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30 September 2008

Tuesday Tales - Some Final Thoughts From Home

Mary Mettler is finally back from her genealogy trek across the country.

I am home! What a wonderful summer! A genealogy friend just asked me if she should go on a trip like mine for her 70th birthday. YES! Naturally, I have some last thoughts about the trip.

The most important task is to plan, plan, plan and then plan some more. I spent about six months planning my trip. Try not to attempt too much, and do limit the lines you will investigate. Then, locate and research the web sites of the historical societies and libraries in the locations where these ancestors lived. Join the local historical societies ahead of time and ask them for any special information or assistance you need. Many of the smaller historical societies have limited hours, so planning and contact is essential. Often, they will open up for out-of-town travelers, if you contact them ahead of time. I was thrilled to work with these local volunteers and/or historical society members to find the special treasures of my ancestors. The historical societies appreciate any donations you can make, too. In the summer, advance reservations for lodging are essential in the small towns, especially in Vermont with its limited tourist season. I wish I had had more time in most of the towns, but I always feel that way after a genealogy trip! Since you can't spend three solid months researching without a total brain meltdown, do plan on attending some family functions, visiting friends and/or sightseeing in between genealogy stops. I also enjoyed beginning and ending my trip at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

I highly recommend that you take your car, as life is much easier. You need room for files and all the “goodies” you will find, as well as clothes and all your technical gear. I did some Christmas shopping for real Vermont maple syrup and Wyoming huckleberry jam. The car also gives you the ability to travel to the small towns, which are not close to a major airport. I tried to leave sufficient time for them, as I could return later to those near major airports. One final word of warning – do not take Route 95 across the George Washington Bridge on a sunny, summer Sunday afternoon! In fact, try not to take Route 95 ever! I will never complain about the Bay Bridge traffic again!

Just for fun, I thought I'd list some of my favorites and my disappointments. My biggest disappointment was that so few places allowed me to use my scanner. I think we, genealogists have to campaign to change this. I certainly understand that the libraries/historical societies need the revenues from copying, and I do not mind paying for each page I scan. The scanner is no worse than a copier, as far as the light is concerned; and it is easier on books than copy machines, with the possible exception of the “book minder” copiers. I did use my camera for some documents, but the scanner is much better.

Since I couldn't use my scanner very often, my favorite “toy” was my GPS. I wish I had purchased one of these a long time ago. I call mine “Jill,” as that was the voice choice I liked. Jill plotted the route, estimated my time of arrival and showed me the nearest lodging, restaurants, drug stores, movie theaters, etc. The GPS takes the stress out of driving, especially for someone as directionally disadvantaged as I am! I enjoyed Bed and Breakfast lodging the most, especially when they were near the historical societies. In Suffield, Connecticut, I stayed at The Lily House across the street from the Kent Memorial Library. In Dorset, Vermont, The Dovetail Inn Bed and Breakfast is across from the Dorset Historical Society. Both these wonderful B&B’s are within walking distance of restaurants, banks and grocery stores. My favorite breakfast was at the Victorian Bed and Breakfast in Rock Island, Illinois, while my best dinner was at the Drunken Noodle Thai restaurant in Essex Junction, Vermont. Both of these compare very favorably with San Francisco’s best!

Well, I could go on and on! I would be happy to hear from any of you, who might want to make a similar trip. I won't be going off again for a while, as I have to deal with a file box full of my research. Analyzing this information, copying it for my nephew and second cousin-once-removed, filing it in the family file folders and entering it in my computer will take a long time!

I am looking forward to reading the future blogs of your trips!

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

29 September 2008

Something New in October: Member Consultations

Something new has been added to the October Family History Month offerings this year - Individual consultations - for members only.

Several CGS members with specialized skills have volunteered to come into the library to share their expertise. Thirty minute sessions are by appointment only and can be used by members to help resolve a particular research problem or to get a fresh perspective. All session are private, one-on-one and free – a special member benefit in the month of October.

Our member consultants include some notable specialists: Dorothy Koenig, Dutch Colonial New York, 1624-1700; Steve Danko, Eastern European and Immigration; Jeremy Frankel, Jewish; Swen-Ove Westberg, Swedish; Pam Meeds Williams, California before statehood (1848); Steve Harris, New York; Tom Gessner, Massachusetts from 1620 and New Brunswick; Linda Darby, the South, and more. Jennifer Regan will be available for sessions on using Google for genealogy research. Other members have volunteered to help with subscription sites, such as Ancestry, Footnote and Rootsweb. There is something for everyone – in fact, non-members may want to join just to take advantage of this fantastic offer!

The one-on-one sessions have been scheduled for Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the month. The complete listings of consultants, topics and times have been added to the CGS Google calendar for October. In addition, the full schedule can be downloaded from the CGS Web site.

