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30 May 2018

Chinese Ancestry Day 2018

Chinese Ancestry Day,  held Saturday, May 26, at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, was a fabulous success. CGS board member Chris Pattillo was among those who volunteered at the event, and she sent us this report: 

Next time you see Maureen Hanlon, make a point of thanking her for planning another tremendously successful CGS event!

Speakers Grant Din and Felicia Lowe
Keynote speaker Felicia Lowe started the day with flair, showing an 18-minute clip of her documentary “Chinese Couplets”—just enough to leave us wanting to see the film in its entirety. Lowe’s journey to uncover her immigrant mother’s past was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It also introduced the day’s theme: the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act on Asian American families to this day.

CGS member Grant Din gave a well-illustrated, clear and concise introduction to doing Chinese family history research. Grant is an engaging and exuberant speaker with 35 years of experience, and he shared ample anecdotes from his work.

We enjoyed lunch and socializing
The delicious lunch provided by Peony Restaurant was worth the price of the event on its own! There was plenty of food--even enough for seconds of yummy sesame balls.

After lunch we heard from Marisa Louie Lee, a former archivist at NARA. She served as an advisor on the PBS documentary “The Chinese Exclusion Act,” which aired this month. I was impressed with how easily Marisa moved between presenting and answering questions. She is a pro speaker. Marisa’s talk was also well illustrated, to the point and included a five-page handout with helpful information and links to other sources.

Finally, we heard from John Wong, a volunteer with the Roots Plus program who has led several tours for Chinese Americans to visit their ancestral villages in China’s Guangdong Province. John showed four videos that showcased the incredible experiences of four different families. The stories that John shared have universal appeal. No, I have no ancestors from China, but I still felt the shivers and warm glow these families experienced as they saw their ancestor’s graves and rural townships for the first time.

Much of the information being presented was not directly relevant to me personally, but I am so glad Maureen invited me to volunteer because I learned so much about things I knew nothing about. Do you know what a “paper mother” is? That is something I learned—if you weren’t there, you’ll just have to ask me.

CGS volunteers Kathryn Doyle and Linda Okazaki
It was apparent that a lot of productive networking was happening throughout the day. At our CGS table, we had two people join as new members and 18 added their names to our e-News list. Our table was next to that of the California Historical Society, where volunteer Frances Kaplan reported that she is grateful for CGS because she refers people with questions to us on a daily basis.

The event was sponsored by the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, California Genealogical Society, the California Historical Society, and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. Our thanks to OACC for providing the beautiful venue and to OACC staff member Terri Kaley for being such a gracious host. 

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

21 May 2018

Notes from the field: 18th Annual Family History Library Trip

In our 120th anniversary year, CGS members continue to host and participate in a variety of learning experiences. Last month, Lisa Gorrell led a group on the 18th annual trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Lisa Gorrell (left) orients visitors to the library
We lucked out with the weather; while it had snowed in Salt Lake just the week before, during our visit temperatures soared and flowers were in bloom everywhere.

Our group of 14 had a great week of research, study, and socializing. 

Four of our members also took time for a day trip to the recently opened Topaz Japanese American Internment Camp Museum in Delta, where more than 11,000 persons of Japanese American ancestry were confined during World War II.

Kathy and Steve Ikeda, Linda Okazaki, and Jim Russell at Topaz
Our research was as varied as the participants. A few of us had amazing breakthroughs, while others found their brick walls remained stony. Sometimes it's a kind of vindication to know that even the experts can't trace that maddeningly elusive ancestor. All agreed it was well worth our while. Thanks to our fearless leader, Lisa, for organizing and leading the trip! 

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

12 May 2018

2018 Cresap Family Reunion at Asilomar, June 28-July 1

Asilomar Visitors' Lodge in Pacific Grove
Are you a descendant of Maryland colonist Thomas Cresap? Perhaps just interested in this colorful character from early America? The 2018 Cresap Family Reunion offers a unique opportunity to gather with Cresap family and fans this summer in Pacific Grove, California. The event, partly organized by Cresap Society Board member and CGS research team leader Lavinia Schwarz, includes three nights' room and board at the historic Asilomar Lodge designed by Julia Morgan.  Attendees will enjoy visits to Carmel Mission, the Presidio at Fort Ord, and the Sherman headquarters in Monterey. There will be plenty of time to visit the beach, the famous Monterey Aquarium, and to chat by the roaring fire in the old lodge. A banquet Saturday night includes two historical talks. 
Thomas Cresap (c. 1700-1790) was born in Yorkshire, England, and emigrated to America as a teenager.  In Maryland, he worked as a carpenter, ferryman, and a land agent for Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore. Reputedly the first permanent white settler in western Maryland, Cresap is credited with having surveyed upwards of 40 percent of the western Maryland wilderness. With Delaware Nation chief Nemacolin, he established a trail across the Allegheny Mountains from the Potomac to the Ohio River. This route tied together the eastern and western portions of the country and became the first National Highway (today's U.S. Route 40).
Braddock's Road map shows the route established by Cresap and Nemacolin

An adventurous and belligerent personality, Cresap is best remembered for his involvement in “Cresap’s War,” the bloody border dispute that raged between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the 1730s.  Cresap secured a great deal of land for himself and Lord Baltimore by force, driving out both Indians and white settlers in the lower Susquehanna Valley. His various skirmishes led to his arrest. When he was taken to jail in Philadelphia, the defiant Cresap declared it "one of the prettiest towns in Maryland!" Dubbed “the Maryland Monster,” by his detractors, Cresap was notorious in Pennsylvania and something of a hero in Maryland, which still has municipalities named after him. He figures as a conniving character in Thomas Pynchon’s epic novel Mason & Dixon

Cresap’s wife, Hannah Johnson (c. 1705-1774) matched her husband in fierceness.  A daughter of Lancaster County pioneer Daniel Johnson, she was handy with a musket and reportedly fought by her husband’s side while pregnant. When a Pennsylvanian was shot and wounded outside her door, Hannah allegedly swore she would be happy to “wash her hands in his heart’s blood.” 

