Recent Posts

28 January 2008

8th Annual SLC Trip: April 13-20, 2008

It's not too early to sign up for the 8th annual CGS Salt Lake City Research Tour, April 13-20, 2008. CGS President, Jane Lindsey and CGS Research Director, Nancy Peterson return again as volunteer leaders of this very popular trip to the Family History Library.

Accommodations are at the Shilo Inn, located three blocks from the Family History Library. The Shilo provides free high-speed internet access in every room.

Annette and Sandy at the Family History Library in 2007.

The Tour Package includes:
* Hotel room (7 nights, double occupancy)
* Shuttle service to and from the airport
* Three group dinners (Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday)
* Orientation meeting and several lectures
* Optional assistance at CGS prior to the trip
* Computer assistance
* Hotel shuttle to library, if needed
* Continental breakfast included

The cost is $625 (airfare not included.) A deposit of $200 holds one space. The trip registration form gives the full details and a description of the cancellation and refund policy.

Photograph courtesy of Jane Knowles Lindsey.

27 January 2008

Chinese-American Research

The January/Februay 2008 issue of Ancestry Magazine is a "special research edition" featuring twelve genealogy "superheroes" who have expertise in ethnic research including: German, French-Canadian, African-American, Italian, Chinese, Polish, Scots-Irish, Native-American, Mexican, Slovak, Scandinavian and Dutch. Each of the specialists had 600 words to answer a case-study research question pertinent to their area. CGS member, Jeanie W. Chooey Low, is the featured author of "From East to West: Researching Chinese Ancestry" on pages 28-29 of the magazine.

Low, a second generation Chinese-American and a native San Franciscan, wrote China Connection: Finding Ancestral Roots for Chinese in America, a compact guide for those interested in doing Chinese family research in the United States. She is bilingual and holds degrees in Library Technology and Chinese Studies and has presented workshops at conferences for the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the Chinese Historical Society of America and San Francisco State University's Asian American Studies Department.

Ms. Low has been an active member of "Save Our National Archives" SONA, an ad hoc group formed in 1998 when the Regional NARA were threatened with closure. The group has spent ten years advocating for the preservation of the California Alien Files (A-Files) and Jeanie reports that their efforts were successful thanks to the support of Congressman Tom Lantos. Approximately one million Alien case files, which can each contain up to 100 pages of precious family documents, will be preserved and become available for research.

In addition to advocacy work, lecturing and research, Jeanie is also an award-winning quilt artist. She has developed her own techniques and finds that quilting allows for another avenue to express her love of family history. Pictured is one of her quilts which contains four generations of family photographs.

Jeanie accepts clients interested in her expertise in Chinese-American genealogy or in 20th century immigration research for any ethnicity. She can be reached by email at wongyen@comcast.net or by snail mail to: J.W.C. Low Company, Post Office Box 472012, San Francisco, California 94147.

25 January 2008

Research director, Nancy S. Peterson, CG

Members of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) have been debating the definition of "genealogist" this month on their mail list and Randy Seaver of the Genea-Musings Blog weighed in with "Why does it matter? The fact is that those in the profession of genealogy research need to act like and be treated like professionals in other disciplines - they need to be educated, be unbiased, be thorough, be honest and truthful, and be respected." Randy didn't know it but he was describing CGS Research Director, Nancy Simons Peterson.


Nancy was a researcher long before she became a genealogist. After earning her baccalaureate and master's degrees in physiology at Stanford University, she was employed as a research physiologist at the university medical school for many years. Peterson later obtained a second master's in teaching before her interest turned to family history. While living in Washington state, Nancy taught beginning and intermediate genealogy classes. For six years she was the editor of the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society quarterly publication, The Researcher.

A fifth generation Californian, Nancy is a relative newcomer to CGS. She joined the society in 2004 when she moved back to the Bay Area and has been an active member ever since. Nancy's search for her maternal San Francisco ancestors led ultimately to the publication of Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for Pre-1906 San Francisco Research, published by CGS in 2006 to coincide with the centennial of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. Nancy explains: "I personally looked at and then included all useful FHL film numbers and tried to nail down exactly the years and record types of the surviving early SF church records. Since all records archived outside the city survived, I went quite deeply into military records -- doesn't matter that they aren't SF records, for they hold information on SF residents. I also went into a great deal of detail on exactly which land records survived and which did not. All of part 3 is devoted to what strategies work best and what pitfalls to avoid. "



About a year ago, Nancy inherited the CGS research position from past-president, Rick Sherman, who acted as primary researcher for many years and who continues to serve a couple of long-standing clients. Tuesday (when the library is closed) is Peterson's regular day at the CGS Library. But her day usually starts in San Francisco, where she travels to one of the following records repositories: Department of Health (for birth and death certificates), Hall of Records in City Hall (for marriage records and land indexes), Public Main Library (obituaries) or Superior Court (probate). Of course, she also spends time in the East Bay at the Oakland Public Library or at the nearby Recorder's Office and Courthouse. I'm exhausted just listing them all.


Nancy is a certified genealogist and author of numerous articles. She won the Society of Genealogists Scholar Award in 2003. Her narrative genealogy Guarded Pasts: The Lives and Offspring of Colonel George and Clara (Baldwin) Bomford was the winning entry in the 1998 National Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest and is used as an example of quality work in the NGS Quarterly style on the Board for Certification of Genealogists Web site.