All consultations must be scheduled in advance with Events Coordinator, Carolyn Steinberg. E-mail Carolyn or telephone CGS at 510-663-1358 and leave a message with your name and number and she will return your call. Sorry, no walk-ins.

26 September 2008

Getting to Know Me and the CGSL Blog

In the weird, wonderful world of genealogy blogging, members of the community sponsor carnivals, throw out challenges and tag one another with memes - all in an effort to encourage their fellow genea-bloggers.

Terry Thornton of Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi issued the Getting to Know You challenge:

The number of new blogs is increasing so rapidly that many of us are having trouble keeping up with reading and visiting. There never seems enough time to get to know new blogs much less to interact with their authors. To help out in that regard, I'm issuing a challenge to all Bloggers to help us get to know each other.

I hope that Terry doesn't mind if I stray slightly from his very specific format.

As I state in About Me, my name is Kathryn Doyle and I am a CGS board member and chair of the Marketing Committee. I started this blog ten short months ago as an experiment and I'm happy to report that so far it is a successful one. I blog exclusively for the members of the California Genealogical Society and Library. I try to use my voice and keep the rest of me out of the blog, as much as possible. (This post is obviously an exception!)

The blog's purpose is to promote the society, to advertise events and meetings, to take readers "behind the scenes" and introduce member volunteers to each other and to the world and perhaps to serve as a "how to" guide for other societies.

Here are three examples of the types of articles I blog for the society:

Roberts: What We Found
This is the second installment of a five-part series on Corporal Harold Roberts which exemplifies the team spirit behind the research done at CGS.

A Tribute to Anne Robinson
This article was written for a National Women's History Month carnival which gave me the opportunity to honor a truly dedicated volunteer. This kind of post has evolved into an on-going "Member Spotlight" series.

Digital vs. Print - Where Do You Stand?
I'll be writing more about the administrative side of the society in the future. Do inquiring minds really want to know?

I am also very fortunate to have many partners who have been willing to contribute photographs, story ideas, background information, articles and entire series (thank you Mary Mettler!) to the cause. It is an honor and a pleasure to write for so many dedicated volunteers.

Dick Rees and me - in the pink.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Bodycote.

25 September 2008

Book Repair Workshop Returns October 25, 2008.

The California Genealogical Society is now taking reservations for the fall Book Repair Workshop to be held on Saturday morning, October 25, 2008, from 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Back by popular demand, the workshop is part of the October Family History Month menu of classes and other offerings.

The perennial favorite, taught by Book Repair Committee Chairman, Bill O'Neil, is limited to ten enrollees. Workshop participants learn book repair techniques by actually creating a book for themselves. Pages are provided and the pupils create the binding. The finished product will be a copy of a "how to" pamphlet written by the late Dick Thrift, founder of the CGS Book Repair Committee. Everyone goes home with a self-made instruction book and souvenir of the day.

The fee is $15.00 for materials. Reservations are required and can be made by email or by calling CGS at 510-663-1358. There is a also a sign-up sheet at the reception desk. A copy of the full schedule of classess offered during October Family History Month can be downloaded from the CGS Website.

Photograph of the Dick Thrift book presses by Kathryn Doyle, 9/22/2008.

24 September 2008

Wordless Wednesday

California Genealogical Society
Brainstorming Breakfast Bonanza!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Special thanks to Marianne Frey, Cynthia Gorman, Steve Harris, Jane Lindsey, Paul Mayer, Chris Pattillo, Dick Rees, Lavinia Schwarz, Nancy Servin, Pat Smith, Carolyn Steinberg, Judy Bodycote and Lorna Wallace who attended this early morning meeting and came up with so many amazing ideas!

Photographs courtesy of Jane Lindsey.

23 September 2008

Tuesday Tales From the Road - West Point and Back to Pennsylvania

Mary Mettler is still on the road. This is Mary's ninth report:

I joined my nephew’s family on Saturday morning, August 23, 2008, for a very special day at the United States Military Academy at West Point – A-Day, short for Acceptance Day. My grandnephew, Stephen Schnorf and the other “new” cadets had finished “The Beast,” as the summer Cadet Basic Training is known. Traditional ceremonies merge them into the Corps of Cadets. Prominent alumni from classes, which will celebrate fifty-year reunions during the four years of the current Cadet classes, served as reviewers.

The upper classmen marched out of the arches on the far side of the field.

The new plebes marched in on the opposite side
of the field and turned to face the upper classmen.

After the appropriate ceremonies, the plebes marched across the Plain to join the corps. The entire ceremony was quite moving, and one couldn’t help but feel the power of the long years of tradition. Stephen had the rest of the day off, his first in many weeks. In between meals, our hungry cadet showed us around the base. Please note that West Point is referred to as a base, not a campus! I’m slowly learning the lingo. I was so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this day!

The Schnorf family and Mary Mettler.

