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28 May 2017

Chris' Genealogy Journey, First Stop: Albany, Texas

Leaving Liz's in Tucson, AZ in my new RV shirt

 by Chris Pattillo

Come along with me, a fellow California Genealogical Society member, and read excerpts from my blog as I begin a genealogy adventure focused on Texas, Virginia, Tennessee and Illinois.  Along the trail I plan to visit state and national parks too.  Ready? Let’s go!

The Why and the How
Inspired by my mom and dad’s camper trips when I was a kid, I’ve got my own small motorhome now, so I’m hitting the road. For many years I’ve wanted to spend time where my ancestors lived and to learn more about what they did, where they lived and what their lives were like. Now that I’ve recently retired, I can spend time seeing these places and doing research at local history libraries, state archives, courthouses and other places where historic records are kept.

In 1971 my parents Lottie and Ed bought a Ford pickup and a new camper 
Texas: My Ancestor Trail Begins
I’ve heard that people in Texas are friendly. Today I experienced the truth to that statement, and I would add they are helpful and generous. This morning I drove from Snyder, Texas to Albany, Texas (Shackelford County) and I started the genealogy part of this trip.

My great grandfather James William Pattillo left Mecklenburg, Virginia after the Civil War and migrated to Tarrant County, Texas. The earliest record I have for his being in the county is his marriage to Carrie Brooks Stover on 5 April 1879. On the 1880 Tarrant County census James was identified as a cattle dealer living in Handley just west of Fort Worth. By 1887 James and Carrie were living in Los Angeles, California but Carrie’s brother David Gaines Stover remained in Texas.

Saw this map in the Dawson County Courthouse.
At top center are Shackelford, Stephens and Tarrant Counties
There are footprints of this branch of my family in three counties all west of Fort Worth – Tarrant, Stephens and Shackelford. I started in Shackelford because I knew where Carrie’s brother, his wife and two of his sons are buried in the Albany Cemetery.

Saundra Nobles had surveyed the Albany cemetery and uploaded all her data and photos onto the Find-A-Grave site. The section, block and lot numbers were all listed on the site, so I figured finding them would be easy. It’s a large cemetery with very clearly labeled street names, but I didn’t see any section, block or lot numbers. I was stumped...for Chris’ complete story, click here.

Everyone I encountered today was warm, friendly, helpful and remarkably generous. Thank you Albany, Texas – a great town.  Stay tuned for my next genealogy adventure!

Photos courtesy of Chris Pattillo

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

26 May 2017

Lincoln, Love, and Loss

The "Gettysburg Portrait", A head-on photograph of Abraham Lincoln
taken on November 8, 1863; two weeks before his Gettysburg Address.
Photo By Alexander Gardner via Wikimedia Commons
by Georgia Lupinsky

The California Genealogical Society’s newest publication, The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen, is now available for purchase on our website. Elegantly written and extremely well researched by CGS past president, Frederick S. (Rick) Sherman, the book provides a series of very personal stories of his ancestors. This is possible because many left detailed written records of their existence and these have been preserved at various institutions in the United States.

For example, a large collection of letters (including fifty-nine love letters) written by Mr. Sherman’s second-great-grandfather, John J. Hardin, born Frankfort, Kentucky in 1810, exist today. A dashing, intelligent and handsome man, Mr. Hardin was licensed to practice law in Kentucky at the age of 19 and was later elected to the Illinois General Assembly.

John J. Hardin, 1810-1847
A Whig, he was a close friend and political ally of Abraham Lincoln. In 1843 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Later Daniel Webster sponsored his entry into the group of lawyers authorized to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A colonel in the Illinois Volunteers during the war with Mexico, he was killed at the Battle of Buena Vista at the age of 37. The memorial ceremony in Jacksonville, Illinois to honor him and others who had died included a parade and speeches that drew an immense crowd, estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000.

The author’s thorough investigation and use of these resources has resulted in a very readable book that illuminates the personal qualities of these individuals and gives us a view into their daily lives.

Copies of the book with its fascinating stories may be purchased on our website at by selecting the Publications tab where CGS members will receive a discount or may be ordered directly from 

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

25 May 2017

An Interview with Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist

The Legal Genealogist is coming to town!  The California Genealogical Society is hosting the nationally known expert in law and genealogy, Judy G. Russell, on September 23rd for an all-day seminar in Berkeley. 

