Recent Posts

29 November 2019

Speak Out Against Exorbitant Fees: Deadline is December 16

color chart
A chart showing how the proposed fees for 2020 compare historically.
Click to enlarge.

The genealogy world is abuzz with news that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed a sharp increase in fees for searches and copies of genealogical and historical records, beginning in 2020. The USCIS Genealogy Program describes itself as "a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants." The records include naturalization certificates, alien registration forms, visa and registry files, and alien files (A-Files), all invaluable resources for researchers.

The bureau already charges a nonrefundable $65 fee per search. It proposes to raise that search fee to an exorbitant $240an increase of 269 percent. A copy of a paper file would incur an additional $385 chargean increase of 492 percent! By charging these extraordinary fees, USCIS would effectively deny access to thousands of genealogists. This will have a tremendous impact on anyone engaging in 20th century immigration research, and would be detrimental to all who wish to understand our history.

The CGS Board of Directors urges you to join the larger genealogy community by registering your opposition to the proposed changes. This is an uphill battle, and only with thousands of comments submitted will we have a chance to change these proposed fees. A group of researchers have created the website Records, Not Revenue which has instructions on how to submit a comment. You are encouraged also to send a copy of your comments to your Congressional representatives. Be sure to mention you are writing about the genealogy program, as the fee increase relates to all aspects of USCIS. Comments must be submitted no later than Monday, December 16. Please take a moment now to share your concern, and notify everyone you know.

Records, Not Revenue website: 

Some other blogs posting about this issue:

Dick Eastman Genealogy 
Judy Russell (The Legal Genealogist)
Linda Harms Okazaki
Jennifer Mendelsohn 
The Chinese Exclusion Files 
American Immigration Lawyers Association

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

24 November 2019

"The Great Thanksgiving Listen": Interview your family, share your story

Great Thanksgiving Listen placemat
You can download this image to use as a placemat (or note card)
at the Thanksgiving table

As we all know, genealogy is about storytelling as much as it is about pinning down dates and places. For the past several years, the public radio program StoryCorps has encouraged people to take part in "The Great Thanksgiving Listen," an opportunity to interview relatives or share our own family histories while gathered at the holidays. The StoryCorps website offers suggestions for questions and discussion. They even offer a downloadable printable placemat for the holiday table, with "icebreaker" questions to get the process going. There's also an interview app and tips for individuals, families, and educators. A great family history activity for young and old!

Click here to download the placemat.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

21 November 2019

Free Workshop: "Finding Your Japanese American Roots," November 30

The National Japanese American Historical Society hosts two workshops on Saturday, November 30, for Nikkei interested in researching and connecting with family in Japan. ”U.S.-Japan CONNECT!” has been working for the past five years helping Nikkei families locate information about their ancestors as well as contacting living relatives in Japan.

Mr. Hiroshi Yanagisawa, a graduate of Nanzan University and retired staff at Seto City Hall, will be in the Bay Area on Saturday, November 30, to conduct two free one-hour workshops to explain the process he has developed for locating families in Japan. Anyone interested in pursuing a family search can complete an Intake Form to determine possibilities based on information available. Cost and timing of search will be discussed at the workshop.

Date: Saturday, November 30

1st Workshop: 10 a.m.
Location: Military Intelligence Service Learning Center, 640 Mason Rd., San Francisco Presidio (click for map)

2nd Workshop: 7 p.m.
Location: J-SEI, 1285 66th St. Emeryville. (click for map)

Admission is free. Call 415-921-5007 for more information.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

18 November 2019

Our Library Collections: Germany

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

This post about German research is thanks to Phil Hoehn – one of our great Library Committee volunteers. Phil prepared a list of the German books in our library for me and explained that in the case of Germany our books are not all in one place. Instead, they are shelved by subject/content or geography. Books on Germany can also be found among our state books, so you need to use our online catalog to find all that our library has to offer. Phil had another great tip - he told me that Wikipedia has links to the Library of Congress articles. I went home and tried this. On the Wikipedia site I entered: Library of Congress German Genealogy. Then I entered the words “German”, “Germany”, and “genealogy” in their search box. More than a thousand articles popped up on a broad range of topics.
Books on German research in our reference section

Nancy Cork also offered a helpful tip for German researchers. She wanted me to tell you about our collection of The Work Paper, journals from the American Historical Society of Germans From Russia. These are contained in three boxes on the back wall, with the oversize books. Our set covers 1969-1977.

