Recent Posts

27 September 2017

Do You Dream of Genie?

by Kathleen Beitiks

It’s almost time for our intrepid California Genealogical Society (CGS) President, Linda Okazaki, to don her shiny gold lame’ turban and present the coveted “Genie Awards” to a special group of volunteers who “make magic happen” at CGS!

CGS members are invited to attend the annual awards presentation and Fall Membership meeting on Saturday, October 14th, noon, in the library, 2201 Broadway, Suite LL2, Oakland, CA. 

Our mystical master of ceremonies will present golden “magic lamps” to members who have been singled out for their dedication to CGS and its mission to help people trace and compile their family histories.

In addition to updates about CGS, members also will hear some tall tales about former board member and current Capital Campaign Chair Chris Pattillo’s 2.5 months long, summer genealogy road trip. 

While on this amazing journeyChris found one small clue that enabled her to break down her tallest brick wall – one she’d been trying to topple for over 15 years!  Please register today for this wonderful talk.

Bring a bag lunch (drinks and dessert will be provided), mingle with old and new friends, and help us celebrate the contributions of our volunteers. Questions? Please contact Kathleen Beitiks.  We can't wait to see you!

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

Finding Your Japanese Roots in the U.S. and in Japan

Are you a Nikkei who is ready to document your family history? Do you want to find those WRA camp files, Enemy Alien files, or other records from WWII? Do you wonder if Obāchan was a picture bride? Or if Ojīchan was arrested and sent to a Department of Justice camp? Are you a genealogist who wants to know about different record groups? Or are you helping a Japanese American friend with their genealogy? Come learn how to find your Japanese roots.

Please join California Genealogical Society president, Linda Harms Okazaki, as she presents: 

Finding Your Japanese Roots in the U.S. and in Japan

Saturday, October 28, 2017
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m

California Genealogical Society and Library
2201 Broadway, Suite LL2
Oakland, California 94612

$40 for non-members (non-refundable)
Free for CGS members

Register on Eventbrite

Part I of the three-hour seminar will be a brief overview of Japanese culture, history and language as it pertains to family history. Records available through the National Archives, USCIS,, and will be covered. 

Topics will include: 
  • the early political climate in the U.S. and laws of the time
  • internment camps
  • post WWII experiences, repatriation, resettlement, and redress
The second half of the seminar will focus on documenting your ancestors in Japan, from using the information in the American records to finding your koseki, understanding ohaka and kakocho, plus visiting relatives, cemeteries and temples.

This seminar is suitable for all levels of research experience.

Limited to thirty participants; the fee may be applied towards membership on the day of the class.

Please visit our Eventbrite page to register for this seminar. Preregistration is required. Confirmations and a parking permit will be sent to the first thirty registrants.

Participants are invited to come early and meet others who share an interest in Japanese research. Use our computers, browse in our library, or bring a bagged lunch and meet at the library before the session. The library is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

26 September 2017

Dismissed from the Union Army

by Georgia Lupinsky

Personal stories abound in Frederick S. (“Rick”) Sherman’s beautifully narrated genealogy book, The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen.  One such story is that of his maternal great-grandfather, Robert Morris Copeland, an accomplished landscape architect. One of his early projects was the design of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, where Ralph Waldo Emerson was the principal speaker at its dedication.

A Sign of Things to Come
However, one episode in 1862 marked Copeland and his family deeply.  Was an event twelve years prior, a precursor to this dark time in his life? In 1850, while a student at Harvard, Copeland was “rusticated” (temporarily suspended) for part of his junior year, due to an alleged lack of respect for the faculty.  Though this apparent challenge to authority put Copeland in good company (earlier British students who had been “rusticated” included renowned poets John Milton, John Dryden and Percy Bysshe Shelley), it did not bode well for a future challenge he was to make.

Volunteers for the Union Army
Shortly after the Civil War began, Copeland volunteered for the Union Army and “likely because of his education, family connections and upbringing, immediately secured a lieutenant’s commission. He was then quickly promoted to major, serving as Asst. Adjutant General to Major General Nathaniel Banks, "Commander of the 2nd Massachusetts.” This regiment was sent to Harpers Ferry and on into the Shenandoah Valley, where it was opposed by Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.

In the spring of 1862, Copeland believed that the Union forces under Banks had a wonderful opportunity to combine with those of John C. Fremont and rout Jackson’s forces. However, orders came from Washington for Banks “to fall back and send half his forces to Fredericksburg.” Major General Banks was prepared to follow  orders, but Copeland was so agitated that he persuaded Banks to send him to Washington to explain the situation to Secretary of War Stanton. This stance along with other unwise steps taken by Copeland during this period so enraged Stanton that he dismissed Copeland from the service on 6 August 1862. 

