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31 July 2008

American Military Research Seminar - August 9, 2008

The Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society, in association with the Livermore Family History Center, is hosting Help! My great-great-great grandfather is missing! - a free American Military Research Seminar and Workshop, Saturday, August 9, 2008, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., 950 Mocho Street, Livermore, California.

The schedule for the day includes three presentations during the morning session, a noon break for lunch and Genealogy Jeopardy and an afternoon workshop of online interactive case studies.

L-AGS member and genealogy instructor, Susan Goss Johnston, will present a two-part lecture entitled "American Military Research Online: What’s There and What’s Not!" Johnston will create a timeline of American military history and show all the record types that were created. She will cover what is available online and what isn’t, using both non-subscription and subscription sites.

Trevor Hammond, Marketing Manager at will conclude the morning session with "An Introduction to"

To reinforce the information learned in the morning lectures, the afternoon session will be an interactive workshop " Going Beyond the Obvious: Problem-solving with Online Military Records."

Four online military research case studies will be presented. Attendees with wireless laptops will be able to follow along using the Internet. has given us access for all researchers who bring their laptops. The session will be displayed for those without laptops. The Livermore Family History Center, working through Salt Lake, is making wireless internet available for attendees.
Susan Goss Johnston is a graduate of Yale University with a degree in physics. She began working in medical research while studying voice at the Peabody Conservatory, then became interested in genealogy research. Johnston is also a graduate of the National Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research course, “Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis,” and the National Archives’ course, “Going to the Source.” She developed a workshop on source citations for her own advanced genealogy course while in Baltimore, a workshop subsequently presented to several Maryland genealogy societies. She teaches beginning through advanced genealogy classes at Las Positas College in Livermore, and is a co-teacher of the Tri-Valley TMG Users Group.

Trevor Hammond has been a marketing manager for for two years. Prior to joining, he worked four years for in customer intelligence and customer support. A native of Utah, he has a B.A. from Utah Valley University in Business.

Attendees will be eligible for a $10.00 discount from the membership for first time subscribers. Although the seminar is free, everyone is encouraged to pre-register.Please register early, space is limited. (Registration at the door will be accepted on a space available basis starting at 8:30 a.m.)
The registration deadline is August 7, 2008. Download the seminar flier or go to the Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society Web site for further information and for online registration.

30 July 2008

Wordless Wednesday

California Genealogical Society Library
Saturday, July 12, 2008 Membership Meeting
Breaking Down Brick Walls, a Panel Discussion

Photographs courtesy of Shirley Pugh Thomson.

29 July 2008

Tuesday Tales From the Road - Salt Lake City

Imagine going on the genealogy trip of a lifetime - weeks spent traveling the country with nary a family or work commitment - just loads of time to spend searching for ancestors. Sound like a dream?

It is a dream-come-true for CGS member, Mary Mettler, who is on a three-and-a-half month trek from Salt Lake City to Vermont, with stops in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachusetts along the way. The best news is that Mary offered to send some reports so we can share in her adventure. This is Mary's first installment:

I am finishing up my very short three days in Salt Lake City. I knew I had a 2nd great-granduncle and a 2nd great-grandaunt, who were Mormons. I decided to do a little digging on my ancestor's siblings. Wow, six Farnsworths were Mormons, while my 2nd Great-Grandfather, Reuben Farnsworth remained a staunch Congregationalist. Philo Taylor Farnsworth was the first one to make the trip to Utah in 1848 and rose to become a Bishop. His son, Philo Taylor Farnsworth, Jr. was the inventor of the television. As he was plowing the field in Utah one day, he looked at the rows and thought he might be able to transmit pictures by using multiple lines.

