Recent Posts

28 August 2017

Why I Donated to the Capital Campaign: Ken Haughton

Ken and Beverly Haughton

Our third in a series of blog posts entitled, Why I Chose to Contribute to the Capital Campaign focuses on life member and donor, Ken Haughton.

Ken has given generously of his time and money for over 39 years to California Genealogical Society (CGS).  He was CFO for many years and has served on our board of directors. Ken also started our endowment fund and trained our current Investment Committee members, Chris Pattillo and Jim Sorenson.  He now serves as a sounding board to our investment committee.

Here are a few questions that I asked him on why he chose to financially support our society:

By contributing to the Capital Campaign, what do you hope to accomplish? The economy of the United States is somewhat temperamental.  A slump could affect the income from membership in a negative way.  It is important to keep the organization active and vital, no matter what happens, so that it can continue to preserve all forms of family history for future generations.

You have many organizations to choose from when considering a donation, what made you choose us? Well, history has an effect on history.  I have had many positive interactions with the Society and feel it should continue to perform in that manner with many more folks.

How does donating to CGS extend your personal legacy or the legacy of California Genealogical research? Providing facilities and assistance goes a long way toward extending the legacy of the Society and if it is healthy, this effect is multiplied.

How did CGS' genealogical resources help your research efforts? It's hard to enumerate all the ways it has helped me.  The Library and all of it resources have led me to any number of discoveries.  But most of all, the community associated with it has led me on with questions and suggestions (and general advice).

What would you say to those contemplating a donation to the Capital Campaign? This is an honest and solid society that provides an unbiased look into history on the personal level.  Anything to help this objective is worth the effort.  Besides, it's fun.

The idea behind the Capital Campaign
The California Genealogical Society's Capital Campaign kicked off this past February with a goal of raising $1.2 million dollars. The goal was created to coincide with the beginning of our 120th Anniversary in 2018. 

The money raised from the Capital Campaign will help ensure that our society will remain a leader in genealogy and give us the necessary financial cushion to weather various storms in the future.

A committee chaired by Chris Pattillo was created to lead this effort. Chris also has the considerable help and talent of both Jane Lindsey and Sandy Fryer to ensure that the campaign will be a huge success.

Are you interested in donating to our Capital Campaign?  Please contact Jane Lindsey or Chris Pattillo with any questions.  They would love to hear from you.  Thank you.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

25 August 2017

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

by Georgia Lupinsky

A Birthday Photograph
The day of Samuel Sterling Sherman’s 99th birthday found him surrounded by an abundance of flowers (pictured above) as he received numerous wishes for a “Happy Birthday” from those he had known in various parts of the country throughout his life. 

As Frederick S. Sherman relates in The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen, his great-grandfather, born 24 November 1815 in West Rupert, Vermont, told his own life story in an autobiography dictated when he was 95 years old, with an addendum provided four years later.

In that addendum Dr. Sherman even explains the genesis of the birthday photo accompanying this article. Between 1855 and 1859 Samuel Sherman served as President of the Judson Female Institute in Marion, Alabama. Now, over fifty years later, the students, faculty and alumnae of that institution had shipped vines and flowers from the South and he writes that though the “many rare and southern flowers had suffered much from the long journey, they were still interesting to northern eyes.” It occurred to him to decorate the large bay window with these flowers  and to take a photograph of it that would give pleasure to the donors. Thus a “flashlight picture was taken of the window with myself entering upon the ninety-ninth year of my age, and holding the Judson telegram in my hand.”

Years in the South
At the age of 19 Samuel entered Middlebury College, but a bout with typhoid fever in his junior year prompted him to seek a warmer climate. Learning of a position at the University of Alabama as a tutor in Latin and Greek, he made an adventurous trip South via Savannah and Macon, Georgia, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. After three years at the university, he was asked to undertake the founding of a college in Marion and at the age of twenty-six, became the founding president of what became Howard College, now Samford University outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Other positions in education included leadership of the Brownwood School in LaGrange, Georgia and the presidency of Judson Female Institute in Marion, Alabama. 

Life in the North
By 1859 Mr. Sherman had come to believe that civil war was inevitable and moved his family north to Milwaukee. However, he retained a lifelong affection and concern for his Southern friends. 

In 1867 Sherman and associates established a tea, coffee and spice business which he pursued for the rest of his business career. “The company was profitable, in part due to a novel baking powder formulated by Great-grandfather, who had always been especially interested in chemistry.” After the great Chicago fire, Mr. Sherman moved to Chicago and continued his business there with his sons, Frederick and Henry, as partners. At this point in his long life, Chicago became his most permanent home, as he still had thirty-five years ahead of him. Though dealing with various physical disabilities in his last few years, Mr. Sherman remained mentally bright until the end of his life, dying on 22 November 1914.