From West Point, I returned to Carlisle, Pennsylvania and a day at The U.S. Military History Institute (MHI) at the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center (AHEC). What a great place and a superb resource for military history! MHI has some 15 million books, military newspapers, manuals, periodicals, letters, diaries, oral histories and other manuscripts, as well as a powerful computer search capability. You enter your military ancestor’s name in the computer, and it identifies his unit and a list of sources for that unit. I entered a first cousin-three times removed, who had been a surgeon in the Civil War. The list included three units in which he served and the sources of information on those units. I was able to document his entire service and all the battles at which he participated, including Gettysburg. Their catalogs and online information are available at

While you are doing genealogy, the rest of your family can walk around The Army Heritage Trail, an interactive outdoor museum with exhibits from the French and Indian War through Vietnam.

Now, the bad news. They, too, told me that no information is available on where the Pennsylvania Militia units served in the Revolutionary War. They considered it very lucky for me to have found Capt. John Lamb’s initial service in the pension of a soldier in his Company. One excellent source, however, was a pamphlet, Understanding Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary War Military Organization as an Aid in Genealogical Research by Col. John B. Trussell, USA-Ret. It not only explained how the Militia and the Continental Line were organized but also identified the three types of service the Pennsylvania Militia provided, namely augmentation of the Continental Army in conventional operations, protecting the frontiers from Indian attacks and providing guards for the supply depots and prisoner of war camps in Pennsylvania. Trussell said that the latter was by far the type involving most of the men who saw active duty.

The massive Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg was my last vain attempt to identify where Lamb’s militia unit served. For his company, I found lists of delinquents and fines and some teasers, such as his expense report for reimbursement for pay for twenty days of drummers and fifers. Alas, there was no information on where these troopers went! These archives house many other records, e.g. land records, many of which can be ordered or even accessed online at I’m at my sisters’ house in Akron, Ohio for the Labor Day weekend and then plan to begin the trek home with a couple of stops along the way.

Your genealogist on the road,
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

22 September 2008

Citing "Occult Powers" in a New Netherland Genealogy

It happened again - a cousin found in the library - only this time I was an eyewitness. While waiting for last week's board meeting to begin, director John Moore was relating a fascinating story about the Wilsey family. One mention of the name and suddenly he and Shirley Thomson were New Netherland cousins! John sent the full story:

Shirley Pugh Thomson and John Moore.

Last Wednesday, prior to the Board meeting, we had a discussion about the "unusual research" methods used in determining the origins of the family. The story goes something like this.

The Wilsey family is an early New Netherland family with many descendants, including at least two members of the present CGS Board. In 1908 Jerome Wiltsee published a genealogy for the Wiltsee (Wilsey) family. Jerome Wiltsee, Sr., A Genealogical and Psychological Memoir of Philippe Maton Wiltsie and his Descendants, With a Historical Introduction of the Wiltsie Nation and Its Colonies, (Atchinson, Kansas, 1908). The book was given a broad distribution (we have a copy in the CGS Library.) It identifies Philippe Maton Wiltsie as the original immigrant and ancestor of the Wiltsie family. Phillip is described as a Walloon refuge from Wiltz Luxembourg who came to Fort Orange in 1623 and was killed by the Indians in 1631 with two of his sons captured by the Indians before they escaped in 1639. One of these sons Hendrick Martenson is the ancestor of the Wilsey family in America.

Over the years there were several membership applications submitted and approved by the Holland Society based on Phillipe Maton as the immigrant ancestor. In 1975 the Genealogical Committee of the Holland Society asked George Zabriske to research Jerome's account. After a through study Zabriskie determined that many of Jerome's conclusions were pure fiction and had no basis in fact. Philippe Maton Wiltsee just did not exist! Jerome had however warned his readers that his conclusions were based not only on normal genealogical research but also on his "supernatural" or "occult" powers.

Does this mean that the way to resolve "brick walls" in genealogical research is through communication with the spirit world? It certainly would revolutionize our society! Something to think about!

On a more serious note, the Jerome Wiltsee book is now out of copyright and copies are available not only in many libraries but also on the Internet. From time to time we hear from genealogists who have traced their ancestry back to Phillipe Maton based on Jerome's book. Fortunately the Zabriskie analysis is set forth in a series of articles appearing in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (Volumes 106-108). Wilsey researchers who have relied on Jerome can be referred to these articles. Incidentally, the real Wilsey immigrant ancestor is Hendrick Martenson van Copenhagen and his male descendants do qualify for membership in the Holland Society!

I have agreed to bring some of my material to the next board meeting to compare notes with Shirley. We are both descendants of Hendrick Martenson van Copenhagen but we are not yet sure where our lines differ.


John Moore has been interested in genealogy since his law school days when he devoted some library time to research his mother's family. He has more time since retirement from Kaiser Aluminum where he was Vice President Deputy General Counsel and Secretary. John served six years as a Trustee of the NEHGS and is currently a member of the NEHGS Council and a Director of the California Genealogical Society. John has a number of New Netherland ancestors and holds membership in the Friends of the Holland Society.