In 1852, Stephen Martindale Farnsworth and his family and Laura Farnsworth Frampton Owen and her son, William Frampton, made the journey. Stephen was one of the "captains" of the wagon train - a leader of ten families. Moses Franklin Farnsworth and two other sisters followed. Moses rose to become a High Priest and also wrote the definitive book on the Farnsworths, The Farnsworth Memorial II. His autobiography was in a book in the Family History Library (FHL), while Laura had one in the Church Archives. Turns out the Church Archives are in the Mormon Office Building, a few blocks from the FHL. To my delight, I was allowed access to her original document because I was a descendant. I now have a much greater appreciation of what the early Mormon pioneers went through. If any CGS members have any Mormons in their family, here is a Web site which will give you quite a bit of detail: This site covers all the early pioneers who came to Utah.

On a lighter note, I want to share a couple of "secrets" in Salt Lake City for walkers and runners. Although there are parks all around the temple, I have some favorites close by. If you walk up North Temple Street along Temple Square, take the fork to the left and take a left on Canyon Road. On the left is City Creek Park and on the right is the part of it with the creek flowing through. It has a couple of picnic tables if you want to bring your lunch and review your findings. For you morning runners or walkers, continue up Canyon Road to a second park, Memory Grove Park, a long narrow park that runs up the Canyon. It is a wonderful run or power walk and a great way to start the morning. Even though the days were in the 90's, my runs at 6:30 a.m. were at 65 degrees.

I'm off to Wyoming tomorrow on my way to my next genealogy stop in Rock Island, Cordova and Morrison, Illinois. Hopefully, the Mississippi River has settled down a bit. I have my hiking shoes for walking through muddy graveyards!

Your Roving Reporter,

Mary Mettler

Read the entire series:
Part One: Salt Lake City
Part Two: Indiana
Part Three: Pennsylvania
Part Four: More From Pennsylvania
Part Five: Washington D.C.
Part Six: Suffield, Connecticut
Part Seven: Vermont
Part Eight: Dorset, Vermont
Part Nine: West Point and Back to Pennsylvania
Part Ten: Some Final Thoughts From Home

26 July 2008

Picked By One of the Best

Each week several genealogy bloggers select their favorite posts from the blogosphere and link to them. It is a great way to support the genea-blogging community and is a helpful resource for readers to find new blogs and catch good reads.

The California Genealogical Society and Library blog was picked by Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings two times in the last month. His Best of the Genea-Blogs - June 22-28, 2008 featured Finding Cousins in the Library and Best of the Genea-Blogs - July 13-19, 2008 included In Case You Missed "A Day of Irish Information."

I met Randy and his lovely wife, Linda, at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank last month. Randy is a retired aerospace engineer who easily takes the prize as the most prolific genea-blogger. Besides posting several times a day to his blogs (he authors four!), Randy is also the president of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society.

Randy always prefaces his picks with this:

Several hundred genealogy and family history bloggers write thousands of posts every week about their research, their families, and their interests. I appreciate each one of them and their efforts.

My criteria for "Best of ..." are pretty simple - I pick posts that advance knowledge about genealogy and family history, address current genealogy issues, provide personal family history, are funny or are poignant. I don't list posts destined for the Carnival of Genealogy, or other meme submissions (but I do include summaries of them), or my own posts.

Thanks, Randy, for the honor!

24 July 2008

Genealogy Best Bet Web Sites - September 13, 2008

September Membership Meeting

Saturday, September 13, 2008
1:00 p.m.
California Genealogical Society Library
2201 Broadway at 22nd, Oakland.

Best Bet Web sites for Genealogical Research

Genealogist and author Ron Arons will explore the many "best bet" Web sites that allow researchers to find materials online, including historical documents, newspapers and articles, living people, maps and photos, foreign language translators and aids and more. He will provide numerous examples of how the Internet has worked for him.

Ron will also slip in some tales from his new book, The Jews of Sing Sing, described as "the true story of Jewish gangsters and other shady characters who served time 'up the river' and the New York Jewish community’s response." His interest in Jewish inmates started when he discovered that his great-grandfather served four years at the famous prison. Be sure to read Dick Eastman's glowing review of Ron's book and watch Dick's interview with Ron for RootsTelevision.