The Cresaps eventually settled near Cumberland, Maryland, where Thomas became a large landowner and frequent host to notable figures including a young George Washington. He lived through the French and Indian War, Lord Dunmore’s War, and in 1765 organized the Sons of Liberty in Maryland supporting the American Revolution. A memorial plaque at the site of his home reads: "In Memory of Col. Thomas Cresap, Pathfinder - Pioneer - Patriot." It is thought that all American Cresaps can trace their ancestry to the immigrant Thomas.
Artist's depiction of U.S. naval ships arriving in Monterey
Just as Thomas Cresap influenced the history of the Mid-Atlantic colonies, some of his descendants helped to forge the history of California. Union Major General Edward Ord, a great-great-grandson of Thomas Cresap, was one of 12 children born to Rebecca Cresap and James Ord. Edward Ord and many of his siblings came from Maryland to California in the early to mid-19th century. Edward Ord arrived in 1847 to direct the building of the fort that is now the Presidio of Monterey. He helped survey numerous California districts and made the first map of Los Angeles. His siblings married into some of the old Californio and Mexican families and their stories are intertwined with those of the Gold Rush and the Civil War. 

“Sometimes I think of the early Cresaps as being like Forrest Gump,” says Schwarz, alluding to the fictional character who manages to be on the scene for many seminal moments in history. “You have Cresaps involved in the colonial world, exploring the wild west of Maryland; a founder of the Sons of Liberty, acquainted with George Washington; fighting at Bunker Hill.  Cresaps fought on both sides of the Civil War, explored California during the Gold Rush and married into old Californio and Mexican families. They really were everywhere.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Cresap cousins and share stories in a beautiful setting on the Pacific Coast. Register for the reunion at this link.
Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

08 May 2018

Nancy Peterson honored with NGS Award of Merit

Nancy Simons Peterson received the 2017 Award of Merit at the annual meeting of the prestigious National Genealogical Society (NGS) last week in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This award is in recognition of her efforts on behalf of NGS. A consummate researcher, Nancy is the author of Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for Pre-1906 San Francisco Research. First published in 2006 and revised and updated in 2011, the book continues to be CGS’ best seller.  Nancy is well known at CGS where for more than a decade she generously volunteered her time and talents on an enormous variety of projects. She gave countless hours as the society’s research director, co-led numerous research tours and served three terms on the board of directors.  She is celebrated for her research, writing, editing, and lecturing skills. Currently a resident of Portola Valley, Nancy also lived for a time in Washington state, where she taught genealogy classes and was the editor of the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society quarterly publication, The Researcher.

Trish Nicola
Accepting the award on Nancy’s behalf was her friend Trish Hackett Nicola of Seattle. Trish is a CGS member and a trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). A longtime volunteer with the Seattle NARA, she was the recipient of the Weidman Outstanding Volunteer Service Award in 2016. She also writes an information-packed blog exploring the Chinese Exclusion Era records in Seattle.

Also at the conference, Kathryn Doyle was voted in as Vice President of NGS. She served on the CGS board for six years and launched this blog in 2007.

We are proud of these women, grateful for their connections to CGS, and we look forward to seeing their future work.

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society

01 May 2018

Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

Image: PBS SoCal
Happy May! Today is the first day of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We will be sharing articles and events celebrating the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans throughout the month. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, since a majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Of special interest to California Bay Area residents is the upcoming Chinese Ancestry Day, held Saturday, May 26 at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in Oakland's Chinatown. The daylong workshop covers the fundamentals of genealogy for Chinese American families, offering basic steps to build your Chinese family tree.

Four distinguished guests will speak at the event, sharing their different areas of expertise. Keynote speaker is filmmaker Felicia Lowe, an award-winning independent television producer and director who is a Bay Area native and descendant of Angel Island detainees. Lowe will screen excerpts from her latest documentary, “Chinese Couplets,” which she describes as part memoir, part history, and part investigation. It explores the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Acts on four generations of women in her family. “What motivated me first of all was I really didn’t know my mother. I didn’t know her past,” she says. “Although I’m American born, I felt robbed of a history.” Her parents, both immigrants, were very reluctant to talk about their lives in China or the experience of coming to America. “The other compelling reason was that as long as there was the silence, the secrets, Exclusion still had a hold on my family," Lowe says. "And by telling it, I broke that hold.”

Genealogist Marisa Louie Lee will speak about “Chinese Exclusion Act Records at the National Archives.” A former archivist at the National Archives at San Francisco (in San Bruno), she is experienced in finding and interpreting records of Chinese and other Asian peoples who came to America during the Exclusion era, when they could not legally become citizens. Their stories, she says, are a part of American history that has long been overlooked. Lee was a research consultant on the documentary “The Chinese Exclusion Act,” which premieres May 26 on PBS as part of The American Experience series. “Does every fifth grader learn about the Exclusion Act in school?” she asks. “I’m hoping the film will help move that story into the mainstream.” 

Grant Din, an experienced researcher and genealogist, will speak on “The Importance of Family Stories.” And John Wong of RootsPlus will discuss “A Pilgrimage to Your Ancestral Village.”

The event concludes with time for questions and discussion, followed by lunch at the Peony Restaurant. For more details or to register, click HERE.

Chinese Ancestry Day is sponsored by the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, California Genealogical Society, the California Historical Society, and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.

Copyright © 2018 by California Genealogical Society