Phil’s first listing was for books in our reference section CS 49, where I found four books that look very helpful, including Discovering Your Immigrant & Ethnic AncestorsHow To find and Record Your Unique Heritage by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack; American Migration Guide by John Heisey; German Family Research Made Simple and They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Arrival Records. These would all be good places to start or expand your German research.
Germanic Genealogy is in the
CS610 section of books
You will find one full shelf of German genealogy books starting in section CS 610. A couple of our newer books are Germanic Genealogy: A Guide to Worldwide Sources and Migration Patterns and The German Research Companion by Shirley J. Riemer, Roger P. Minert and Jennifer A. Anderson. These were published in 1995 and 2010. Germanic Genealogy includes a chapter on Jewish genealogy. The German Research Companion was donated to our library by the author. Both of these books are packed with useful information.

For those who read German, we have a twelve-volume set of Genealogisches Handbuch Des Adels that were given to the library by George R. Dorman. The title translates to Genealogical Handbook of the Nobility. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you anything more about this set because I do not read German.

For books on German history, Phil sends us to section DD where you will find eleven books on German history, including the two-volume set of Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs, an indispensable gazetteer of the German Empire (1871-1918). Tip: the online version of this source is much easier to understand.
The 12-volume Genealogisches Handbuch Des Adels 

Next, head for section E184.G3, where you will find a large collection of books on Germans in the United States. This section includes German-American Genealogy by the Immigrant Genealogical Society. This is a set of journals covering 1987-2016. Our set of Der Blumenbaum is in section F869.S12 B58, which is in the California Room in the back corner of the library.

You will also find 25 volumes of German Immigrants in American Church Records by Roger P. Minert in section E184.G3 published in 2005. These books focus on the states where Germans first immigrated–Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri.

German atlases will be found in G1905-1939; and don’t forget to check our map collection. Finally, Z115 is where you will find books on German handwriting.
These 25 volumes contain church records for early German immigrants.

Thank you, Phil and Nancy, for helping with this post.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

14 November 2019

Volunteer Holiday Open House, December 15

Once again, we show our appreciation for our volunteers with a Holiday Open House!

Sunday, December 15
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Lafayette, California

Come join your friends and meet other volunteers at our holiday brunch!
Please bring a dish to share!
Fruit, appetizers, bread, dessert, beverage - whatever suits your fancy. 

Sign up HERE

or contact Linda Okazaki for details
Hope to see you there!

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

06 November 2019

Our Library Collections: Ireland and Scotland

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

Our books for Irish and Scottish research are combined with Great Britain in section CS400.  We have a ten-volume set of Scottish Record Society books that were given to the society by George R. Dorman. Each volume covers a different record set. For example, volume 35 is The Register of Marriages For the Parish of Edinburgh, 1701-1750, published in 1908. Volumes 40-50, bound together, are Parish Registers of Canisbay, Durness, Kilbarchan, Wigtownshire and Minnigaff. These volumes are packed with lists of names and dates.

A more recent publication is A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors, written by Linda Jonas and Paul Milner and published in 2002. This reference is a good starting point for anyone who has not yet tackled their Scottish ancestors. The book offers a step-by-step process for doing research. Chapter One is "Getting Started," followed by "Research Process Guidelines," "Uniqueness of Scottish Research," "Accessing Internet Resources," and more. Unique to this book are graphic icons to guide the user through the material. For example, there is an icon of a warning hand indicating: “Stop before you make a mistake.”

An excellent source for beginning
Scottish family research
We have a similar book for Irish research – Tracing Your Irish Family History by Anthony Adolph. It includes a section on first steps for tracing your ancestry back to Ireland, including a survey of Irish genealogy resources available in numerous countries, from the U.S. to Canada to Argentina. This book is very well illustrated.

One of our older Irish references is a hefty tome; A Genealogical and Heraldic History of Landed Gentry of Ireland by Sir Bernard Burke, published in 1912. This is a dense compilation of land and family records – birth, marriage and death records and pedigrees.

Another of our newer books is John Grenham's Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (2006). Each chapter focuses on a different record set, including general register office records, census records, church records, property and valuation records, genealogical office records, emigration records, and more. This book includes a lengthy section on Roman Catholic Parish Registers listing “all copies of Roman Catholic parish registers, microfilm and database transcript" to be found as of 2005.
A good book to start on your Irish research

As I worked on writing this article I realized I no longer have an excuse for avoiding researching my Irish great-grandmother Mary McGowan. The tools I need to get started are right here in our library.

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society