Great-grandson Frederick S. (“Rick”) Sherman and his wife Pat paid an unannounced visit to Judson Institute in 1956, one hundred years after his Great-grandfather started his work there and wrote that “the enthusiasm and kindness with which we were greeted, we shall never forget. Their memory of their old friend and champion was as fresh as though he had just walked out the door.”

May Rick’s words encourage you to walk in the steps of your ancestors and to find what a satisfying experience that can be.  Those wishing to immerse themselves in the wonderful research and writing of Frederick Sherman may purchase the The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen on our website. Members receive a 25% discount.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

21 August 2017

You're Invited! Family History Month Open House

Come help us celebrate genealogy!  To coincide with Family History Month, The California Mayflower Society & Library and The California Genealogical Society are having a collaborative open house on October 21st from 2pm - 4pm, so save the date!  We're both located at 2201 Broadway in Oakland, on the lower level and across the hall from each other. Both libraries will provide drinks and snacks. 

During the dual open house, there will also be a meeting of the Family Tree Maker Special Interest Group (FTM-SIG) at our library. Members of both our societies are involved and we plan to make it a bit more casual so people can easily come and go to both societies during the meeting. Interested to know what the group is all about?  It's a great time to visit and see if becoming a part of this group would help you.

As new neighbors to each other, the California Genealogical Society and the California Mayflower Society have forged a new strategic friendship aimed at increasing traffic to both our libraries and genealogical research resources.  We know that our common goal of preserving genealogy and helping others learn more about their diverse family heritage is what makes this endeavor so special.

Please come tour the California Mayflower Society's new offices and library to see how their archival materials can help your family history research.  We also want you stop in and see what's new with us.  Do both and see how our genealogy resources are second to none.

Please put October 21st from 2-4pm on your calendar.  We hope to see you there!

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

18 August 2017

Celebrating the 120th Anniversary of The California Genealogical Society in the Nugget

by Janice M. Sellers

Next year, 2018, will be the 120th anniversary of the California Genealogical Society (CGS). 

To help commemorate that milestone, The California Nugget (our genealogical society's magazine) is particularly looking for articles and short items having to do with people and events in 1898. 

Here's what we need your help with
  • If someone in your family was hatched, matched, or dispatched (born, married, or died) that year, send a message with the relevant information, so the editor can begin to create a calendar of 1898 life events. 
  • If something significant happened in your family in 1898, or you know of an event that took place in San Francisco that year, consider submitting an article about it. 
  • If you had relatives who were members of CGS during its first few years, send a note about who it was and what activities that person was involved in. 
Send your submissions and suggestions to editor Janice M. Sellers at  Thank you!

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

16 August 2017

Margery Jean Howe Bell, 1946–2017

Enock and Marge Bell, June 2017

by Janice M. Sellers

Margery Howe was born June 8, 1946 in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, to parents Richard and Jean Howe and grew up in the nearby towns of Ulysses and Mansfield. She graduated from Mansfield High School and went on to earn a nursing degree from the Bellevue School of Nursing in New York City. Her specialty was pediatric intensive care. She married Enoch Bell on July 23, 1966. They lived in upstate New York, Virginia, Oregon, and Montana before settling in Moraga, California in 1983.

Even in the genealogy world, probably not a lot of people outside the San Francisco Bay area knew Marge. But in the Bay Area, she was well known and appreciated for her contributions and knowledge. She had been on staff at the Oakland FamilySearch Library for many years, and we all relied on her. She and Enoch were Saturday supervisors for two years, and then Marge moved to an Assistant Director position at the library. One of her great accomplishments was cataloguing not only the entire holdings of the Oakland library but also the collections of several of the smaller Family History Centers in the San Francisco area. She often taught genealogy classes, did indexing for FamilySearch, and organized everything within her reach.

Marge had been researching her own family history for years, and her research was of the highest caliber. She deplored the state of online family trees, whether on Ancestry, FamilySearch, or anywhere else. She was particularly aggravated when FamilySearch began its collaborative tree, which allowed others to "correct" your information. Marge had meticulously researched her tree, and she knew that any information she posted was accurate. (Once it was even copied by a Ph.D. student who didn't bother to give her credit.) While everyone else (multiple times over) had her distant female ancestor's father as one man, she was the apparently the first (and only) person who made the effort to search through the unindexed loose probate documents for the county to find that the father was a totally different man.

Marge was my genealogy mentor. She tricked me into teaching my first genealogy class, on online newspapers, but she gave me advice and feedback throughout the time I was creating the presentation. She came to that first class and let me know what went well and what could use some work. Her recommendations always improved my work and made my talks better. I can't imagine where I would be without the benefit of years of her advice and support.

