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28 June 2020

LGBTQ Genealogy: Illuminating the Past

Writer Gertrude Stein with her life partner, Alice B. Toklas
Image: Beinecke Digital Collections

CGS Recording Secretary Stewart Blandón Traiman has been researching, writing, and teaching genealogy for more than 30 years. He writes a LGBTQ Genealogy blog series at his website, Six Generations

On this day fifty years ago, 28 June 1970, the first Gay Pride march happened in San Francisco.  This was to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that took place one year earlier in New York.  Those riots fifty-one years ago, much like today’s riots, were sparked by police behavior. Drag queens, transgender people, male prostitutes, and other queer folks said “NO MORE!” to the police.  Another raid on our safe places would not be tolerated that night. This watershed event sparked a strong movement for social change and the birth of the modern gay rights movement (which is different from the early gay rights movement of the 1950s).

Though today we can be out loud and proud, it wasn’t always like this. Gay people often had to hide their love and relationships to remain safe and to keep their families safe from bigoted retaliation. This presents a challenge for the genealogist. Just like other relationships, LGBTQ relationships should be documented and preserved in the family record. It sets a double standard if a genealogist is willing to write freely about heterosexual marriages, illegitimate children and bigamy but when it comes to Queer relatives they choose to obscure the truth or not investigate further. Acknowledging homosexual relationships should be no different than documenting heterosexuals in our family history.

Elizabeth Shown Mills states it eloquently in the opening paragraph of Evidence Explained, “Bias, ego, ideology, patronage, prejudice, pride, or shame cannot shape our decisions as we appraise our evidence. To do so is to warp reality and deny ourselves the understanding of the past that is, after all, the reason for our labor.”

However, LGBTQ relatives and relationships can be difficult to prove. Thomas MacEntee has observed that just as it can be a challenge to trace our female ancestors, “a similar story can be drawn about our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered (LGBT) family members and how, and if, they appear in our family histories. It really is up to the researcher to make sure these people have a voice and a place in the family tree.” 

A genealogist will need to look carefully at available historical records for clues to sexual orientation. When you look through your family tree, does anything raise a red flag (or, as I like to call it, a rainbow flag)? Look for the bachelor uncle or spinster aunt.  Do not assume that they were unlucky in love. Perhaps they did have a partner, but there is no documentation, nor did family pass down that history.

Clues may be found in photographs, or in census, cemetery, criminal, or military records, in newspapers and in LGBTQ archives. For example, look in the census and city directories for evidence of two people of the same sex living together over many years. Did a relative live in a “known” gay neighborhood? Was he or she mentioned in a newspaper story about a police raid on a gay club, or did he receive a “Blue” or Other than Honorable discharge from the armed forces?

Look at a family member’s choice of profession. The stereotype of the gay hairstylist exists for a reason: an independent hairdresser could own a salon and not be subjected to a boss’s prejudices.  Professions that are mobile allow for a restart in a new city. Independence might be found as a florist, or interior decorator, or as a registered nurse—skills that are valued almost anywhere.  Queer folk tend to gravitate toward the arts – dancers, artists, authors, actors, and sculptors might be blackballed from their professions, but they might also find independence and mobility if needed.

In obituaries, look for code words like “lifelong bachelor,” or a mention of a “longtime companion” or “devoted friend.” In rare cases, you may find same-sex couples buried together in the same cemetery.

Sexual orientation is inherent to family history. Their sexual orientation affected the decisions our ancestors made. It affected their choice of profession, or where they lived. It also affected their relatives, friends, associates and neighbors. Did family members know and keep the relative’s secret? Were there family rifts or unexplained separations?  Being aware of non-heterosexual ancestors may put family stories into entirely new context.  

Knowing history illuminates the genealogical records. Knowing LBGTQ history will equally illuminate the lives of our ancestors.

