the society - its members, programs and events.

    I'm Kathryn Doyle and I am the writer and editor of this blog and of the California Genealogical Society and Library electronic newsletter – the CGSL eNews.

    I am a great believer in genealogical society membership. I belong to three county societies in Pennsylvania where my forebears lived (Blair, Indiana and Huntingdon) and to the Ulster Historical Foundation in Belfast, Northern Ireland – my Doyles left County Tyrone at the time of the famine. I also hold membership in the Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS), host of the annual Jamboree, in the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and in CGS, my local society here in Oakland, California.

    Membership in the California Genealogical Society has given me more than just the "genealogical" benefits I had expected. Since I don't have California ancestry, I originally joined CGS for the surprisingly large Pennsylvania collection at the library. As I met other members I learned how much more you get from a local society. The volunteers at CGS are an amazing group of smart, talented, giving individuals and I value their friendship. The camaraderie is infectious - as I hope you will learn reading the California Genealogical Society and Library blog.

    I appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Feel free to email me or leave a comment at the end of any post.

    Updated 10/18/2009 for the 82nd Carnival of Genealogy.