Shirley Pugh Thomson has held a seat on the society’s Board of Directors 1998-2008 and is a former chair of the CGS Publication Committee. She has been interested in family history all of her life, although these days she admits to spending more time on CGS business than on her own research. Shirley made some progress during the past year using DNA. She recently presented Hints on Publishing Your Family History with Matthew Berry.

19 September 2008

Linda Darby's Report from FGS Philadelphia

CGS member Linda Darby loves a good conference. She sent this report from the Federation of Genealogical Society Footprints of Family History Conference in Philadelphia, September 4 to 6, 2008:

Conference attendees remained cool, inside the spacious Philadelphia Convention Center, while the City of Brotherly Love baked in record high temperatures. We were greeted by that renowned genealogist Benjamin Franklin, and also welcomed by Ms. Betsy Ross. The conference had numerous sessions on German, Irish, and Pennsylvania research. All attendees obtained a CD of the syllabus, could download specific sessions from the FGS website, and a hard copy could be purchased for $32. Many folks don’t like the weight of all that paper. And, printing is pretty pricey these days. Many sessions were recorded, and the recordings on CD could be purchased, so as invariably happens, if you are interested in more than one session at a specific time, you can hear them both.

Jane Lindsey and Linda Darby in Salt Lake City
at the CGS Research Tour last April.

In addition to gleaning information from the session, another incalculable benefit of attending conferences is talking to other attendee and sharing information. One such incident occurred at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania the Tuesday before the conference began. Many folks attending the conference had come in early to do some local research. I was no exception. While browsing in the Scranton City Directories, I encountered another attendee. We began chatting. She was from Boston. She was looking for a family from a small town near Scranton. My family is from this same town. What surname? Incredibly, she was looking for a collateral line of my family! We exchanged business cards, and I’ve passed along her information to a cousin in that line. He was astounded. You just never know.

Next year, the FGS Conference, Passages Through Time, will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, September 2-5, 2009. Y'all come!

Linda Darby

Photograph courtesy of Cathy H. Paris, Apr 19, 2008, Salt Lake City, Utah.

18 September 2008

October Family History Month Activities

For nearly a decade, October has been celebrated as Family History Month among genealogy enthusiasts. The California Genealogical Society and Library will celebrate by hosting beginning to advanced genealogy seminars throughout the month. Topics range from organizing and performing basic genealogical research to utilizing technology and software to preserve your research. All seminars are open to the public and the usage fee for non-members is waived so the library resources are available, free of charge.

CGS Events Chair Carolyn Steinberg has put together a full menu of offerings which is available in the Family History Month October 2008 Events brochure, designed by Colleen Huntley. The complete schedule of classes, workshops and consultations can be found on the CGS calendar.

17 September 2008

Wordless Wednesday

California Genealogical Society Membership Meeting
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Ron Arons - Best Bet Internet Sites

Photographs by Kathryn Doyle (iPhone camera).

16 September 2008

Tuesday Tales From the Road - Dorset, Vermont

CGS member Mary Mettler is still on the road. She's back in Vermont with installment number eight:

Greetings from Dorset, Vermont!

My ancestors from Suffield moved to Dorset and Rupert, Vermont around 1773. Suffield was becoming crowded, and my families seemed to be multiplying rapidly. My principal goal in Dorset is to research Cephas Kent and one of his sons, Cephas Kent, Jr. and their families and the Farnsworth family. Much has been written about Cephas Kent, as his Tavern in Dorset was the site of the first four conventions that ultimately led to the founding of Vermont. Cephas Kent, Jr. is one of my Revolutionary War Patriots and the subject of intriguing Kent family lore.

Cephas Kent Tavern, site of the Dorset Conventions.

All good genealogists should be very skeptical of family stories passed down over the generations. There always seems to be a nugget of truth in them; however, like a snowball rolling down a hill, the story seems to grow bigger as it descends through generations. According to the Kent family tradition, Cephas, Jr. was an Aide de Camp to General Richard Montgomery at the battle of Quebec. General Montgomery supposedly died in his arms. Wow, sounds like a great story, doesn't it? So powerful was this tradition that Tyler Resch included it in his well-researched book on Dorset! But where was the proof? I had stumbled across a footnote in a book that indicated that Cephas, Jr. had kept a diary during the War. It was in private hands in 1908, so I emailed and wrote many of the libraries and historical societies in New England. After two months of searching, Pat Carmichael, a volunteer at the Dorset Historical Society (DHS), found a copy of the diary in an uncataloged envelope! Again, a generous person has come to my aid! She also opened the DHS Library for me for two days that the Library is usually closed.

Pat Carmichael in front of the Dorset Historical Society.