The LGTBQ Community has made great advances in the past fifty-one years. In June 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples had a fundamental right to be married. Just this month the Supreme Court ruled that lesbian, gay, trans, and bisexual people are protected against discrimination in the workplace. This is a month to celebrate our pride in our achievements, our history, and our peoples. Be aware of the Queer relatives in the branches of your family tree. Add their stories to your family. Give them a voice if they did not have the opportunity to be “out” during their time.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

23 June 2020

Quarantine Quests: Family Photos Brought to Life

The Quarantine Quests story was written by CGS member Nancy Cork.

I took advantage of this social distancing time by working on, and finally finishing, a personal project. This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of my mother, Evalyn Biddle. When she passed away in 1995, I promised my sisters that we would have a special celebration of our mother’s life in 2020… little knowing what form that celebration would take.

Evalyn Biddle at 6 months, in 1920 Minneapolis
I inherited boxes of family photographs from my mother. My curiosity about those photos of people I knew little about drove me to begin researching my family history, and I have loved pursuing genealogy for the last 25 years. I have learned so much about my ancestors, three, four, ten… even twelve generations back. Genealogy has been my passion. But as I turned to think of how to commemorate my mother, I realized that there was so much that I didn’t know about her life. Not that my parents were secretive, or didn’t enjoy reminiscing about the past. Rather, I just didn’t think to ask questions, to get the conversations started. Like so many people, I always assumed that there would be plenty of time to talk tomorrow, and I prioritized my own present over other people’s past. So now I found myself trying to understand my mother’s life in order to pay tribute to her.
Two historic floods, in 1978 and 1987, engulfed Minneapolis
during Evalyn's lifetime

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot doing genealogical research, and there are so many resources available today that aid in tracking down information of the most surprising kind. I used my research skills to build a timeline for my mother’s life. And, through DNA matches, I was able to connect with “long-lost” relatives, and get answers to lingering questions.

I decided to make a multimedia presentation based on the old family photographs. I gathered every picture that I could find and scanned them all; then I got family members across the country to scan and email more photos to me. That was actually the easy part. Much more difficult was identifying each photo. I labeled each picture starting with the year (using “circa” when I was just guessing) and then the names of the people in the photo, adding a location or description or sometimes just a number, to help keep track of the hundreds of photographs. Putting the date first allowed me to easily sort the photographs chronologically.
Pages from the 1938 Centralian high school yearbook
I scanned and saved most of the photos as TIFF files. Next I copied each photograph over again as a JPEG, and labeled it as a copy. To those copies I did simple photo edits, marveling at how dramatic a transformation something like auto color correction can make! I used only the edited photographs in JPEG form in my slideshow program. I have used this program many times to make photo slideshows of vacations and birthdays, even once for a wedding. It allows one to creatively move around the photographs, zooming in and out, panning, focusing on details, etc. Though the program has many bells and whistles, I kept as my mantra, “What would Ken Burns do?” as I worked with each photograph, and tried to keep the special effects to a minimum. Though, to be honest, there were times when I was channeling George Burns instead, as I gave in to the temptation to ham up a family joke or two!

My genealogical research skills came into play as I fleshed out the story the photographs told. I dug up census, birth, marriage records, school report cards, employment records, church records, military files, etc. I traced down “FAN” (friends, associates, and neighbors) names, addresses and even phone numbers to find a more complete understanding of what was happening and when. Most of all, I used old family letters to tell my mother’s story. I am very fortunate to have a large collection of letters from and to her, and being able to use excerpts of her own words in my tribute meant a lot.

Seven-year-old Evalyn with her mother, 1927
After compiling pictures and information, I next tried to find themes for the show. Some were obvious choices: her school days, her career, her friends through the years. Others were maybe a little eccentric – for instance, my mother always loved dogs, and everyone loves a good dog story, right? – so it was natural to include a section devoted to her canines and their capers, and top it off with a newspaper article about a brutal three-dog fight that my 7-year-old mom heroically tried to break up, necessitating a rescue from her 9-year-old brother, and a trip to the hospital for everyone. I then included statements from both my mother and uncle reflecting on, and disagreeing about, that incident.

