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29 August 2014

Finding Your Japanese Roots in the US & in Japan with Linda Okazaki

Would you like to learn how to document your unique family history? 
Dorothea Lange, WRA, Densho Digital Archive, 2008
On Saturday September 27, from 10-2, Linda Harms Okazaki is returning to CGS to present her seminar, Finding Your Japanese Roots in the US and in Japan. Adelle Treakle was a recent attendee of Linda Okazaki’s Finding Your Japanese Roots class and this sparked her quest to locate records on her family at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington DC. During the Second World War, members of Adelle’s family were held at Poston, the Colombia Relocation Center in Arizona. She kindly shares her experience:

"After attending Linda’s Finding Your Japanese Roots class, I was inspired to track down my family’s records at the National Archives in Washington DC. I requested the RG 210 files for my grandparents and their six children who were in the Poston Relocation Center. It is very moving to be able to hold in your hand the documents that had such significance to your family and their history. I took my laptop and scanner, and scanned every page, reading some along the way. Over a couple of days, I managed to scan more than 400 pages. The WRA [War Relocation Authority] kept every document, from camp intake forms, letters to and from WRA officials, and work, health and school records.

One of best treasures I found were school essays about the evacuation and camp life written by my aunt when she was in the eighth grade. Intake documents included information the family didn’t know about my grandparents in Japan, such as their mothers’ maiden names, family occupations and the schools they attended there. I hope to use this information for more genealogical research in Japan. Shortly after my DC trip, I was able to share my research at a family reunion, including giving my aunt copies of her long forgotten essays. It was gratifying to learn and share so much about such a historic event in my family’s life."

The California Genealogical Society proudly announces a repeat offering in our ongoing ethnic research series: Finding Your Japanese Roots in the US & in Japan

Join Linda Harms Okazaki for an encore presentation of this seminar. 
The first half will focus on background and research in the United States: 
  • the political climate and pertinent U.S. laws
  • internment camps
  • post WWII experience
  • repatriation and redress.
The second half of the seminar will concern research in Japan:
  • finding your koseki 
  • understanding ohaka and kakocho
  • visiting relatives, cemeteries and temples
The seminar is suitable for beginners as well as more experienced attendees. Attendees are welcome to bring lunch, meet seminar participants and discuss their Japanese-American history.

When: Saturday, September 27, 
2014 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 
(please bring a bag lunch)

Where: California Genealogical Society

2201 Broadway, Suite LL2
(Entrance on 22nd St)
Oakland, California

How: Register online: 

Cost: Free for members. Non-members fee is $20.00 (non-refundable) and can be applied towards membership on the day of the class.

Please note, this class is limited to thirty participants. Preregistration is required. Walk-ins will not be admitted.

Call CGS: (510) 663-1358 or E-mail:

Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, California Genealogical Society and Library.

21 August 2014

Adventures at GRIP- Genealogical Institute at Pittsburg: Pt 2

by Lisa S. Gorrell

Classroom at GRIP 2014. Photo: Lisa S. Gorrell

Wow, what I week I had! “Law School for Genealogists” was a heavily packed course with an abundant of information taught by three very experienced and knowledgeable instructors: Judy G. Russell, Richard G. Sayre, and Marian L. Smith. Judy and Rick are both certified genealogists and genealogy lecturers. 

Marian leads the Historical Research Branch at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security. Her knowledge of naturalization and immigration was wonderful.

So what did we do for a week studying law? The course was divided up into subject matters. This was basically an advanced class covering many of the basic records one learns about as a beginning genealogist but with the viewpoint of the law. Whenever a question was asked about a possible solution or why a document was created, we would say, “Look at the law.”

After an introductory course called “Freshman Orientation” that covered why genealogists should understand law, and how law has developed over time, we covered the following subjects:

• State courts and their records

• Federal courts and their records

• Legal Research 101, which covered how to use the website, Century of Lawmaking at the Library of Congress

• Legal Research 102, which covered the Serial Set, American State Papers, and Territorial Papers

• Legal Research 103, which covered The Claims Committees of the Congress and US Court of Private Land Claims

• Legal Research 104: The Serial Set and more with case studies

• Estate Law 101 & 102 (Wills, Intestacy and Probate; and Dower, Curtesy and Guardianships)

• Immigration and Naturalization 101 & 102

• Property: Federal Land Law (Public land)

• Property: State Land Law (Deeds, Mortgages)

• Military Law 101 (Military Pension law)

• Family Law 101 & 102 (Marriage and Divorce, and the law of women and children)

• Legal Research 105: Federal Prisons and Investigation

So you can see we covered a lot of subjects common to genealogy but our class was focused strongly with the law. The hardest parts for me were the Legal Research classes because I was unfamiliar with the Library of Congress website Century of Lawmaking and the National Archives website.  Our course binder was also filled with wonderful bibliographies in each of the class handouts and we received a link to a Google Drive folder with more goodies. We also got the opportunity to purchase Black’s Law Dictionary on CD for $19.95. One cannot begin to understand the law unless you understand the terminology!