Effort to Clear His Name
Learning of his dismissal by reading of it in a newspaper, Copeland was stunned by this action and spent the next eight years trying to clear his name. He even obtained a personal interview with President Lincoln, who essentially told him “that if he took time to worry about all the grievances of individual officers, he would have none left to run the country.” 

Life After the Army
After his involuntary separation from the Army, Copeland resumed his family life in the beautiful area of West Castleton, Vermont and his career as a landscape architect, completing many worthwhile projects in New England and Pennsylvania. Finally, when Grant became President, he issued a new order in 1870, declaring that Major Copeland was honorably discharged. As the news of Grant’s decision reached Copeland’s neighbors, they celebrated their friend by building bonfires on all the hilltops around West Castleton.

Robert and Josephine Copeland with children, undated:
Robert Morris Copeland seated with William, Ella (in back),
Josephine Gannett (Kent) Copeland and Fred

An Early Death

Robert Morris Copeland died of cancer on 28 March 1874 at the age of 44. He was buried next to a pine tree in the Mt. Feake Cemetery in Waltham, Massachusetts, a cemetery he had designed in 1859. 

Copeland’s descendants continued to write in defense of his service, beliefs and actions during the Civil War. Granddaughter Margaret (Copeland) Blatchford produced an article entitled “Out of Step in the Civil War.” And, almost one hundred years after his great-grandfather’s dismissal, great-grandson Frederick W. Copeland’s article “The Righteous Major” appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1961.

The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen never disappoints in providing heartfelt stories of those who lived before and also provides insights into historical events that they experienced.  The book may be purchased on our website,, by clicking the Publications tab and selecting the title. The price is $37.95 for non-members and $28.46 for members.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

20 September 2017

Capital Campaign – Starting Strong

by Chris Pattillo, Chair, Jane Lindsey and Sandy Fryer

As we write this article we are thrilled to announce that we have met our initial goal to raise $350,000 during the early phase of the capital campaign. This addition to our fund alone will generate over $30,000 of income per year. Money that will help cover the shortfall in annual operating expenses of the California Genealogy Society (CGS) when needed. 

So far, the response to the campaign has been gratifying. Over 112 individuals have made contributions to the campaign as of August 31st. The amount of the average donation is $2600 and the median donation is $100. Individual contributions have ranged from one figure amounts to six figure amounts. 

There are myriad reasons why our members and non-members have chosen to support CGS during this capital campaign. One non-member made a $25,000 donation because she appreciated the help she received researching her family history.  

How you have given
Looking at the donations by categories we have 5 donors who have given $10,000 or more, 4 individuals made donations in the $5000 to $9999 range, 8 gave $1000 to $4999, 6 gave amounts in the range between $500 and $999, 6 others gave $250 to $499, 56 are in the $100 to $249 bracket and an additional 40 people gave $100 or less. Every gift helps us reach our goal.

Our members have responded to the campaign in various ways:
*  Donating through our website’s DONATE tab or by sending a check in response to the   campaign mailing sent earlier this year. 
*  Becoming a Life member to support the campaign. 
*  Listing CGS as a beneficiary in their will or personal trust. 
*  Providing a tax-deductible donation through their IRA or 401K .

We are grateful and THANK everyone who has contributed. All those who have contributed to the campaign are helping ensure that the society will be in a position to continue helping people research their family history for years to come.  

CGS has given so much to so many – now it is time to give back. Members tell us they appreciate the lectures, field trips, workshops and casual camaraderie they find with fellow members. They appreciate the one-on-one help they receive at the library and on research trips. We should not take CGS for granted. Genealogical societies like other non-profits are vulnerable to rising expenses and tough economic times. If we want the society to be around for the long term, we need to support it.   

Graphic designed by Lois Elling

If you have not already made a donation to the campaign, right now is the perfect time to do so. You can mail in a check or visit our website to use a credit card. Go to the donate tab where you will find a check box for the Capital Campaign with a link to PayPal. Or you can use one of the tax saving mechanisms that other members have used.  

We deeply appreciate everyone who has given to the campaign but there is more to do to achieve our ambitious goal of raising $1.2 million in honor of the 120th anniversary of the society. For those who made a donation to the campaign in 2016 please consider making an additional contribution that will provide a tax deduction for 2017.

This Capital Campaign will officially end in February of 2018. Become a part of the campaign, and make a donation today.  

Thank You.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

15 September 2017

You're Invited! Judy G. Russell's Sept 23rd genealogy seminar in Berkeley

Maybe you won't feel like jumping for joy, but some of us do!  Only 21 tickets are left for the event on Saturday, September 23rd (Doors open at 9 am - lectures begin at 9:45 am and last through 4 pm).  It's sure to be a wonderful day of genealogy with the incomparable Judy G. Russell

Judy's an engrossing and down-to-earth lecturer that really knows how to educate and entertain a crowd.  The California Genealogical Society is really excited that the event is only a week away!

