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31 May 2019

Our Library Collections: Ohio

One of a few books that focus on women
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 in WorldCat.

It seems that CGS must have had several members whose ancestors settled in Ohio because we have a large collection of books on our shelves for that state – 18 shelves packed with information. Our Ohio books are shelved in the section F486–500. One book at the beginning of the Ohio section is one of those “in between” books – that is, a book that does not fit neatly into a single state. It's titled Pioneer Women of the West and includes stories about early pioneer women from the “western wilds.” Noteworthy is that it was written by a woman, Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet, and that it was published in 1875. While working on this blog series it has been rare to find women represented, so this is truly an exceptional book. Fifty-nine women are profiled in this 434-page book, so each is given good coverage. A book well worth looking at.

Next on the shelf is First Ownership of Ohio Lands by Albion Morris Dyer, A.M. – a thin, navy blue covered book that was published in 1982. The format of the book looks a bit tedious but for anyone with Ohio ancestors it is something to study, but be warned – there is no table of contents nor an index.

We have a complete collection of Ohio Genealogy News from 1971 to the current edition. This is an impressive journal with well-written articles and lots of photos. Through the years the size of this journal has expanded significantly – for example, one of the most recent quarterlies has 114 pages. It makes me wonder how their society manages to produce so much material so consistently.  Our shelves hold seven additional sets of journals – some from specific Ohio counties.
Two volumes to help with Quaker ancestors
You can find volumes IV and V of Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy in our library. These were purchased by CGS in 1947. These tomes include 2,600 pages containing the genealogical records extracted from original books of Friends’ Meetings in Ohio and four meetings that took place in Pennsylvania. The data presented is dense consisting of lists of names and dates. Not having any Quaker connections I am unable to ascertain the value of this book but for those who do relate to Quakers, it appears to offer a wealth of information.

A large portion of our Ohio books focus on specific counties, which I find most useful. The statewide books are good for background but when looking for details about our individual families we want to focus in on the specific places where our ancestors lived – so you are in luck if you are from Ohio.
Our Ohio section includes books about
the state, about counties and about
specific places

We even have books about specific places within a specific county. For example, The Foot of the Rapids: The Biography of a River Town is about Maumee, Ohio from 1838 to 1988. This reference book by Marilyn Van Voorhis Wendler is one of the more recent additions to our shelves. It presents a well-organized history of Maumee.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

29 May 2019

Grant Din: Uncovering Asian American history from the Transcontinental Railroad to the Titanic

It’s been a busy month for local genealogist Grant Din. In addition to the usual flurry of events marking Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, this year marked the 150th anniversary of theTranscontinental Railroad—a monumental undertaking built largely by Chinese laborers. Din was among those who gathered in Promontory, Utah, on May 10 for the sesquicentennial celebration. “It was just exciting to be a part of it,” he said.

Grant Din
Din joined others of Chinese descent for a group photograph at the site where a ceremonial golden spike marked the joining of the Central and Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869. It was part of a years-long movement of Asian Americans reclaiming their history. In the official photos taken at Promontory Point on May 10, 1869, Chinese faces are nowhere to be seen. The Chinese contributions were also dismissed at the 100th anniversary celebration in 1969. At that event, Philip Choy, president of the Chinese Historical Society, was bumped from the official festivities by the arrival of a surprise guest, John Wayne; and U. S. Secretary of Transportation John Volpe lauded the building of the railroad with these words: “Who else but Americans could chisel through miles of solid granite?” This year, the Transportation Secretary was Elaine Chao and featured speakers included Bay Area historian Connie Young Yu, who proclaimed, “I am a descendant of a Chinese railroad worker, an American, speaking about American history.” 
Grant Din (far right by post) and others at the 150th anniversary celebration of the Transcontinental Railroad. Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Uncovering the hidden past is a slow and ongoing process, but that’s the nature of genealogy and history. Din, who formerly worked as community resources director for the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, is an experienced genealogist whose specialties include research into “paper sons” and “paper daughters,” Chinese who came to America under assumed names and identities: it was the only way to get around the restrictive immigration policy dictated by the Chinese Exclusion Act, which held sway from 1882 until World War II.

Din’s detective skills led to recent work as a consultant for “The Six,” a documentary about six Chinese workers who survived the 1912 Titanic disaster. The film by Arthur Jones and Steven Schwankert, currently in production, looks into the fate of six Chinese workers who survived the 1912 Titanic disaster. All were experienced seamen. When they booked steerage class on the ill-fated ocean liner they were on their way to meet another ship, the Annetta, which would carry them to the Caribbean to work on fruit ships. Eight Chinese nationals boarded the Titanic in April 1912. Two of them, Len Lam and Lee Ling, are thought to have perished along with more than 1,500 other victims lost after the ship hit an iceberg and sank. The other six made it out alive. But instead of being brought ashore and sheltered at New York with other survivors, they were promptly transferred to the Annetta, which departed within 24 hours. What little mention they received in the New York press was derogatory; it was widely reported that the men had dressed as women, pushed children aside, or hidden like stowaways in order to get on the lifeboats—all completely false allegations. And then the trail goes cold.

"The Six" (Facebook)
“They couldn’t enter the U.S. because of the Chinese Exclusion Act,” said Din. “And because of the Exclusion Act, no one wanted to talk about it.” The filmmakers found one man from the Midwest who was told after his father’s death that his father had been on the Titanic. Din and other researchers followed obscure clues, making their way through a web of different names and changing identities to try to determine if this story was true, and to bring the survivors’ stories to light and to find their descendants. The crew of international researchers shared information via Skype, at one point conferring weekly. The project, Din said, was “probably the most fun I’ve had in genealogical work besides my own family.” And with the stories they uncovered and the family connections forged by the researchers, a bit more human history comes to light.

To view a trailer for "The Six," click here.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

15 May 2019

Our Library Collections: North Dakota

One of many photos found in Walsh Heritage,
a Bicentennial book
One in a series by CGS member Chris Pattillo 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 in WorldCat.

Our North Dakota collection, like that of other states, begins with a set of journals – The Dakota Homestead Historical Newsletter, compiled by the Bismarck Mandan Historical and Genealogical Society. We have issues starting in 1999 and continuing to 2007. Compared to other journals in our library this one is a bit thin but the quality of the content appears to be on par with others.

Next on our shelf are two multi-volume histories – both donations from the very generous Mr. Dorman. The first is History of North Dakota by Lewis F. Crawford, published in 1931. These volumes are a combination of history and biographies of notable people. Chapter 17 deals with the coming of the railroads and includes a very clear fold-out map showing the locations of railroad lines and the year each was added to the train system.

Multi-volume histories we have for North Dakota
The second set is History of the Red River Valley, published in 1909. The introduction begins with this quote, “Genuine history is brought into existence only when the historian begins to unravel, across the lapse of time, the living man, toiling, impassioned, entrenched in his customs, with his voice and features, his gestures and dress, distinct and complete as he from whom we have just parted in the street.” Both of these sets of books are well illustrated.

We have two volumes of Walsh Heritage: A Story of Walsh County and its Pioneers. This is one of many similar books that were compiled for the nation's Bicentennial in 1976. I love these books and have succeeded in finding some of my ancestors chronicled in them. Walsh Heritage follows the format of other bicentennial publications. They are organized chronologically starting with a history of the county, followed by short histories of families or individuals submitted by local people. These books, like others in the series, include lots of photos of individuals, family groups, school and civic buildings, and anything else that was important to that community at the time. 
Nice fold-out map of North Dakota railway lines,
in History of North Dakota
Reviewing our online catalog you will learn that we have 29 print books, 26 articles, several journal magazines and two images for North Dakota – so don’t give up after you’ve exhausted what is on the main shelf. Consult the catalog for other items' locations in the library.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

11 May 2019

Have you joined? Have you renewed? Last chance before fees increase!

Even if you are a regular reader of this blog, and even if you joined CGS long ago, it's possible you've unintentionally allowed your membership to lapse (your blog editor herself has been guilty of this in the past).

CGS annual membership fees are very reasonable (they begin at $40), and quickly pay for themselves. Members can attend most classes at a reduced cost, take part in free members-only events (like tours of area archives, cemeteries, and historic sites), receive the twice-yearly journal California Nugget, and have access to the members-only sections of our website.

These very reasonable fees will undergo a modest increase as of June 1, 2019, so now is the perfect time to renew or take out a membership

You can easily join or renew your membership online by visiting our Membership page.

If you're not certain of your current membership status, email

Thank you!

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

08 May 2019

Our Library Collections: North Carolina

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 in WorldCat.

This North Carolina county book contains a
treasure trove of detailed land grant information
North Carolina is well represented at CGS. The shelf section begins with The North Carolinian – a Quarterly Journal of Genealogy and History. We have volumes 1- 8 covering 1955 to 1966. We also have large collections of the North Carolina Historical Society Journal, North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal, and two sets of journals for specific counties.

Our North Carolina collection includes a large section for individual counties. One book that looks particularly useful is N.C. State Land Grant Entry Book (1778), Orange County, Volume 1, Grants #1 – 1000. This book pairs images of the original federal land grants with succinct transcriptions of each grant. It also includes data tables specific to names, locations, and waterways to facilitate researching by name or location. Author Stewart E. Dunaway notes, “In addition, I provide a number of interesting “tid-bits” about these grants, such as total acres granted, how many acres by stream and by quantity.”

A very detailed lot description from
Hillsborough, NC: History of Town Lots
Another book by Dunaway is Hillsborough, N. C.: History of Town Lots; the Complete Reference Guide. This source describes the formation of and history of each Hillsborough lot – all 238 of them. For example, for a single lot (No. 20) Dunaway tells us what deeds are associated with this property, provides two detail maps, and recounts the ownership history. He tells us Abner Nash first bought these lots and built a mill. Other buildings were added, the property was sold to Peter Mallett and the name of the mill was changed to Mallett’s Old Mill. A Nathan Palmer owned the mill and when he died his wife sold the property, and it goes on for two additional pages. This book is a gold mine of detailed information. I hope Dunaway moves on to Tennessee and does this for Carter County, where my ancestors lived.

I keep learning new, useful information
like the meaning of "headright"
The last book I selected for this post was North Carolina Headrights: A List of Names, 1663-1744, compiled by Caroline B. Whitley. I chose this volume because I was not familiar with the term “Headright”. Turns out headright is another term for “landright,” which is how land grants were made throughout the British American colonies. “Although there were numerous refinements and variations, the system allotted each grantee a certain amount of land based on the number of persons he or she brought into the colony …. so, acquisition of land by headright.” This book is organized chronologically. It lists the name of the grantee and summarizes the substance of each grant.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

01 May 2019

Our Library Collections: New York

One in a series by CGS member Chris Pattillo 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 in WorldCat.

A typical page from the Holland Society book
Our New York collection of hard-copy books occupies 36 shelves in our library – much more than I could possibly hope to cover in one blog post, so you need to come to the library to see for yourself what treasures we possess. At present this is just a small portion of the resources available for New York at CGS. If you checked our online catalog you would learn that we have 1778 print books, 1352 articles, 129 journal magazines and 69 maps for New York. By comparison, we have 2107 print books for California, 430 journal magazines and 232 maps!

Our books begin with twenty-eight volumes of Het Hollandsch Genootschap, translated on the following page as The First Annual Dinner of The Holland Society of New-York, Hotel Brunswick, January 8, 1886. The book is a collection of the speeches given at the society’s meetings. It was donated to CGS by Henry P. Phillips. The Holland Society looks like a great organization – the menu for the dinner meeting is shown on the opening page. Each course is paired with a different wine and the meal concluded with Cigares et Tabac.
Menu for the Holland Society
dinner meeting

Our New York section includes four shelves of New York Genealogical and Biographical Record starting with volume 39 published in 1908 and continuing to current editions. These volumes are well indexed.

Nancy Servin, a native New Yorker and long-time, Genie Award-winning volunteer sent me a tip regarding a set of books that I should feature for New York. We have four volumes of Index to Marriages and Deaths in the New York Herald from 1835-1876. Nancy said, “This is a great resource to use if your ancestors’ marriages or deaths did not make the New York Times, which started listing them in 1851. Since the New York Herald is not digitized for this entire period, this index makes marriage and death announcements much more accessible. The index provides you with the date of the event and refers you to the date and issue of the newspaper.”

Nancy also shared, “Now that there are newspaper websites available, the articles may be found faster and with less expense online. A Microfilm of the Herald is also held at the library on the UC Berkeley campus.” Some issues can be accessed at the Library of Congress website (free) and through databases available at our library, such as Newspaper Archive.
One of four volumes of
Marriages and Deaths of
New York 1835-1855

A glance at Tree Talks caused me to exclaim, “Wow, a book about trees of New York.” But then I noticed how many volumes we have and I quickly realized these were not botanical references. Tree Talks is the name of the Central New York Genealogical Society journal and of course are about a different kind of tree – family trees. Our set includes volumes published between 1998–2013. 

We have many more source books for New York that cover a wide breadth of information - history, genealogy, county books and more. Come see for yourself.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society