Alas, the tradition is greatly exaggerated. Cephas volunteered as a "waiter" for Major Samuel Safford, the second in command of Lt. Col. Seth Warner's Green Mountain Boys for the campaign that participated in the victory at Montreal. General Montgomery was the commanding officer of the New York, New Hampshire and Vermont troops. As a servant to Major Safford, Cephas, Jr. was occasionally around General Montgomery. He did stop his cooking and rush down to the water at Longueuil to fight with the Green Mountain Boys, who thwarted a crossing by the much superior number of English soldiers. This victory led to Montreal's surrender. However, Seth Warner took the Green Mountain Boys home after Montreal, and they were not at Quebec. In his diary, Cephas, Jr. also reported leaving for home after Montreal fell, so he did not volunteer to stay. If General Montgomery died in anyone's arms, most likely it was his only surviving Aide de Camp, Aaron Burr. Drat! Another good story turns out to be a fable!

Pat had other good materials ready for my arrival, and I found graves, family color and the usual birth, baptism, marriage, death, probate and land records. Again, I can only stress how generous and helpful the volunteers and genealogists are in the New England libraries and historical societies.

I'm off to West Point.

Your Genealogist on the Road,

Photographs courtesy of 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

15 September 2008

I Heart Genealogical Society Blogs

Elizabeth O'Neal of Little Bytes of Life has honored me with the
I Heart Your Blog award. Thanks so much!

In her post, Sharing the Heart... I Mean, Love, Elizabeth gives the "rules" that accompany the honor:

1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog.
2. Link to the person who gave you the award.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs that you’ve nominated.

So many Genea-Bloggers have already received the distinction that I thought I would spread my blog-love to other genealogical and historical society blogs. Here is a sampling from around this country in alphabetical order:

Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe
Some of you may not know that the prolific Randy Seaver is also the president of the Chula Vista (California) Genealogical Society and writes a blog with Gary Brock for the society.

Eastern Washington Genealogical Society Blog
Miriam Robbins Midkiff started this Spokane society blog in July 2007. She is one of a team of writers including Donna, Charles and toppline.

Florida Genealogical Society (Tampa)
In June 2007, George Morgan outlined his board's decision to establish a society blog and eliminate their “traditional” Web page and printed newsletter.

Grand Traverse Area Genealogy Society
Brenda K. Wolfgram Moore "be-bopped" this Northern Michigan society into the 21st Century in May 2008.

Bob Franks is publications editor of the Itawamba Historical Society and he is responsible for the beautiful photographs and content of this Itawamba County, Mississippi blog.

Moultrie Creek Online Historical Society
Denise Olson of Family Matters: Tech Support for the Family Historian created this "virtual society" blog to serve as a model and "learning center" for societies of all types to learn the "how-to" of bringing technology to an organization.

New Mexico Genealogical Society Blog
Robert Baca is an Alberquerque English teacher who teamed up with P.J. Easterly and created this state society blog in February 2008.

These are just a few of the fifty-eight Association and Society Blogs that Chris Dunham lists on the Genealogy Blog Finder, a fully searchable and up-to-date index of genealogically themed blogs. I'm sure you will find something there to love.

12 September 2008

Genealogy is Not Just for Genealogists

Whether you are interested in researching your family history or not, you have stories, family mementos and photographs in your home, some that have been passed down, generation to generation. This talk will give you an awareness of what you can do to ensure your family treasures are available for your descendants.

This is the description of a lecture that California Genealogical Society President Jane Knowles Lindsey keeps in her back pocket. Well, not literally, but it's ready when the opportunity presents itself as it did recently when she was having a conversation with a new member. As Janiece Nolan tells it, "I just mentioned I had Rotary meeting right after I met Jane for first time and she asked if she could speak sometime and I said sure."

Janiece Nolan, Steven Shagrin and Jane Lindsey.

Janiece is a long-time member of The Rotary Club of Rossmoor. The group meets every Wednesday at the Hillside Club House for a social hour, lunch and a speaker. Janiece made the arrangements with Rossmoor Rotary President Steven Shagrin and Jane spoke to them this week on Wednesday, September 10, 2008.

The Rossmoor group is the largest Rotary Club in the area, and among the most active. They have 75 members who are retired, semi-retired or are local business people from the surrounding community. Many in the audience were in the special position of remembering their grandparents and also having children and grandchildren of their own. As Jane pointed out, they possess knowledge of five generations - valuable genealogical information, even if they had never thought of it in those terms.

You may not be interested in genealogical research but you may hold the key to help others unlock family mysteries.

Lindsey told members that even if spending time in a library or at a computer researching their ancestry doesn't appeal to them, there are simple things they can do to help forward the research of others, and more importantly, to pass down all that precious family information to their descendants.

Jane had several specific things that audience members could do but I won't disclose them here - you'll have to schedule her talk for your own group to learn the specifics. What I can give you is Janiece Nolan's report: "Everyone enjoyed Jane's talk and there were many questions and comments. People came up to Jane afterward to ask about CGS and express their appreciation."