As Research Director, Nancy provides expert assistance for members and non-members alike. The charge is $20 per hour ($15 for members) which covers research time, analysis, documentation and a report. Rarely can one obtain the services of a certified genealogist at such bargain prices, and, as with the proceeds from her book, all monies collected benefit the society. No matter how you define it, CGS is fortunate to have such a talented and generous genealogist.

17 January 2008

African American Research Workshop

CGS member and expert African American genealogy researcher, Electra Kimble Price, sent along this announcement of an on-going class:

The next African American Research Workshop will be held Thursday, January 24, 2008, from 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. at the Oakland Regional Family History Center, 4766 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland, California. The topic for discussion will be "Preparing the Search for 'The Last Slave Owner.'"

A portion of the anniversary film sponsored by the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) will also be shown: Freedom's Song, 100 Years Of African-American Struggle And Triumph.

Price encourages workshop participants to come equipped with a three-ring binder for the handouts and to bring the names, location, and ages of five family members who were alive in 1900.

The African American Research Workshop meets the fourth Thursday of every month.

13 January 2008

Steve’s Blog About the Annual Meeting

The California Genealogical Society Annual Membership Meeting was held yesterday at the CGS library - the first of the yearly January "state of the society" gatherings to be held at our Broadway address. In addition to the various committee reports and election of board officers, President Jane Lindsey reported on the planned events for 2008 and presented a history of the society slide show created by Colleen Huntley.

Among the approximately 60 members in attendance was Stephen Danko, who is creating a national name for himself with his excellent Polish research blog. Steve brought his camera to the meeting and has posted a wonderful report with photos on Steve’s Genealogy Blog today.

Update: Steve Danko also visited and blogged about the Stephen G. Harris City Directory Collection which is adjacent to the CGS library.

10 January 2008

CGS - Always a Happening Place

I've been distracted by a couple of CGS projects that came my way and were too important to ignore. The first was this month's issue of the CGS e-News - the January 2008 email newsletter - which went out this past weekend to [drumroll, please!] 924 members. CGS e-News was started last year by Jane Lindsey with the technical assistance of Kathy Watson who set us up with Constant Contact, the email, marketing and survey tool also used by NEHGS for their e-News. Our goal is to send the electronic news every month as a supplement to the CGS News, edited by Jane Hufft and produced by Lois Elling, which is published bimonthly in January, March, May, July, September and November.

The second project is a Family Tree Magazine survey for libraries with genealogical collections. FTM is planning a feature article "that will honor libraries with outstanding genealogical collections across the United States." Anyone who has been to the California Genealogical Society library knows that it fits the definition so the article would be a great way to shine some light on our hidden jewel.

Unfortunately, the FTM questionnaire is extremely detailed, requires quantitative answers and came at the worst time, just before the holidays. CGS librarian, Laura Spurrier and research director, Nancy Peterson stepped up to the challenge and the emails have been flying back and forth in an effort to meet the January 14 deadline. As Nancy noted, "No single one of us appreciates all facets of our holdings" so the challenge is to gather input from several more member volunteers in the next few days.

01 January 2008

My Goal for 2008

Traditionally, January 1st is a day for New Year's Resolutions but many years ago I began instead to create a yearly set of Goals. Perhaps this is just semantics but while I am good at deciding or resolving to do something, it's usually the execution that is the problem. This "goal setting" exercise has evolved into a set of lists that I create for the various parts of my life. I've learned to set fewer goals but to include specific "actions" - a technique learned from David Allen's Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. The "next action" is one of the hallmarks of Allen's GTD philosophy, and he defines it as: "the next physical, visible activity that needs to be engaged in, in order to move the current reality toward completion."

I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to get one of the local media outlets to do a piece on the California Genealogical Society and Library and so I am hereby making this my 2008 CGS goal. And in keeping with the GTD action step requirement, I've created a "Top Ten" pitch list to email to Bay Area newspapers and magazines. I will be modifying it to send to some of the local television and radio
talk shows, as well. I'll keep you posted as I come up with new strategies for reaching my goal and I welcome any suggestions you may have (or the phone number of your brother-in-law who works for KTVU).

Top 10 Reasons to Feature the California Genealogical Society and Library in 2008:

1. The California Genealogical Society (CGS) was the first genealogy society in the state, founded February 12, 1898, in San Francisco. CGS has been located in Oakland since 1998.

2. The California Genealogical Society and Library
blog debuted November 25, 2007.

3. A full
73 percent of Americans are are intrigued by their family roots according to a 2005 poll by Market Strategies, Inc. (MSI).

4. A Cal State Fullerton study showed that interest in genealogy spans a wide range of ages with the strongest interest being in middle age, most starting "at an average age of 40."

5. California Genealogical Society Research Director, Nancy Peterson, literally wrote the book on San Francisco research. Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for Pre-1906 San Francisco Research
was published by CGS in June 2006.

6. In March 2007, CGS moved to its newest location in the historic Breuner Building in Oakland's Uptown District.


7. The California Genealogical Society maintains a library of over 30,000 genealogy reference materials and has released a beta version of its online catalog.

8. Long-time CGS volunteer Dorothy Fowler penned A Most Dreadful Earthquake, A First-Hand Account of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, with Glimpses into the Lives of the Phillips-Jones Letter Writers. The book was published in April 2006 by CGS to coincide with the centennial of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

9. The California Genealogical Society and Library (now 900 members strong) hosts monthly membership meetings and has a First Saturday Free policy of allowing non-members free access on the first Saturday of every month.

10. The Oakland Convention & Visitors Bureau list of 100 Things to Do includes tip #80: "Trace your family history at the California Genealogical Society."