Ron Arons has earned degrees from Princeton University and the University of Chicago, and is a member of both the
Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society. Arons has traced his roots to England, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. A recipient of the 2005 Hackman Research Residency Award, his current research focuses on both famous and lesser-known Jewish criminals.

Please note that the short membership meeting starts promptly at 1:00 p.m. Ron's talk follows at 1:30 p.m. He will be available afterwards to autograph and sell books.

22 July 2008

Report on the First 24 Hours of the Mortuary Indexing Project

Rose Pierson of FamilySearch Indexing sent some statistics on the San Francisco Mortuary Project. She will be sending reports weekly.

The project includes 38,837 total images in 3,883 total batches.

After 24 hours:

814 total images have been indexed (81 batches)
1560 images checked out for A indexing (156 batches)
1140 images checked out for B indexing (114 batches)

I found time to process a couple of batches. The records were from 1895 (pre-earthquake!) and included one child who died at age 8 of tubercular meningitis. With the missing 1890 census, this is a child who never appeared in a U.S. census. The record gave her mother's name, another name that may be a sister and a note that she was placed in a vault in May 1895 and shipped to Albuquerque, New Mexico the next January (1896). Good stuff!

21 July 2008

S.F. Mortuary Records Rise From the Dead

Family Search Indexing LogoIn a cooperative effort with, the San Francisco Public Library, the Genealogical Society of Utah and FamilySearch Indexing, the California Genealogical Society is pleased to announce the start of the San Francisco Mortuary Records Indexing Project. The project is the culmination of two years' work by the entities involved, to bring the digital images of thousands of mortuary records, stored by the Halsted Gray Mortuary in San Francisco, to researchers all over the world. The records are a significant genealogical find because of the richness of their detail and the miraculous way they survived the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

The records include the complete holdings of the first mortuary in San Francisco, undertakers N. Gray & Co., from the day it opened - July 1, 1850. In all, the project includes the surviving records, up to 1920, of several mortuaries that merged with either Halsted or Gray, over the years. The records include notations from financial ledgers, cemetery records, removal records and headstone notations. Many have obituary clippings.

Rose Pierson of Family Search Indexing has been working diligently to ready the project for volunteers. The CGS project is now listed on the Current Projects page (scroll down to the bottom and look for the CGS logo.)

The Project Home Page gives three digital examples of how the records look and has a link to project-specific indexing instructions. Please take advantage of the training tutorials located under the "Help" tab.

I'll have more to say about the project in the coming days and I will report on my own indexing experience. (I did some beta testing and I guarantee you will be thrilled with the kind of information you will find.) I encourage everyone to use the comments section at the bottom of this post to let us know about your experience in the project.

Report On the First 24 Hours - July 22, 2008

Update - Friday, August 1, 2008

Update - February 11, 2011. Watch the YouTube video about our project!

19 July 2008

Lorna's Report From the Alameda County Fair

CGS member Lorna Wallace helped staff the Alameda County Fair Genealogy Booth again this year and sent this report:

The Livermore-Amador Valley Genealogical Society (L-AGS) has sponsored a genealogy booth at the Alameda County Fair for the last few years. It is located in the large, air-conditioned (very important on hot summer days) “Technology Building”, where other computer-related attractions are going on. The booth features three computer stations with connections to several subscription databases (Ancestry, VitalRecords-CA and Footnote) for demonstrating the powerful search products that are now available. There is also a helpful handout listing many of the big, free sites, like Cyndislist.

There are two types of volunteers staffing the booth: “greeters” encourage visitors to mark their places of birth on large mounted maps of the U.S. and the world, and to fill out pedigree charts. “Researchers” then try to find an ancestors using the computer resources. Some visitors sit down at the computer and think their family history is just sitting in there, waiting to pop up on the screen. Some have been trying to use the Internet, but have not discovered basic sites such as Rootsweb or FamilySearch. Then there were those who actually brought notes so they could use their time well. Several used their cell phones to call relatives, right on the spot, to get a piece of missing information.