My slideshow tribute was further personalized with a musical soundtrack. I had asked my sisters to suggest songs that were reminiscent of our mother. That was a lot of fun for all of us. After several months of searching, singing and selecting, I had to overcome the challenges of converting old LPs and cassette tapes to MP3 files. I finally amassed a digital collection of almost 70 songs – all songs that my mother loved. In the end, I included snippets of 37 songs in the slideshow, as well as a recording of my mother singing, and an excerpt of a reading that she did. It was amazing to me how much the music enhanced the experience of looking at the family photographs. No surprise, I guess… can you imagine watching, say, Casablanca or Sleepless in Seattle without the soundtracks? I could evaluate and arrange the photos for hours and feel detached from the images, and then as soon as I played the slideshow with the “perfect” song, emotions would soar.

A soundtrack of favorite songs added emotion to the slideshow

Before finishing the slideshow, I asked immediate family members to contribute memories of my mother. Everyone chose to send me audio files, and hearing each story – funny, respectful, poignant, or loving – was terrific. The final production ran for 90 minutes and included more than 600 photographs, documents and other images. Despite the quarantine stay-at-home orders, I was able to share the tribute to my mother with my family, near and far, by screen-sharing on Zoom. We chose to view the show on Mother’s Day, of course.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

21 June 2020

Online genealogy, week of June 22-28

Here are some online genealogy events offered this week. Most are free. See our post “Genealogy Learning in the Time of Coronavirus,” for links to archived classes at Ancestry, FamilySearch, RootsTech, and more.

Conferences and Webinars (fee charged)
June 25-27: "Virtual Spring Research Stay-At-Home"–American Ancestors
June 27-28: “Hidden Gems at the Missouri State Archives” –St. Louis Genealogical Society

To register for a class below, please click on the name of the host organization.

The New England Historical and Genealogical Society offers this presentation:
June 24: "Rivals Unto Death: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr" by Rick Beyer

Legacy Family Tree hosts the following free classes:
June 23: "Working with SuperSearch to find the Right Historical Record" by Daniel Horowitz 
June 24: "Utilizing the HathiTrust Digital Library" by Colleen Robledo Greene

"Free Webinar Weekends":
June 26-28: "African American Genealogy," featuring five presentations over two days. Visit the website to register and for details.

FamilySearch has free webinars every week. This week:
June 23: "¿Qué harías tu?" (in Spanish)
June 23: "Oregon Land Donation Records" by Lyn Rasmussen

Conference Keeper has a large calendar of activities (too many to list) by genealogical associations around the country. New events are often added at the last minute, so check the calendar frequently. 
Here are a few of this week's highlights:

June 22: “New Jersey Vital Records, Adoption, and Divorce” by Melissa Johnson

June 23: “Google Books: The Tool You Should Use Every Day!” by Lisa Louise Cooke

June 24: “2020 Update: Basics of” with James Tanner

June 25: “The Connemaras: Despair in the Heartland” by Jane Kennedy

June 25: “Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy” by Dr. Penny Walters

June 27: "Our Ancestors Weren't Always Honest" by Amy Crabill Lay

June 28: “Finding Jewish Records on the MyHeritage Search Engine” by Daniel Horowitz

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

18 June 2020

Quarantine Quests: Finding Enoch

This Quarantine Quests story is from CGS member Shirley Thomson and written by Chris Pattillo.

More than fifty years ago Shirley Thomson began her quest for the birth family of her husband, Tommy’s, earliest known ancestor, Enoch Thomson, born in 1784 in New York. Shirley started searching for Enoch’s parentage when she discovered the wealth of genealogical records in the local library where she was working in 1962. Since that time, she has persisted in her efforts to discover Enoch’s connection to one of many Thomson family trees.