The best thing I learned? A lot of business in Congress had to do with issues regular people had. 

These individuals made claims and Congress wrote private laws to relieve an individual or groups of individuals. These reliefs could be waivers, refunds, or torts. We learned how to search these papers and journals to find information about our ancestors. 

I also learned that knowing the law behind records explains its purpose. Knowing this will aid in your analysis of the information you find in the record. Judy and Rick will be teaching a similar class at SLIG in January and this course again next summer at GRIP.

Lisa S. Gorrell with genealogist Judy G. Russell. Photo: Lisa S. Gorrell

But what about the dorm life? I enjoyed staying in a dorm on the La Roche College campus. The dorms were in the building next to the classroom building which also held the cafeteria. The beds were already made for us and towels hanging in the bathrooms, too. All we had to bring were toiletries and an Ethernet cable to hook up to the internet. My next door neighbor was Kathryn Doyle! The food was tasty in the cafeteria and the classrooms mostly comfortable (one can’t please everyone anyway). There were lectures in the evening after dinner and on Wednesday, many of us watched Who Do You Think You Are all together in the lounge. Many of us were yelling back at the T.V. saying, “What else was in the Civil War file?” or “Do some DNA!”

All in all, I had a great time at GRIP and recommend it to anyone who would like an in-depth study of one subject.

Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, California Genealogical Society and Library.

14 August 2014

Genealogy Institutes: GRIP: Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburg- Pt.1

Are you considering ways to get advanced training in genealogy? This month we're pleased to present a two part series by Lisa S. Gorrell on her experiences attending a genealogy institute and why an institute is worth going to. 

by Lisa S. Gorrell

A great way to learn deeply about one subject is to attend a genealogy institute. There are several institutes that have courses each year:

• Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). This is held in January in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2015, there will be 12 tracks.

• Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR). This is held in June in Birmingham, Alabama on the Samford University campus. In 2015, there will be 10 courses to choose from.

• Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). This is held in July. This year there are two sections: 6 courses held in Pittsburgh at the LaRoche College and 4 courses held in in August at Orchard Lake, Michigan.

I have attended SLIG twice and IGHR once and this year will be attending GRIP in Pittsburgh. I am enrolled in Judy G. Russell and Rich Sayre’s class called Law School for Genealogists. Classes start on Monday morning and run to noon on Friday. I am staying on the campus in a dorm. It’s a great way to attend the institute. Fellow attendees are together living in dorm rooms and sharing meals in the cafeteria which is included in the housing fee. IGHR also has dorms, a beautiful campus, and wonderful Southern hospitality and food.

So why attend an institute? It is a chance to study a subject in more detail than you would get from an hour lecture or an all-day seminar. It is also a chance to take more advanced subjects. Some of the best instructors teach at these institutes. 

Here is the lineup for GRIP in Pittsburgh next week: Paul Stuart-Warren, Thomas W. Jones, D. Joshua Taylor, J. Mark Lowe, Deborah Abbott, Debbie Parker Wayne, CeCe Moore, Blaine Bettinger, Judy G. Russell, and Rick Sayre.

The subjects this year include: Intermediate Genealogy, Determining Kinship Reliably with the Genealogical Proof Standard, Becoming an Online Expert: Mastering Search Engines and Digital Archives, Finding and Documenting African-American Families, Practical Genetic Genealogy, and Law School for Genealogist. The last two on the list filled up within 5-10 minutes. I was so lucky to get my first choice. 

There are waiting lists and often you can still get a seat when someone cancels.

So I get a whole week of listening to Judy Russell and Rick Sayre speak about how knowing about the law will help me with my genealogical research. We’re going to learn about federal courts and their records, state courts and their records, the legislative process, how to use the Serial Set: The American State Papers and Territorial Papers, estate law, immigration and naturalization law, property laws (federal & state), military pension laws, marriage and divorce laws, and how to use law to prove a case.

I can’t wait! Stay tuned for a follow-up of the class.

Book sales at GRIP. Photo: Lisa S. Gorrell

Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, California Genealogical Society and Library.

03 August 2014

The Search is on!- Researching at the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Pt. 2

Our series by Daniel Spelce continues with his exploration of the collections and various resources at the main Family History Library, and a wonderful find. The FHL has an incredible collection of materials- 2.4 million rolls of microfilm, 727,000 microfiche, 346,000 books, serials and other formats, 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources, mostly for individuals born before 1930. Planning a trip with CGS enables one to go with fellow members and embark on your family history research.

Jane Lindsey presents an orientation to CGS researchers. Photo: Daniel Spelce

This morning provided orientation and introduction to the library, its collections and resources. Jane Knowles Lindsey, seen in the photo above, to the left, is our trip organizer. We gathered in one of the computer lab classrooms for a walk through of the online program.

Wall display of traditional Native American arts, FHL stairwell. Photo: Daniel Spelce

One of the benefits of genealogy and family history research is that the activity fosters a realization that our wandering ethnic tethers ultimately connect in a shared common ancestry, allowing us deeper occasions to appreciate one another’s humanity and rootedness in the rest of nature. This beautiful wall display in the first floor-second floor stairwell of the Family History Library recognizes the vibrancy, elegance, and wisdom of indigenous Americans.