Jane Knowles Lindsey, a native of Massachusetts, received her R.N. degree from Boston University and practiced nursing until 1983. She is a past trustee and council member for the New England Historical and Genealogical Society and is president of the California Genealogical Society and serves on its board of directors. Under her capable leadership, CGS membership has grown and its circle of activities has been significantly enlarged. Jane's specialty is events planning. She has arranged genealogical research cruises to Alaska, Canada and the Caribbean. In addition, she leads annual group research tours to major genealogical libraries in Salt Lake City, Boston and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

If your group is interested in hearing "Genealogy is Not Just for Genealogists" or another talk related to genealogy, please contact the society at 510-663-1358.

Photographs courtesy of Jane Knowles Lindsey.

11 September 2008

A Crash Course in City Directories

Location: Latino/Hispanic Room, San Francisco Main Library
Address: 100 Larkin Street, at Grove, San Francisco
Event Date: Saturday, 27 September 2008
Event Time: 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.

CGS member Lisa B. Lee is presenting "A Crash Course in City Directories" - a free class supported by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Long before phones and phone books, local publishers were printing city directories for thousands of metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada (and elsewhere). These directories were usually published every year and contained a listing of most of the residents as well as businesses, churches, elected officials, newspapers, etc., in larger cities and towns and often the surrounding areas. This workshop will show how you can use city directories to determine family relationships, land ownership, occupation, spouse's name, race, address, nearby relatives and much more, and why using city directories should be a part of every genealogical project. We'll look at city directories in print, in microform and online.

10 September 2008

Wordless Wednesday

California Genealogical Society Library
Book Repair - Second Tuesdays
Marianne Frey, Richard Rees and Lorna Wallace

Photographs by Kathryn Doyle, Oakland, California, September 9, 2008.

09 September 2008

Tuesday Tales From the Road - Vermont

Mary Mettler is still on the road. Here is installment six:

Greetings from Vermont I drove from Suffield, Connecticut through Massachusetts and up the middle of Vermont on Saturday. After the horrible Route 95 drive across the George Washington Bridge a week ago, the Vermont drive was wonderful! I loved the rolling green hills, steepled churches and “Moose Crossing” signs. Of course, I could not resist a stop at Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory.

Monday, I journeyed to Westford, a tiny town about thirty minutes from Colchester, where my 3rd and 4th great grandparents and 2nd great grandmother lived. Birth, marriage and death records were not required until 1857, so one needs some luck to find information. I liken the search to an Easter Egg Hunt! You’ll never guess where I found the 1809 marriage record for my 3rd great grandparents – buried among land entries in the Third Volume of Land Records! I spent the day digging out gems from the Charter Book and the Land Record Books. Early settlers would come in to record this information, and I guess the Town Recorder would just put them in whatever book happened to be open!

The next day I moved down to the Montpelier area and stopped at the Vermont Public Records Center in Middlesex. They have the birth, marriage, death and land records on microfilm. The problem is each informational page costs $3! I spent the day copying some of the records by hand and printing only the most important. The next day, I discovered that I could print them out for twenty cents at the Vermont History Center/Vermont Historical Society (VHS) in Barre! So, Vermont researchers, go directly to VHS for birth, marriage and death records unless you need certified copies. VHS also has an extensive library of books and manuscripts, not only for Vermont but also for other New England states. Marjorie Strong, the Assistant Librarian, was very knowledgeable and helpful for my two days at the library. I would have loved a third day there, but today is a Vermont Holiday, the Battle of Bennington Day.

On a different note, I have a new “best friend,” Mike at Stone’s Auto Service in Barre. I lowered the passenger side window to tell the busy motel housekeeper to skip my room, but my window would not go back up. Yikes! It rains a lot in Vermont, not to mention that all my worldly goods are in my car. The motel suggested Stone’s Auto Service, and Mike took the door apart to discover a broken cable. A quick call to the only BMW dealer in Vermont, about an hour away in Burlington, yielded a frightening “about seven days” to get a new cable. Mike came up with an ingenious solution – he drilled a hole in the railing on which the window moves and put in a screw to hold the window up. I can’t open that window, but I should be able to drive home without any further trouble. However, I am now terrified to open any of the other windows and will pray each time I have to stop and pay a toll on the turnpikes. You didn’t think this trip was all fun, did you? Next week – Dorset, Rupert and Bennington.

From 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

08 September 2008

CGS Member Spotlight: Barbara Close

Scores of volunteers at the California Genealogical Society work in the background to keep the library humming along. Whether they are shelving books, cataloging periodicals, opening mail, paying bills, maintaining computers or performing umpteen other tasks, members selflessly contribute their time to the overall running of the society.

Usually CGS volunteers do their work behind the scenes, without fanfare or public acknowledgment. But occasionally members step forward to significantly contribute to a published work that warrants placing their name on the cover of a book. If you scroll down the right sidebar of this blog you will see some of the publications edited by Barbara Close.