Enoch Thomson (1784-1872),
farmer and part-time Baptist preacher,
 Sullivan County, Indiana
The best part of being quarantined is that “it eliminates my need to make excuses for working on my family history” says Shirley. After many years of searching and not finding the desired connection, Shirley decided to hire the CGS Research team to help with her quest. That decision was made in February of 2020, shortly before the quarantine began. Initially, hiring the research team – that includes Lavinia Schwarz and Pat Smith – increased Shirley’s workload. As the team of researchers dug in, they presented Shirley with lots of questions. Shirley was very busy answering their questions starting in February and into the early weeks of the quarantine. Since then she has taken a bit of a break from genealogy.

When asked what tips Shirley had to offer, she said “Perseverance.” That is what is needed when tackling a tough problem. After fifty-plus years of pursuit I’d say Shirley is a model of perseverance.

Shirley has been using DNA to look for Enoch’s parents since 2006. She has found several autosomal and yDNA matches – some with lines going back to the mid-1600s. Each new DNA clue confirms the same family line, but she has yet to find Enoch from any of these leads. One of her challenges is the tradition in this family to use middle or nicknames, so while she is focused on looking for Enoch it may be that he was known as “Ed” and that is why she has yet to pin this man down.
Deed to land purchased by brothers-in-law Justis Clark and Enoch Thomson
of Lysander, New York, on 30 July 1811. By 1820, both Clark and Thomson
families were resettled on farms near the Wabash River in Indiana

I asked how she managed to come up with new questions to ask after fifty years of searching – how does she formulate new questions that enable her to approach the problem from a different perspective? Her answer was prompt and emphatic: “Oh, that’s easy, because technology gives us new opportunities all the time'” When asked for an example, Shirley said she has three pages of names of other Thomson descendants who are doing research on this same family. She was able to print this out from the site. The report lists people who match Enoch’s autosomal DNA. She can refine the list and see their ancestral lines and what they are focused on. Using their GEDCOM identification number she can compare them to other matches to her husband. Studying this information continues to provide new clues.

So far neither Shirley nor the research team have found the link they are seeking, but all are persevering.
Enoch's son Reuben Thomson (1827-1907) with his wife Margaret McKinney
 and nine grown children, mid-1800s
If you have a Quarantine Quests story to share, please contact Chris at

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

16 June 2020

Website Content Committee: Pedigree Charts Project

Chris Pattillo writes:
If you have not already seen the video about our Pedigree Charts project made by Ron Madson, you can see it by clicking on the link. Ron is one of a number of CGS volunteers who are working with the Website Content Committee to put more source material on our website. The idea to do this is one of the many good suggestions that were put forth by our members during the Strategic Planning process.  
Ron Madson in his studio with the equipment he is using to
photograph two volumes of pedigree charts

This project began over one hundred years when some of the founding members created pedigree charts and had them bound into books. We have two volumes of CGS Pedigree Charts on the back wall where the oversized books are shelved. These books are beautifully done. They are eight-generation charts written in ink. In addition to birth, death and marriage dates and places, some charts include photographs, obituaries and newspaper clippings.
These books were made ca. 1920
The Pierson Worrall Banning Chart was completed on
September 13, 1916
Years later other volunteers indexed the names from these books. They extracted the data and typed it onto 3x5 cards. Each card provides the individual’s name, the name of the chart it appears on, and what volume and page that chart appears on.
Other volunteers typed the data from the charts onto 3x5 cards
We are now converting the data on the 3x5 cards into a searchable database so that members can easily search for an ancestor online. Once the project is complete our members in other states and countries will be able to easily access this wealth of records without having to come into the library.