I think the biggest challenge for us, the volunteers, is the fact that we are presented with a whole segment of our community that are not well represented in the usual population of genealogical society membership. We come face-to-face with people from all over the world, especially Latin America and Asia, who want to know how to research their ancestry in their home county. The L-AGS is doing a good job of trying to find and provide resources.

Genealogists have so much to share. I encourage all of the members of the California Genealogical Society to volunteer next year when the Fair returns in late June of 2009.

Lorna Wallace is an active volunteer on the CGS Book Repair and Desk Duty Committees. She also handles book mailings for the society. Thanks for the report, Lorna, and for representing the society so well.

Photographs courtesy of Duncan Tanner.

18 July 2008

Steve’s Report on Breaking Down Brick Walls at CGS

If you missed the "Breaking Down Brick Walls" panel discussion last Saturday, July 12, 2008, be sure to read Steve Danko's report at Steve’s Genealogy Blog.

Steve posted a great photo of panelists Jane Hufft, Nancy Peterson and Lavinia Schwarz who presented their three techniques for dissolving research barriers: Review, Reach Out, and Reframe.

Be sure to leave a comment and tell Steve how much you appreciate his accounts of the CGS meetings and events he attends - bloggers love feedback.

If you haven't attended a membership meeting in awhile, plan to attend the next meeting on Saturday, September 13, 2008, when genealogist and author Ron Arons will present Best Bet Web Sites for Genealogical Research.

17 July 2008

Gen-Blogging in San Francisco This Sunday

Bay Area genealogists have been given an incredible last-minute opportunity. Jeremy Frankel, CGS member and president of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, just announced that Schelly Talalay Dardashti has agreed to present Gen-blogging: How to Do Effective Blogging Focusing on Genealogy this Sunday, July 20, 2008. Their scheduled speaker, Carol Baird, had to cancel due to a family emergency.

I had the opportunity to hear Schelly's talk at Jamboree and it is a treat to hear one of the pioneers in the field.

Knowledge and resources in the field of genealogy are increasing at such a fast rate that it is difficult to read everything of interest and distill it down to usable information. That's where the gen-bloggers come in. They are the eccentric ones who spend days and nights searching myriad sources, reading, distilling, writing and supplying information to the genealogy community. Some are generalists, others specialists, but all are colleagues, and do work together on major issues.

Schelly Talaly Dardashti is a renowned genealogist, journalist, blogger, online instructor and international speaker. A native New Yorker based in Tel Aviv, she has tracked her family history through Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Spain, Iran and other countries. Her articles about genealogy have been widely published in the Jewish media. Her blog, Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog, was recently named one of Family Tree Magazine's top 101 genealogy sites for 2008.

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

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).

16 July 2008

The "Person-Coming-the-Longest-Distance" Prize Goes to...

Last week the California Genealogical Society was honored to host Nora Keohane Hickey who came all the way from Cork, Ireland for A Day of Irish Information.

The event, which attracted members and guests from all over the Bay Area, included one other person who had to board an airplane to participate – member Jackie Carroll of Winter Springs, Florida.

Jackie traveled 2900 miles to hear Nora's lectures and to meet with her for a private consultation. Jackie was hoping that Nora could help her break down a brick wall - Hugh MILLING of Drumbo, County Down who settled in North Carolina and was a captain in the Revolutionary War.

Keep us posted on your search, Jackie. We love hearing from (and meeting!) our out-of-state members.

14 July 2008

In Case You Missed "A Day of Irish Information"

The Berkeley Yacht Club was the perfect setting for "A Day of Irish Information" on Wednesday, July 9, 2008. The waterfront location served up cool breezes on a hot East Bay day. And what better place to discuss the Emerald Isle then at the water's edge?