What do you get for your money? 
4 great classes, including the ABC's of DNA, buffet-style lunch and assorted beverages throughout the day. Ticket prices are $115 for members and $140 for non-members. 

The seminar is being held in the ADA accessible, Goldman Theater at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.  This beautifully finished theater features natural bamboo walls and plush raised theatrical seating.  Key features include a hi-definition digital video and custom designed sound reinforcement by Meyer Sound.

Added bonus: it's 1 block from the Downtown Berkeley BART station or use The David Brower Center's on-site parking garage (only $17/per day)

9:45 Facts, Photos and Fair Use: Copyright Law for Genealogists
Understanding what is and isn't copyrighted and what genealogists can and can't use is the key to staying out of trouble and to protecting our own work. Learn about what copyright is, and what it isn’t.

11:00 Martha Benschura – Enemy Alien
Not all our ancestors were naturalized. The ones who didn’t suddenly became suspect when war divided their native countries from their new residences, creating the kinds of records genealogists love.

12:00 LUNCH

1:00 Rogues, Rascals and Rapscallions: The Family Black Sheep
Playing detective in court records can unmask those black sheep every family has – and it’s fun! Learn to understand the criminal process in both federal and state courts and how to find the records to put meat on the bones of the skeletons in your family’s closet.

2:15 ABCs of DNA

New to the idea that DNA can help with genealogy? Learn about the three major test types - YDNA, mitochondrial (mtDNA) and the new autosomal DNA testing - and see what each offers to the genealogist.

What else? 
  • There is a door prize, donated by the Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library for a free Southern California Genealogy Jamboree 2018 registration.
  • We'll also have one auction item, a library card catalog---pretty cool, huh?
Sign-up today.  We can't wait to see you there!

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

06 September 2017

An Aerial Photo Solves a Family Mystery

by Cassie Arnold

My mother recounted a funny and puzzling story from my grandmother that just never added up until I found an old aerial photo of Hayward posted in the Oakland History group on Facebook. It’s amazing sometimes what we uncover when we investigate our family’s stories.

Setting the Scene 
My grandmother spent much of her childhood in an orphanage run by an order of French nuns in Lowell, MA. When her family was reunited in Berkeley, she was a very attractive young woman happy to be free of supervision of the sisters. At Berkeley High School she immediately set her sights on the best looking boy in school. They were married in May 1931 when she was 18 and three months pregnant. 

My grandmother's maiden name was Mildred Frazier.
Her married name was Mildred Murphy. She eventually
 married again and died with the name Mildred Klefsky.
However, she always went by the first name “Marie”.
Photo labelled, "Dec 1930, 18 years old".

While my grandmother was still pregnant with my mother, she and one of her sister-in-laws were staying with their mother-in-law. My grandmother was there because my grandfather was off at college; I don’t know why the sister-in-law was there, but probably because her husband was away for work. 

Regardless, they were staying at a house my great great grandfather owned on Lewelling Boulevard in Hayward. Apparently the two girls were bristling under the supervision of their mother-in-law, so one day they over-powered her, tied her to a kitchen chair, took her pin money and rode the streetcar up East 14th Street to 150th. 

They did what?  
My brother-in-law is a pretty good amateur genealogist and history detective. He was intrigued by this story too, so he tracked down some historical maps for us. We couldn’t find anything along the entire length of 150th Avenue that would be of interest to two young women. Well, at least nothing worth risking the wrath of your mother-in-law over. 
I quizzed my mother again, but she insisted it was on 150th Avenue. Hmm...

A Link Provides the Clue to Oakland’s Forgotten History
I was stumped. Then I got a link to these historic aerial photos. At the intersection of 150th and East 14th I found a raceway! The Oakland Speedway had opened in February of 1931 and hosted Indy cars and (I’m sure of more interest to my grandmother) their drivers until 1936. Now the property is the Bayfair Mall. 

Since the girls were spending the summer of 1931 at Lewelling, so the new raceway probably was a very compelling diversion. I’m not sure I would judge it compelling enough to commit felonious involuntary imprisonment, aka tying up my great grandmother, but my grandmother was always a bit wilder than me. 

All’s Well That Ends Well
And apparently there were no significant consequences from the episode. It was already established that my grandmother and great grandmother were never going to be the best of friends, which helped sow the seeds for future genealogy brick walls, but that’s for another day.

The untold story is that my great grandmother might have been happy to be free of the girls for the day! 

About the Author

Cassie Arnold is an Alameda-based business and financial writer as well as a second-generation Oakland native. She is working on a history of Oakland / Berkeley from 1919 to 1941 from the perspective of her maternal ancestors. 

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society