Our current team includes Stewart Traiman, who scanned about 8000 index cards, and Theresa Murphy, who created a data entry spreadsheet, a completed sample and instructions for how to index the data. Kathleen Beitiks is identifying and coordinating a team of volunteers who have agreed to do the indexing, and as the data comes in John Ralls will be putting it up on the website. I have had the pleasure of leading this team effort and keeping us all focused on the end goal.
One of about 200 8-generation pedigree charts that Ron is
photographing. Note: this is my iPhone snapshot. Ron's
photos will be much better.
Ron Madson agreed to take high-quality photographs of each tree – about 200 of them. He has an impressive set of equipment and is using Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit the photos.

Many of the charts have photos attached
The Banning chart includes this obituary
If you are interested and have time to help with the indexing please contact me at or Kathleen Beitiks at The Website Content Committee is working on several other projects. I’ll share more about those as we make progress.
This box of 3x5 cards was scanned for the internet
Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

13 June 2020

Online genealogy, week of June 15-21

Here are some online genealogy events offered this week. Most are free. See our post “Genealogy Learning in the Time of Coronavirus,” for links to archived classes at Ancestry, FamilySearch, RootsTech, and more.

Don't miss CGS's offering: "Excel for Genealogists," a very popular two-part class led by Stewart Blandon, on June 16 & 17.

To register for a class below, please click on the name of the host organization.

June 15: "Risky Business: Limiting Liability in a Litigious World" by Judy G. Russell

June 17: "The Other Census: U.S. State Censuses" by Thomas MacEntee

The New England Historical and Genealogical Society offers these free online classes:
June 16: "From Teeming Zion's Fertile Womb": The Curious Career of Judah Monis by Michael Hoberman
June 18: "Getting Started in Portuguese Genealogy" by Rhonda R. McClure

Legacy Family Tree hosts the following free classes:
June 16 & 17: "Genealogical Treasures in Irish Archives" by David Ouimette
June 17: "Bridging the Gap: Finding Ancestors in the United States Between 1780 and 1840" by D. Joshua Taylor

LFT also offers "Free Webinar Weekends" in June, with a variety of speakers.
June 19-21, Great Britain, 6 classes
June 26-28, African American Genealogy, 5 classes
Visit the website for details.

FamilySearch has free webinars every week. This week:
June 15: Best Practices on Family Tree for Nordic Ancestors

Conference Keeper has a large calendar of activities (too many to list) by genealogical associations around the country. New events are often added at the last minute, so check the calendar frequently.
Here are a few of this week's highlights:
June 16: "Smarter Search Strategies for Genealogy" (Wisconsin State Genealogical Society) by Thomas MacEntee
June 16: "Naturalization Records" (Pinellas Genealogy Society) by Peter Summers
June 16:  "Finding Family: Finding Your Female Ancestors on Naturalization Records" (National Archives) by Zack Wilske
June 17: "Locating Records in Archives From Your Couch" (BYU Family History Library) by Sara Cochran
June 17: "Research Methods and Sources and Citations" (MyHeritage) with Dick Eastman
June 18: "Seven Proven Strategies for Identifying Slave Ownership and Reconstructing Families: New Paths and Trails" (Florida State Genealogical Society) with Janis Minor Forté
June 18: "The Musical 'Chicago' and All That Genealogical Jazz" by Mike Karsen
June 20: "Japanese Family Names and Crests (Kamon)" with Chester Hashizume

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

11 June 2020

In Memoriam: Laura Spurrier, 1941-2020

Laura Spurrier (second from left) in 2016, with CGS team
members Jim Robinson, Gloria Hanson, and Chris Pattillo
Our CGS family of volunteers and members were saddened to hear of the passing of Laura Spurrier this past Tuesday morning (June 9). She had been a CGS member since 1996.

She served on our Board of Directors and the library committee and was our librarian for many years. Among her specific services to CGS were:
  • Organizing and coordinating the movement of our books to our current library location from our old location at 1601 Telegraph in 2007.
  • Securing the funding for, and overseeing the transition of, our library card catalog to digital and making it available on our website.
  • Co-leading one of our first research trips to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana and providing consultations before and after that trip.
  • Serving as an editor for the CGS book on the Judge family.
Laura had a masters degree in history from the University of Wisconsin and a master of library science degree from UC Berkeley. She worked as a technical information specialist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory until her retirement. She was able to put her education and experience to good use at CGS and we appreciate, and have benefited from, her involvement. She was always willing to help others with their genealogy questions, especially if they were related to Scandinavian or Quaker issues.