Register now to hear how her genealogy gold can help you with your own family history research.

Who’s The Legal Genealogist?

With her law degree as her calling card, Judy has become one of the most respected genealogists speaking around the country.  It’s this keen insight into how the law affected our ancestors that sheds light onto our collective past.

She has her own acclaimed blog, The Legal Genealogist, to which she continually adds amazing content that helps both the new and experienced genealogist.

Judy holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist® (CG) and a Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL). You can learn about her numerous credentials at her Association of Professional Genealogists page.

We hope you’ll join us for Judy’s seminar, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about her. I recently talked with her on a variety of topics, mostly genealogy of course.  Here’s what I learned:

What are your latest personal genealogy projects? At the moment, I'm still trying to identify some dropped-off-by-space-aliens ancestors using DNA to augment the few surviving records. I'm hot on the trail of a third great grandmother and her parents at the moment.

How did the genealogy bug bite you? My mother's family is Scots-Irish. That means I grew up listening to the stories -- and at some point you really want to know if there's even a chance that some of the stories might possibly be true. Once I got started looking into the reality, rather than the stories, I found that the truth was at least as much fun as the stories -- and sometimes the stories were even true.

As an attorney, what unique skills do you bring to the field of genealogy? First and foremost, a legal education gives me a comfort level with a whole series of resources that are critical but arcane to the average genealogist: the laws themselves.

Let's face it: most of the records we have wouldn't exist if the law didn't require them. Even the information recorded is dictated by legal mandates. So we can't really understand the records unless we understand the laws -- and the laws, to me, are old friends rather than scary enemies. Beyond that, my experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney and legal educator makes me want to hunt for the facts and then present them clearly so I can convince others.

What do you feel are the most important ingredients in being a successful genealogy researcher? Tenacity and curiosity. You have to want to look under every rock -- and you have to go ahead and actually turn over every single rock.

How would you describe your teaching style? I'd hope most people would find it down to earth -- with a leavening of humor.

What do you hope seminar attendees learn from your seminar? I have a mantra: to understand the records, we have to understand the laws as they were at the time and in the place where the records were created. If folks come away with a clear understanding of why that's so important, it'll be a good day all the way around.

What would you say to those contemplating registering for your seminar? Besides "come to the dark side, we have cookies"? Seriously, genealogy -- and the law as it impacts genealogy -- can be fun. And when you add in a dollop of science through DNA the whole thing takes on shapes of CSI. 

What do you do like to do when you aren't working on genealogy? There's life beyond genealogy? Really? Okay, okay, in my abundant spare time (koff koff), I play with the cats and am an amateur photographer.

Law, genealogy and tenacity...Judy’s got what it takes.  We hope to see you on September 23rd in Berkeley for her seminar!

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

21 May 2017

Here Where You Stood : The Journey of a Japanese Artist and His Immigrant Ancestors

Linda Okazaki, Ted Okazaki, Aisuke Kondo
Photo by Jane Lindsey

Aisuke Kondo
is a Japanese contemporary artist based in Berlin. Recently, he spent some time at the California Genealogical Society (CGS) learning about his great grandfather, a Japanese immigrant who was incarcerated first at Santa Anita Assembly Center, and then Topaz War Relocation Authority Camp in Utah.

Aisuke’s family history is compelling. His American-born grandfather was attending college in Japan when WWII broke out. He was conscripted into the Japanese Army and lost his American citizenship. 

Aisuke provided correspondence, documenting the efforts by his grandfather to have his citizenship reinstated. Sadly, the documentation also included letters from the U.S. government denying that request. CGS President, Linda Okazaki, reviewed the documents in Aisuke's possession, and also made recommendations for further research. Ted Okazaki assisted with the nuanced translations related to the history of the time frame. 

There currently is an art exhibit in Los Angeles (closing May 28) that focuses on the incarceration Aisuke Kondo's great grandfather.

Linda Okazaki and Aisuke Kondo, reviewing documents
Photo by Ted Okazaki
Whether your ancestors lived in California, Berlin, Japan, or someplace else, it’s always worth visiting the California Genealogical Society to make some ancestral discoveries.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society