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28 July 2015

Tuesday Genealogy Travels

Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and Essex 

by Mary Mettler

St. Mary the Virgin Church in Saffron Walden
Photo by Mary Mettler

This trip should be called "genealogy-lite!" No libraries, no archives, no historical societies! We simply are driving to as many ancestral towns in Southern England as possible. Hmmm...might even be called a forced march!

Our first week has included Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and Essex, all of which were "seething with Puritanism" in the 17th century. Although we Americans know Reverend John Eliot as the proselytizer to the Indians, he was a powerful influence in the Puritan movement in this area of England. 

Fortunately, many of the churches remain in which my ancestors worshipped. We can thank those strong builders, the Normans! Although they have been remodeled and expanded, Norman details still exist - a door, an arch, or a font. Henry VIII stamped his mark on many of the restored timber ceilings, which often include one or more Tudor roses.

We had a great stroke of luck when we stopped at St. Michael's Church in Bishop's Stortford on a Sunday. One of my favorite ancestors, 9th great-grandfather George Denison, worshipped here as a child. The organist, Nate Collins, was practicing and not only entertained us but invited us to the evening service, which included ten bells ringing changes (peals) from the tower. I have an application if you are interested in becoming a bell ringer! My niece, Bonnie, told me they don't call it a melody, but the patterns seem much like it. I'm posting a short video to show you how wonderful they are! 


Our favorite picturesque town is Saffron Walden, a sparkling clean, old English town with many half-timbered buildings. It is home to St. Mary the Virgin Church where my 9th great-grandparents, Samuel and Anne (Savell) Bass were married and their children baptized.  

I can't resist two non-genealogy and non-history items. One is a faucet in the public rest rooms. Place your hand under the faucet for a real treat! It dispenses soap, switches to water, and finishes off with a perfect drying job! The other is a very civilized "no parking" sign. I would love to find one of these for my driveway! Do you have more questions? Feel free to contact me

Photo by Bonnie Mettler

Stay tuned for more adventures with Mary...


               Copyright © 2015 by California Genealogical Society and Library

21 July 2015

Tuesday Genealogy Travels

Several years ago, Mary Mettler wrote a series of blogs, "Tuesday Tales on the Road." She is back on the road, this time in England with her niece, Bonnie. Below is her first blog.

A Genealogical Adventure in England
by Mary Mettler 

Admiral at Sea Robert Blake at Royal Naval College, Greenwich

My niece Bonnie and I are about to begin a trek to some of the towns of our Puritan ancestors in Southern England. First, we are visiting my grandniece Brett and her husband Alex in London. Along with sightseeing and lots of good eating, we are paying homage to our second cousin many times removed, Admiral-at-Sea Robert Blake (1599-1657). He is one of the most famous commanders in British Naval history. His plaque in St. Margaret's Church describes him as "Chief Founder of England Naval Supremacy." Blake was born in Bridgwater, Somerset, England in 1599, attended Oxford, and was elected to Parliament. At the beginning of the English Civil War in 1642, he volunteered his services to the Parliamentarians. With military successes and a dash or two of bravado, he became a hero to the Roundheads. My family loves his declaration at the Battle of Taunton in 1645 where he said he had four pairs of boots and would eat three of them before he would surrender Taunton! Fortunately for his digestive system, Taunton held.

His time in the Navy was his crowning glory. Made General-at-Sea in 1649, he played major roles in the Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-54 and the Anglo-Spanish War of 1656-57. His fleet totally destroyed the Spanish silver fleet in the Canary Islands in 1657 without the loss of a single English ship! Returning to England in failing health from old wounds, Blake died as his ship, George, neared the port of Plymouth. He was buried in Westminster Abbey but was not to be left in peace. With the Restoration, Charles II ordered Blake and other prominent Parliamentarians "ejected" from Westminster in 1661 and reburied in a common grave in the adjacent St. Margaret's Church graveyard. We visited the Church to see the stained glass window depicting scenes of his life and several plaques on the inside and outside of the Church. Combined with other sightseeing, we took a boat ride to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich to see his carved bust among the famous Naval heroes on the facade of the building. The history of St. Margaret's is fascinating, as are the many accomplishments of Admiral-at-Sea Robert Blake

We will revisit the Blake family when we visit Somerset toward the end of our trip. Now, it's time for another great eating experience!

Plaque at St. Margaret's Church

Blake Stained Glass Window

St. Margaret's Church

If you would like to share stories of your own genealogical adventure, please contact Linda Okazaki.

               Copyright © 2015 by California Genealogical Society and Library

01 July 2015

Japanese American Discussion Session

The California Genealogical Society will continue to host a series of ethnic discussion groups that are free and open to the public.  

Maruko Okazaki, ca. 1937, Santa Maria, California

On Thursday July 23, 2015 from 6:30-7:30 pmCGS President Linda Okazaki will lead an informal discussion on Nikkei Genealogy. This session is free and open to the public. Please rsvp on Eventbrite. Feel free to come early, bring your dinner and meet other researchers. The library is free for those who arrive after 4pm.

Here's a brief description of the session:

Searching for your Japanese roots can be challenging but not impossible. Getting started is no different than researching any other ethnic group. Begin with yourself and work backwards, collecting birth, marriage and death records. Then venture into census, land and immigration records. For Nikkei, internment camp records and A-files are critical. All of these documents can give you clues needed to get your records in Japan.

In addition to our free discussion session, Linda will repeat the seminar "Finding Your Japanese Roots: In the U.S. and in Japan" at CGS on August 29 from 12:00-3:00 pm. Come learn how to document your unique family history! Registration is already open. This seminar has a $30 fee for non-members, which may be applied to a membership on the day of the class.
            Copyright © 2015 by California Genealogical Society and Library