Marge was also wonderful to brainstorm with. She could offer a different perspective and new insights on difficult research problems that had me stumped. Sometimes I was even able to return the favor, especially when she wanted to know if some book in the library actually could be useful for genealogy research. We enjoyed bouncing ideas off of each other.

Marge announced she was moving to Utah about the same time I had begun to make my plans to move to Oregon. She warned me that just because we each were moving didn't mean I wasn't going to hear from her when she had a question or wanted a second opinion. Unfortunately, I won't be receiving any more messages from her.

Marge had just barely moved to Utah when her health took a turn for the worse, one from which she was unable to recover. She died on July 20, 2017, surrounded by family members. The genealogy community, especially that of the Bay area and the Oakland FamilySearch Library, has lost a tremendous resource and a dear, loving friend.

Marge is survived by her husband, Enoch Bell; her children, Jonathan and Catherine; eight grandchildren; and her sisters, Joanne Horne, Carolyn Barrett, and Laurie Corbett.  Her memorial service was held in Moraga on August 12.

Photo Credit: Wade Olofson

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

11 August 2017

New Genealogy Librarian for Sutro Library

by Mattie Taormina

Have you heard? The Sutro Library has a new Genealogy Librarian, Dvorah Lewis! She started work on June 5th and has already had positive feedback from a patron after she handled a complex question regarding Virginia tax lists. 

Her passion for the archives and genealogy began while she completed her Humanities Honors’ thesis, using this project as a way to explore her family history. After researching for two years, she transformed the few sentences she had based on cloudy memories into a novella supported by archival materials. 

An interview with her great Aunt Essie, the eldest member of her family at the time, revealed the heart of the project: a Jewish orphanage where Essie and her siblings grew up in during the 1930s – 1940s. This also happens to be America’s first Jewish orphanage located in Philadelphia. 

Dvorah found many treasures related to her family at the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center, located at Temple University, especially the collection of materials related to the orphanage where her Aunt Essie grew up. Dvorah said, “The opportunity to touch, see, and smell these archival materials was an experience like no other!  I know first-hand what it’s like to find these incredible genealogy resources that shed light on your family. I hope to do the same for those researching their genealogy at Sutro Library.” 

She often encourages others to talk with the elder members of their families and research in a local archive—so many treasures are there to be discovered! Dvorah feels that by preserving the past, we can understand the present, and bring positive change to the future. This sentiment follows her in every aspect of her life. 

Go and visit Dvorah Lewis at the Sutro Library, part of the California State Library. It’s located on the fifth and sixth floor of the J. Paul Leonard Library on the campus of San Francisco State University.  

About Dvorah
Originally hailing from Davis, Dvorah went to Southern California to pursue her interest in creative writing. She earned her Bachelor’s in English with a minor in Jewish Studies and an emphasis in Creative Writing at UC Irvine—zot, zot! Dvorah returned to Northern California with her Master’s in Library Science (MLIS) from UCLA. While completing her graduate degree, she worked as a Reference Assistant at the Charles E. Young Research Library. For the past year, she worked as a Project Archivist for two Los Angeles Jewish institutions. 

She comes from a long line of state workers: her dad was a Correctional Officer (recently retired); her brother works for the Department of Finance; and her twin sister works in the Department of Pesticide Regulation. She is especially excited to be closer to her twin sister who is getting married in a few months! In her spare time, she continues to write and recently completed the last installment of her fantasy/sci-fi trilogy. After putting her genealogy journey on hold, she’s ready to delve back in, expand her family tree, and hone in on her genealogy research skills.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

Construction Weekend of August 11th: Building Renovation of Main Lobby & Entrance

Please be aware that this weekend, beginning Friday, August 11th and continuing through Sunday, August 13th, our building entrance and lobby will be undergoing a renovation project.  It’s a repositioning of the building entrance. On Saturday, you will still be able to enter and exit the building on the 22nd Street side.

However on Monday, August 14, 2017, access to the building will be via the new Broadway entry, and the 22nd Street doors will be closed.

Please not that there will be scaffolding and barricades will be constructed from the building entrance to the elevators, for safety purposes.

You may hear construction noise during regular building hours, but the schedule is designed to minimize disruption to on-going building operations.

Thank you for your patience during this process. 

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

02 August 2017

Summer School at Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh I & II

This past July was the latest GRIP (Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh). Over two weeks (GRIP I & II), our members and many other genealogists from around the country had a blast learning the latest in the genealogy field!  

Check out the photos and plan to attend yourself in 2018.

Back row: Vicky Kolakowski, Harold Henderson, 
and James Russell.  Front rowSandra Benward, 
Linda Okazaki and Vanessa Crews.
Photo by Debbie Deal

Grip Instructor Melissa Johnson, CG, with
CGS attendees Kathryn Doyle and James Russell
Photo by Michelle Novak

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society