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28 February 2019

Our Library Collections: Minnesota

One in a series highlighting some of our holdings at the Library in Oakland. For a fuller listing of our books, journals, and more, consult the CGS Library catalog. Our catalog is also included in WorldCat.

This post about our Minnesota collection is by a guest author - our very own Nancy Cork. Thank you, Nancy.

Conservatory at Como Park, St. Paul, Minnesota
Como Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is a lushly landscaped retreat in the heart of the city; the Golden Gate Park of the Twin Cities, so to speak. Similar to our San Franciscan treasure, the park has many attractions: Como Lake, a zoo, an amusement park, sculptural art, historical structures, and the stunning conservatory. Since its opening in 1915, this horticultural showcase (now named the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory and on the National Register of Historic Places) has attracted a great number of visitors from near and far, and continues, with the zoo, to be one of the biggest cultural attractions in the state.

Nathan Richardson's bandolier bag, pictured 
in A Big Hearted Paleface Man:
Nathan Richardson & The History of 

Morrison County, MN
We hold 10 issues of the biannual Minnesota Genealogical Journal published from September 2008 to September 2013. The journal specialized in publishing transcripts of records, some quite esoteric. I found a wonderful article about visitors to the conservatory in 1932.* Janice Quick, a volunteer for Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, transcribed the guest registers that were signed by people that summer. I always love finding quirky articles, and this one was especially meaningful to me. Not only do I have vivid memories of my own visits to the Spring Flower Show when I was growing up, but I was hoping to find a family name or two (or six!) in the registers.

The guest registers asked for the name of the visitors, the number of people in the party, where they were from, the model of their car, and any remarks they cared to add. Yes, there is value in this for a genealogist! Especially since many people in a party all signed the books together, providing groups of names for families and friends. Paging through the 34 pages of this two-part article, I kept thinking of what I could learn about the old relatives from this glimpse into a day in their lives.

Six Feet Under by Stew Thernely
And don’t think this article is just for Minnesotans! People from all over America and the world signed this guest book. Poland, Peru, and Palestine! Brazil! China! Australia! I noted many Californians: Mrs. Ruth Howard of Los Angeles arrived with four others in a Durant; Mrs. Ann Nygren and O. Johnson, both from San Francisco, separately remarked that the conservatory was “Grand!”; and Miss Georgia Stromberg from Alameda noted that she had been traveling on the Western Pacific Railroad. Some of my favorite entries include a remark by a woman from L.A. that the greenhouse full of exotic flowers “looks like Calif,” and another Angeleno who commented fondly, “good old Minnesota.” Ah, I know, I get that same catch in my throat whenever I go back home.

Other Minnesota holdings include numerous country histories and biographical sketches and many publications by the Minnesota Historical Society. Among them are Germans in Minnesota (2003), Poles in Minnesota (2005), and quirkier books such as Stew Thernley's Six Feet Under: A Graveyard Guide to Minnesota (2004). The latter tells the stories of 375 notable Minnesotans and is designed as a handy field guide, just the size to fit in a back pocket. 

Browse our catalog online or stop in at the library to see the variety of books and resources we have from the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." 

*Janice Quick, "Como Park Conservatory Guest Register, Summer 1932," Minnesota Genealogical Journal, Issue 44 (September 2010); continued in Issue #45 (March 2011).

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