President Jane Lindsey started things off with a few society announcements, including an overview of upcoming speakers and workshops. Many of the 116 in attendance were not members of the California Genealogical Society but by day's end eight attendees took advantage of a $5 discount offered by Jane, and joined CGS.

Nora Keohane Hickey presented four entertaining lectures on several aspects of Irish genealogical research in her lilting Irish accent. A natural storyteller, Nora often included colorful anecdotes which added interest and humor to a subject which can be dry and overwhelming. Ms. Hickey talks fast so the full day of information was a bit challenging for some of the beginners in the audience.

Nora's first talk was "Debunking Some of the Myths of Irish Genealogy" - a humorous and informative list of common fallacies including "All the records were burnt" and "I found the location on a Surname Map." Using her own KEOHANE as an example, Ms. Hickey explored the "Of course I know how to spell my surname!" myth with some surprising variants, including COHAN and COHEN. (The famous "Yankee Doodle Dandy" George M. COHAN is a cousin.) Nora told of once reading a ship passenger record that listed eight COHENs – one came from Germany but the other seven were from Ireland. She summarized this first part of the day in two words: "Question EVERYTHING!"

One interesting inside story from Nora concerned the loss of the 19th century Irish census records (some surviving snippets are available on microfilm at the Family History Library.) The 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 records were destroyed in the Dublin Four Courts Fire of 1922 and the 1861 - 1891 records were pulped (recycled to make paper) during WWI. Nora explained that the order to pulp was meant only for the second, duplicate sets that existed for the countries of Great Britain, preserving the original records. Unfortunately, the fact that Ireland had only one set somehow escaped notice (!) and the sole source was lost for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891.

Nora got right into fundamentals with her second session, "Extracting All the Important Information from Griffith's Valuation." This was a thorough discussion of the 1848-1864 tax valuation records whose significance to Irish researchers is elevated due to the loss of nineteenth century census records. Griffith's lists every house and land holding in every townland and includes the names of landowners and tenants alike. Nora explained the meaning behind the map reference numbers in the first column of the property listings and stressed that the real value of Griffiths is that it serves as a guidepost to further avenues of research. Nora presented a case study demonstrating how knowing the surnames of a couple can often help to narrow the search for a parish of origin using the surname distribution data from the valuations. She ended the morning session by providing information about the Valuation Maps, the House, Field and Tenure Books and the Valuation Cancellation Books.

After the lunch break (the box lunches got great reviews!), Nora launched into "Little-known and Under-used Irish Genealogical Sources" which she prefaced by noting that she defines a genealogical source as "any document containing a name and a date." Her handout contained scores of publications, arranged by century, that focused primarily on her own family counties of Kildare and Cork. The general message of this talk was that you never know where you will find valuable information, especially since many records were removed from Ireland, taken to England and may be available in Irish, British and American repositories.

The final session of the day, entitled "A Discussion About Common Problems in Irish Genealogy," asked two key questions: 1.) "Are you looking for the correct surname?" and 2.) "Are you looking in the right location?" Due to time constrains, Nora referred the audience to three pages of her handout which summarizes the development and evolution of Irish surnames and gives clues to help the researcher find possible variations. She spent considerable time defining the administrative divisions of Ireland which are complicated because of the way they overlap. Nora explained how the various ecclesiastical and civil divisions developed and why it is imperative to know the divisional category that describes each record type.

09 July 2008

Wordless Wednesday

A Day of Irish Information with Nora Keohane Hickey
July 9, 2008, Berkeley Yacht Club

Photos courtesy of Arlene Miles and Kathryn Doyle.

08 July 2008

Distracted by Wordle

Yesterday the Footnote Maven introduced Wordle, described as:

a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

Genea-bloggers have been complaining that they aren't getting any work done and showing off their wordle creations.

Here's the Wordle I created for the California Genealogical Society: