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26 September 2019

New Website Preview

A screen clip of our updated masthead
Chris Pattillo, Website Committee Chair, writes:

Last July I blogged about our new website and invited members to submit old family photos for the new home page. Several of you submitted some wonderful photos and member Lois Elling is working on how to display them on the new site.

In the meantime, the website committee has been working diligently with our representative from K2, the web design firm hired to implement the new design. Our goal is to launch the new site in December or January. At the October 12th Quarterly Membership Meeting, we plan give a preview of the new site. While the look of the site has changed, all of the content and search features from our original site are still there, mostly from the same pulldown menus everyone is familiar with.

A need to update the CGS website was something we heard during the strategic planning process. There was a clear consensus that it needed a fresh, modern look and better organizing, so that is what we have attempted to do. We hope you will agree that the site is much improved.
Top 3 boxes on the home page

The new site’s home page has six boxes that describe and link to features of most interest to our members. The top three link to the list of upcoming "Classes and Events," "Visit Our Library," and to a list of Special Interest Groups. The link to classes and events goes directly to what is posted on EventBrite, so all of the details about classes is in one place. The link to "Visit Our Library" takes you to an explanation of what is available at the library and all our offerings.
Bottom 3 boxes on the home page
The bottom three boxes include a link to our Blog and two new features that are intended to attract new members. At times we have heard feedback expressing concern about the safety of our downtown Oakland location. "Showcase Oakland" features the neighborhood surrounding the library and includes tips on nearby and new businesses. "Past Events," another new feature, has photos from many of the events CGS has hosted in the past – we think site visitors will be impressed by the type and breadth of programs we offer.
3 Get Started buttons
Under the heading "Get Started" we have added three easy links: one to videos created by Kathie Jones and Shannon Reese about getting started with research, one where you can sign up for our eNews, and one goes directly to the Research page for hiring a researcher.
Four new features at the bottom of the Home Page
At the bottom of the home page you will find four more new features. A "Shop" button will take you to a listing of all of the books and other items available for purchase at the library. "Support CGS" explains all of the different ways you can support the society, from donating books to listing CGS in your personal Trust. "Leave A Suggestion" is another new feature: this is where members can suggest new books, speakers, field trips or whatever good ideas you have. And, you will find a link to a new Calendar on the home page; it shows library hours, committee and board meeting dates, our classes and events and everything else that is happening at CGS.

It may take a few visits to get used to the new layout but once you do, we hope you will agree that the site is much improved. If you have suggestions of what can be made even better, now you have an easy way to share your ideas.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

23 September 2019

CGS Champions: Our Shelf-Read Team

Our champion shelf read team at work
Chris Pattillo writes:

Recently whenever I have visited the library I’ve seen one or more CGS volunteers working on the shelf-read project. The other day I chatted with Arlene Miles, co-chair of the Library Committee, about this project, and learned that it is a two-part undertaking that began over a year ago. Part one was the “shelf read,” which is a spot check to make sure the books on the shelf are in the correct order and that no books have inadvertently been pushed back behind others. With volunteers coming in every Thursday to tackle the task, it took about seven or eight months to complete.

Linda Edwards, focused
Vic and Karen Halfon completed most of the shelf-read work. On this day, they were joined by Gibran Rath, Wendy Polivka and Linda Edwards, who were at the library working on the second part of the task - doing an inventory.

The inventory involves printing a list of the books we are supposed to have from the catalog and comparing that list to what is found on the shelf. Sounds easy enough; but it is not quite so simple. If a book does not appear in its proper place on the shelf these volunteers must first check if it is somewhere else in the library before they declare it missing.

Another volunteer, Phil Hoehn, reviews the completed lists and double-checks to confirm if a book is missing. If he cannot find it, Phil edits the catalog listing. Occasionally, a book is found on the shelves that was not listed on the inventory. In these cases Phil catalogs the book.
Gibran, Karen and Linda teamed up

This work requires focus and attention to detail. Fortunately, we have a great team of volunteers who show up faithfully and seem to enjoy working together. Next time you see one of them, be sure to say thank you. It takes a community to maintain our library – we are lucky to have members like Vic, Karen, Gibran, Phil, Wendy and Linda. 

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

20 September 2019

Our Library Collections: Wyoming

One in a series by CGS member Chris Pattillo, highlighting some of our holdings at the Library in Oakland.  For a fuller listing of books, journals, and more, consult the CGS Library catalog in WorldCat.

Bareback rider at Wyoming rodeo
Our hard-copy books shelved in the Wyoming section are modest – only five books. But our online card catalog indicates that we have forty-nine print books, fifteen articles, nine journals and two maps. The seeming discrepancy can be accounted for because Wyoming information is included in books filed in other sections of the library. The five books shelved under Wyoming look very interesting. The section begins with West of Yesteryear by Peg Layton Leonard, published in 1976. This book offers profiles of twenty-four pioneer families plus twenty-two profiles of early businesses in Wyoming. Part III is headed “Bits and Pieces” and includes chapters on Pioneer Graveyards, Frontier Life in Fetterman Country, Natural Bridge, Wyoming State Fair, A Glimpse at Courthouse History, and Christ Episcopal Church. The book includes good photographs.

A history book about Fort Bridger
Next is Fort Bridger, Wyoming: A Brief History by Robert S. Ellison. This too provides a narrative on pioneer life. “This little volume is the only complete history of Fort Bridger that has been written; and it has been prepared by the one man who knows it best.”

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart was published in 1913. The book is divided into twenty-six chapters, each telling the story of a pioneer woman and her homesteading experience. Chapter headings are enticing: "The Horse-Thieves," "At Gavotte’s Camp," "A Thanksgiving-Day Wedding," "A Confession," and much more.

An ad in the
Cheyenne business directory
We also have a copy of History and Business Directory of Cheyenne and Guide to the Mining Regions of the Rocky Mountains. Clearly this is a specialized reference, but if you happen to have family who were miners in Cheyenne you will be delighted to find the book.

Finally we have Pages From Converse County’s Past – a centennial book published in 1986. Like other books of its type, it is filled with bios of local families and histories of events, Churches, Communities, Mines, Organizations, Schools, Land Acquisitions by Homesteading, and lists of County officials. This book is also filled with lots of photos.

One of many photos in Pages From Converse County's Past
Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

18 September 2019

Meet the President: James Sorenson

James Sorenson, current CGS President

In July 2019, CGS Board President Vicky Kolakowski stepped down and Vice President James Sorenson assumed the duties of president. For many longtime CGS members, Jim needs no introduction. He has served previously on the Board in various capacities, including as tech liaison. He’s been a member of the society since 2007, volunteering on the Research Committee, leading research trips to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and serving the society in many other ways. He was the project manager for the 2011 publication Insider’s Guide to California Genealogy.

In person, Jim is congenial and easygoing, with a dry sense of humor. He opened his first board meeting as President with the following comments:

“In the middle of the CGS logo is a ship under sail. I’m the new captain of that ship with its unpaid crew. Walking the plank and public flogging are not productive; I don’t have a sparkling personality. I do offer: reasoning, understanding, determination and guidance. As your leader, I’m now the highest paid member of CGS, an organization where all of the women are paid as much as the men.”

Make no mistake; this laid-back demeanor masks a sharp mind and numerous talents. Jim is extremely well versed in history, according to his friend and colleague Pat Smith. “If you mention a battle in the Civil War, he knows exactly when and where it happened, and who was there,” she says. Jim’s background is in finance; he worked for thirty-eight years with Lockheed Martin in the overhead budget, financial forecast and government finance arena. His expertise has been key in helping CGS to thrive and succeed as an organization. A life member of CGS and an early donor to the Capital Campaign, Jim strongly believes that the California Genealogical Society is an institution that contributes to our local community and to our collective history.

Jim’s interest in family history dates back to his high school years, and genealogy resurfaced as a serious pursuit in 1994. It’s been a series of adventures since then, with Jim discovering long-lost facts in both his own and his wife’s family trees. With the advent of DNA as a genealogical tool, Jim recently uncovered some more surprises in his family. “Genealogy isn’t for everyone,” he says. “You shouldn’t pursue it if you can’t handle the fact that your ancestors were human and that most families have secrets unknown to the current generation.”

Aye aye, Captain. It's good to have you at the helm.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

11 September 2019

Our Library Collections: Wisconsin

Our library has many Wisconsin history books
One in a series by CGS member Chris Pattillo, highlighting some of our holdings at the Library in Oakland.  For a fuller listing of books, journals, and more, consult the CGS Library catalog in WorldCat.

Our collection of books for Wisconsin is unique for its sameness. We have a disproportionate number of books about the history of the state and counties plus a number of biographies. This fact no doubt reflects the interests of the individuals who donated these books to our library.

Our collections starts and ends with two sets of journals. The first is Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Newsletter beginning in 1955 and continuing to the current issues. Featured in the most recent issue is “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President” – sounds intriguing. I was impressed to find a list of their scheduled webinar topics, one for each month of the year. Much of the newsletter consists of announcements of upcoming events much like our eNews.

Recent edition of the Wisconsin
State Genealogical Society Newsletter
Our second set of journals is the French Canadian/Acadian Genealogists of Wisconsin. We have copies from 1988 to 2010. Its style is very similar to our own Nugget.

Towards the end of the Wisconsin collection the topics are more diverse. One such book is History of the Oshkosh Welsh Settlement, 1847-1947. This provides the history of the Welsh of Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties. It was edited by Rev. David Davies and translated by Hanes Y. Cymry. 
Example of photo collections in History of the Oshkosh
Welsh Settlement

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

06 September 2019

Our Library Collections: West Virginia

Our West Virginia has a book about highway
One in a series by CGS member Chris Pattillo,  highlighting some of our holdings at the Library in Oakland.  For a fuller listing of books, journals, and more, consult the CGS Library catalog in WorldCat.

At first glance, our collection of books for West Virginia seems to include a notable number of interesting books. Compared to other states I’ve written about there are fewer of what I would term “traditional” genealogy books – compilations of data on pioneers, marriage, death, bible records, etc. There are more books on unique topics. The first book in this category is West Virginia Highway Markers – about those small metal signs you see throughout the country. My personal perception is that the southern United States have more than their share of these signs, which I found very helpful while traveling in the south. While not primarily genealogical reading, these mini-history markers are a quick way to learn about the highlights of local history.

Indian Warfare and Massacres on the West Virginia Frontier is another somewhat unusual reference. We have two volumes of this book. Each chapter includes several articles. Chapter 5 is all about pioneer women and Chapter 6 contains personal recollections of persons living on the frontier during the Indian wars.
Indian Warfare and Massacres on the West
Virginia Frontier
For a good overview of the state you could choose to look at The 55 West Virginias: A Guide to the State’s Counties by E. Lee North. Each county is summarized in two pages. Articles include a couple of photos, a short narrative, a location map, a larger map showing the featured county and what counties surround it, an economic profile and a table of statistics for that county.

History of The Pan-Handle: Being Historical Collections of the Counties of Ohio, Brooke, Marshall and Hancock, West Virginia is a hefty volume with over 500 pages of fine print. First published in 1879, it was donated to CGS by Stanley Ross. The book includes a number of nice illustrations and individual biographies.
55 West Virginias provides concise data on each
West Virginia county

We have four volumes of Family Stories & Bible Records of Central West Virginia. These are extracts from the Clarksburg Exponent Telegram, and provide detailed biographies for families. An example is a profile of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Stonestreet of Near Wolf Summit during their sixty years of marriage. Chapter subheadings tell us what sort of information is included. They include: "English Stock," "Friends Form Screen," "Recalls Trip," "Nine Children," "Drove Sheep on Foot," "Buried on Tenmile," "Married Wetzel Farmer," "Two Sons Marry," "Mathematics Instructor," "Court Reporter," "Invalid at 17," "Union Soldier, Killed at Antietam," "Weds Three Times," ""Dies of Infection," "Husband Stayed on Farm, …. And it continues with nine additional topics. Who wouldn’t love to discover one such article about their ancestors?

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

04 September 2019

Report from the FGS Conference in Washington, D. C.

CGS was well represented at the National Conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, held August 21-24 in Washington, D. C. The event offered four full days jam-packed with interesting speakers and exhibitors on a multitude of topics. “It was hard to choose classes because there were so many offered,” said CGS past president Linda Okazaki, who was among our members in attendance.

Kathryn Doyle, James Russell, Katie Welka, Pamela Brigham,
and Linda Okazaki at last month's FGS Conference
The conference was held at the historic Omni Shoreham Hotel, the site of every Presidential inaugural ball dating back to Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. Many attendees enjoyed a 1930s-themed party on Friday night, which featured dancing to a live traditional jazz band. Guests were invited to come dressed as a favorite ancestor from the 1930s. 

Katherine Wilson and Linda Okazaki in 1930s dress
The big news this year was the announcement of the planned merger between FGS and NGS (the National Genealogical Society). This has been widely covered and was discussed in a previous blog post.

Next year's FGS Conference (the last before the two societies merge) will be held in Kansas City.

Photos courtesy Linda Okazaki
Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

02 September 2019

September 2019 Events

Happy September!

We have no shortage of exciting events coming up this fall. Here's a quick look at some things happening this month:

September 7: Our 1st Saturday free "Intro to Genealogy" course returns. We've come full circle and are starting this month with "Genealogy Basics"; a great class for beginners or a great refresher course for those who need it. Pam Miller is the instructor.

September 11: Trolley Tour of Cypress Lawn Cemetery. A chance to enjoy the vast, scenic grounds of this beautiful cemetery in Colma from the comfort of an air-conditioned historical trolley. At this writing, we still have a few seats available. Let's fill up the bus!

September 14: Cindy Thomson discusses "Immigrant Sugar Plantation Workers in Hawaii: A Multi-Ethnic Approach to Genealogy," sharing her thoughts on researching immigrants who came to work in Hawaii in the 19th century from many different countries, including Korea, Japan, China, Germany, and Australia.

September 21: If you use Family Tree Maker, you'll want to attend the monthly meeting of the FTM group to discuss the recently released Family Tree Maker 2019. Ron Madson and Karen Halfon will be on hand to take questions and offer tips on FTM.

September 28: Jim Russell leads an advanced course on "Genetic Networks and Cluster Research" for genealogists who use DNA evidence in their research.

Don't forget about our various Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which focus on topics ranging from Eastern European genealogy to Mayflower descendants.

All our Events can be found listed at the CGS Facebook page
Or on our website:
Or at (search for "California Genealogical Society")

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society