Barbara Ross Close directed the indexing of several society projects, including the San Francisco I.O.O.F. Crematory records, the S.F. Death series and the California Surname Index. Each work represents time spent by a team of members, gathering up raw data held by CGS, then writing and sorting it – imposing order by printing, proofing, formatting, finishing, publishing, marketing and distributing it along the way. Thousands of volunteer hours are the underlying reality of the CGS publication list. In addition to her contribution supervising specific indexing projects, Barbara also served as chair of the Publications Committee for the last three years.

Barbara is well-trained for her tasks at CGS. She holds a B.A. in English from University of California, Berkeley and has a Masters in Library Science from San Jose State. The twin skills of patience and perseverance required for indexing were honed during a career in education in Oakland, where Barbara taught grades four through nine, and was a school librarian.

Close has been a member of the California Genealogical Society since 1991. She was first introduced to the society by past-president, Rick Sherman, who shares another passion with her – folk dancing. (I'll have to blog sometime about the large number of CGS members who are involved in all manner of dance pursuits!) Barbara's interest in genealogy dates back to a conversation with her uncle just after her father's funeral in Redding, California. She realized that she knew almost about her father's family and the search began.

Barbara recently stepped down as chair of the Publications Committee. Thanks, Barbara, for all of your exceptional work.

CGS titles edited by Barbara Close:
California Surname Index: Biographies from Selected Histories, California Genealogical Society, 2000
San Francisco, California: I.O.O.F. Crematory Records, California Genealogical Society, 2001
San Francisco Deaths 1902-1904, California Genealogical Society, 2003
San Francisco Deaths 1865-1869, California Genealogical Society, 2004

Photograph by Kathryn Doyle.

05 September 2008

Angel Island Foundation Dinner - September 12, 2008

CGS member Jeanie W. Chooey Low sent this announcement:

There's still time to get your tickets to the The Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation Annual Fundraising Dinner held next Friday, September 12, 2008 at the Westin San Francisco Market Street, 50 Third Street, San Francisco. Tickets are $200 and proceeds go to continuing the Foundation's efforts to inform the public about the rich history of the Immigration Station and its implications today.
The keynote speaker is Dr. Erika Lee, co-author of Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America with Judy Yung. The book is due out in 2010, but you will get a preview of the new stories emerging from their studies of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian immigrants, who passed through Angel Island between 1910 and 1940.
Pianist/composer Jon Jang will perform Prologue to Angel Voices, a series of musical compositions inspired by new translations of the Chinese poems carved on the Detention Barrack walls, Japanese poems written about the Angel Island experience, and excerpts from a Russian immigrant's letters about his stay on the island.
Come learn about the upcoming reopening of the Immigration Station on February 15, 2009. To buy tickets, email your contact information to or call Julie at 415-262-4429.
The immigration experience is a common thread binding the histories of most Americans. Whether escaping persecution, poverty or lack of economic prospects, immigrants have come to the United States for the ideals it represents — freedom, democracy, and opportunity. Most Americans know the story of Ellis Island, where immigrants crossing the Atlantic Ocean were processed. But the story of its West Coast counterpart, Angel Island, is little-known.
Located in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Angel Island Immigration Station was routinely the first stop for immigrants crossing the Pacific Ocean. The Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) is the nonprofit partner of California State Parks and the National Park Service in the effort to preserve, restore and interpret the historic immigration station.

04 September 2008

Serendipity in the New Books Section

The California Genealogical Society is fortunate to be the recipient of many wonderful donated books to the library. In addition, thanks to the financial generosity of our members, books and media are purchased to round out the collection. New books are housed on a special book shelf so members can peruse the latest additions.

Recently, CGS volunteer Sandy Fryer decided to take advantage of some quiet time while on "desk duty" and spend some time looking through the new books section. She had one of those serendipitous genealogical moments when she opened a book and found an ancestor.

Sandy Fryer found the portrait of her ancestor, Dr. John Clarke.

Sandy had heard of the portrait of her ancestor, Dr. John Clarke of Boston, Massachusetts, but she had never seen it.

Colket, Meredith B., Founders of Early American Families: Emigrants from Europe 1607-1657. Second Revised Edition. Cleveland, Ohio, The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America, 2002.

Photographs by Kathryn M. Doyle, July 15, 2008.

03 September 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Lunchtime at the California Genealogical Society.

Left to right: Arlene Miles, Nancy Peterson, Sandy Fryer, Pat Smith and Verne Deubler.

Photograph by Kathryn M. Doyle, Oakland, California, July 15, 2008.