Nancy Petersen (left) and the CGS group on the 3rd Floor, FHL. Photo: Daniel Spelce
Throughout the day the FHL fills with people, from the door opening in the morning to the key turning to lock it closed for the night. Many of us in the CGS group worked on the third floor, using the exceptional collection of books usually beyond our reach. Nancy Peterson works at the end of the table, near a window, in the lower left foreground of the photo (dressed in green). She’s joining Jane as genealogical sage for our week here. She and Jane have been co-leading these trips to the FHL since the 1980s.

Among my favorite Pete Seeger ditties, one sings out “Just when I thought all was lost…” Today passed with difficulty for me. After the morning orientations and lunch I felt ready for some discovery, some breakthroughs that would make me want to get up and shake a leg and call out with elation. Alas, the hours pressed swiftly past, quietly, intently, as I sought out the birth date, birth place, death date, place of death, and (just maybe) a cause of death for my great grandmother, Emma Buck Spelce, who died before reaching her 25th birthday. After searching, searching, searching, and scrolling through the catalog (serving as the FHL online catalog) imagining varying possibilities for finding evidence or record of Emma’s birth and death, I noticed the sun was throwing longer shadows. I leaned back in my chair to draw in a refreshing breath of air. 

While casting a gaze about the large room full of busy genealogists at work, I glanced at a mother and two daughters researching their shared history together. The young family historian using a cell phone to snap photos of pictures she found in books first caught my eye. She was using her smart phone exactly how I imagined myself using one-- which led me to buy into the cell-phone century in January. Then, there her sister historian drawing maps she found in the book she was using. Their mother was none other than Sarah Ahlstrom from San Jose, who worked alongside the growing scholars amidst their inspired concentration. Refreshed from this inspiring encounter, I resumed my own research.

A pair of young family historians at the FHL. Photo: Daniel Spelce 
As the afternoon waded further into the dimming sunlight, I noticed more and more young people of middle school-, high school-, and college-age showing up at tables and computer stations. A few with parents, but most working away with relaxed, confident but dedicated rapture on their own. I reflected on my experience as a high school classroom history teacher, the thick books weighing heavy with alien names, dates and places. I thought about how so many young people wandered, mentally and physically, in search of an engaging connection with their experience, with who they are.

Soon after leaving formal classroom teaching in institutional school settings, I found myself wondering just how could one foster a love of history and writing, share the knowledge, and develop the skills and wisdom to rouse that marvelous youthful exuberance to willful, broadly satisfying embrace of self, family, neighborhood, community, and nature. The people coming to the FHL to find pieces of their family stories are not a massing of the valedictorians of the school system. These are regular folks undertaking essentially academic initiative for its own profoundly meaningful resonance with who they are and who they want to be and who they’ve been, collectively, communally, spiritually.

From a growing store of conversations, I appreciate that these academic commoners think critically, wonder sometimes deeply, and imagine possibilities. Gradually over the months since my parents died, I’ve devoted time to seeking out my family story, including both my parents and grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, whom I've known personally, and also for ancestors and relatives beyond awareness, drifting aloof in some vague, ethereal void. I’m grateful for growing to appreciate people and nature for the vast webs of connections and experience our individuality embeds us in. 

The afternoon at the library drew toward closing, a library staffer counting off the fleeting chunks of time, as clocks neared the five o’clock closing hour. At 4:30 pm, Nancy looked across the table to me, asking how I was doing. I mumbled my continuing befuddlement. Rallying my spirits she said, earnestly, “Just go find a McHenry County (Illinois) history. Just go find the McHenry County section and scan the books. See what you find. You’ve still got time.” With renewed vigor and a call number in hand to guide me, I dashed into the middle of library stacks.

Soon I stood before the collection of books about McHenry County where I think Emma Buck was born. Voilá! My racing eyes settled on the Biographical Dictionary of Tax Payers and Voters of McHenry County, 1877. Organized alphabetically by surname, I found George Buck, Emma’s father (my great grandfather), married with Elizabeth Milledge (my great, great grandmother), living on 91 acres. The entry tells the value of the real estate and describes the farming activity and more. Emma was five years old at the time. I didn’t find Emma’s birth date, but I learned about the family farm I think she was born on. Tomorrow I’ll return to copy the entry onto my flash drive and continue looking over the books in this section. Perhaps I’ll find books describing church, school, and civic involvement of Marengo (McHenry County, Illinois) area residents. I also decided I’d use my cell phone to call the McHenry County assessor, the clerk, and the recorder to ask about the nature of the birth, property, tax, and voter registration records that might be on file.

View of the Rockies from the FHL window. Photo: Daniel Spelce
Ah, now I can rest. Isn’t the afternoon sun on the Rockies a magnificent splendor?

Enjoy lifting voices up and singing,

Thinking of going to SLC with us in April 2015?  Watch our quick and fun video from a past trip---We can't wait to see you in 2015!

Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, California Genealogical Society and Library.