02 September 2008

Tuesday Tales From the Road - Suffield, Connecticut

Mary is continuing her amazing genealogy research trek across the country. She's reached New England. This is her sixth report:

“Are you Mary?” asked the man in the Boy Scout Scoutmaster uniform. How fitting this uniform is for my Suffield, Connecticut hero, Art Sikes, who is the Vice President of the Suffield Historical Society (SHS). One day last year, I “googled” the last of my 2nd great-grandmothers to be researched. A few keystrokes later I arrived on the Suffield Historical Society Web site. I then clicked on “Families.” To my total amazement, Art had built the genealogy of the major founding families! The family trees and his sources are on the Web site! I hope some of you reading this blog have Suffield ancestors and can use this amazing site. By the time I finished, I had thirty surnames across as many as six generations. Although Art works full time and donates his time to many organizations, he always answered my e-mail questions. How many months, if not years, of research did he save me? I was delighted to take him and his wonderful wife, Bev, to dinner. I told them that I wish I could take them every night for a year. If there were a Boy Scout badge for genealogy, Art would be the first recipient.

Obviously, thirty surnames represent an impossible task for one week. Just imagine how many gravestones exist? Suffield kept continuous records from its founding in 1669, and almost all have survived with only a few lost to fire. Birth, marriage and death records are on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I copied Barbour’s Suffield listings for my surnames to expedite the microfilm search. The big jackpot is the existence of the minutes of the town meetings from 1669 through 1745. I copied most of them, as some ancestor appears in nearly all of the pages. Reviewing them will take a long time. I’m praying for a rainy San Francisco winter to do this.

Art also opened “the dungeon” in the basement of the Kent Memorial Library where SHS keeps the private archives. These include family farm ledgers, letters and many original documents, pictures, etc. I would need a month to make a dent. So, I am already planning my next trip to Suffield.

Oh, yes, one last item. Sometimes, luck plays a significant part in genealogy! I was reading H. S. Sheldon's book with the town meeting minutes and some comments that he added. He was talking about Joseph Sheldon, who was a leader of the town and a Connecticut representative to the Colonial Legislature in Boston. We have some Sheldons in our line in Suffield but not Joseph, or so I thought. Bingo, the list of his children included Benjamin Sheldon (born 1705), who was tied into another line not in Suffield. We had not researched his parents! After some more digging, I was thrilled to find that Joseph and Mary (Whiting) Sheldon were indeed Benjamin's parents. Then, came the real jackpot! Mary Whiting was the granddaughter of John Pynchon, who created the towns of Suffield, Brookfield, Deerfield and others! What a grand discovery!

Next stop – assorted Vermont towns.

Your genealogist on the road,

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

01 September 2008

A Joint Venture for Family History Month

In celebration of October as Family History Month, the California Genealogical Society and the Oakland Regional Family History Center are combining resources and expertise to offer a four session Beginning Genealogy Course.

Each of the four classes will be offered twice – on Saturday, at the CGS Library, from 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. and on the following Tuesday, at the Family History Center, from 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. The same teachers and handouts will be used in both sessions and students can attend classes at either facility.

Classes are free but there will be a $10 charge for a notebook containing a syllabus of the four classes. Those students wishing to join the California Genealogical Society will also receive $10 off their memberships after attending all four classes. Free parking is available at both locations. The Oakland Regional Family History Center is located at 4766 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland, California.

Preregistration is necessary to ensure adequate handouts. Drop-ins will be welcome on a space available basis. Please register by telephone 510-531-3905 or E-mail

The class outline and schedule are as follows:

Part 1 – Introduction to the Science of Genealogy
In this introductory class, Marge Bell Assistant Director of the ORFHC, will teach students how to get started and cover basic genealogical terminology, forms, computer programs, and organization of research files.
Saturday, October 4, 2008, 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. at CGS
Tuesday, October 7, 2008, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the FHC.

Part 2 – Secondary Survey
In the second class, Jane Lindsey President of CGS, will introduce students to the basic Internet research sites that feature compiled genealogies including, but not limited to, FamilySearch, Rootsweb, USGenweb. It will also include using digital library catalogs to help plan research and locate resources.
Saturday, October 11, 2008, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at CGS
Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the FHC.

There are no classes on Saturday, October 18 or on Tuesday, October 21.

Part 3 – Vital Records and the Calendar Change
This class, led by Marge Bell, will teach students how to locate birth, marriage, and death records at the various governmental levels, what one can expect to find on them and how the new information can lead to other clues and records. The class will also include the 1752 change in the calendar.
Saturday, October 25, 2008, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at CGS
Tuesday, October 28, 2008, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the FHC

Part 4 – Censuses, Including the State Census
Richard Rees, CGS member and research consultant, will provide a short history of the U.S. census, explain how to use it and discuss ways to work around the common problems. As time permits, there will be an overview of state census records: what's available and how to access the records.
Saturday, November 1, 2008: 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at CGS
Tuesday, November 4, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the FHC

Download the CGS Family History Month brochure for the full offering of October classes, workshops and consultations.

Illustration: "The Family Tree" by local artist Lyn White, from the cover of the Oakland Regional Family History Center brochure.