Our thoughts and condolences go to her family. A memorial will be held in Berkeley, once it is safer to do so.

James Sorenson, President

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

09 June 2020

Family History with Young Kids… While Sheltering In Place

This blog post was contributed by Marisa Louie Lee.

I was making some exciting strides in my genealogy research this year until mid-March, when my daughter’s preschool closed and landed her at home with her younger sister and me. We’ve since filled our days with class Zoom meetings, sidewalk chalk, watching lettuce grow in the backyard, crafting with toilet paper tubes, and lots of yoga on YouTube… and lately, a few family history projects. While visiting research rooms or meeting up with other researchers is in the distant future, I can still work on something just as important as piecing together the past: fostering a love for family history and their cultural heritage in my kids.

For children, especially those under the age of 5, identity is tied to family. Understanding family traditions and being able to share family narratives strengthens one’s pride in family, building confidence and self-esteem. With this foundation, children can better understand differences among their peers and build relationships with others. Here are some ways you can introduce family history to young children while sheltering in place.

Making Chinese turnip cake at home
Cooking Family Recipes: The food of Shelter in Place is definitely comfort food – and what’s more comforting than what your family has made for generations? Share the stories that go along with the recipes. Was there a special plate that your grandmother used to serve the cake? Was this casserole a special food for holidays or birthdays? If you don’t have a family recipe for something you enjoyed as a child, find one online and refine it until it feels and tastes right. We made my mother-in-law’s favorite Chinese turnip cake (lo bak go) for the first time last month. An aunt has also been perfecting her Hong Kong-style egg custard tart (daan tat) recipe, and our kids have happily eaten all of the trial tarts left on our doorstep.

Thumbs up for homemade custard tarts!
Family Photo Sharing on Zoom: On Mother’s Day, our extended family gathered on Zoom. We devoted part of our meeting to sharing and talking about family pictures. My daughter loves seeing photos of adults as children, so she was enthralled by a photo from her great-great-grandmother’s birthday party in the 1960s. Best of all, the Zoom meeting was recorded so we are able to go back and listen to everyone’s reminiscences. This would be an excellent activity for a family member who’d like to offer some virtual babysitting to busy parents.  

Cemetery Visits: Instead of taking a walk at a local park, why not visit a local cemetery? This would have to be carefully planned and obviously may not be appropriate for every child. Our children are very comfortable at cemeteries because we visit twice yearly for Chinese grave cleaning days in the spring and fall. Visit the grave of an ancestor and share a story, or find a grave and discover ways to find out more about that individual and the time period in which they lived. My daughter talks about time and history comparatively to people and things she is familiar with: was this person alive when her parents or grandparents were born? Which famous Disney movies – like Snow White (1937) or Cinderella (1950) – were around then? Were there cars or did people ride horses?

Visiting Hoy Sun Cemetery in Colma
Honoring family on Memorial Day
COVID-19 Time Capsule: Document the history happening now. What is it like sheltering in place with your family? How are you celebrating holidays and special occasions? What are your favorite books, movies, and pastimes right now? This COVID-19 time capsule by LONG Creations is designed for young children to complete and color with some adult assistance.

Some books from our family library
Picture Books on Family History: Read books on family history, particularly any that relate to your child’s culture and ancestors. My daughter will eventually learn more fully about the Chinese Exclusion Act and Chinese communities in the Sacramento Delta, but for now we can talk about immigrant journeys and the meanings of our names. Some recent fantastic picture books with a thread about family history and heritage include Islandborn by Junot Díaz and Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. You can also find books specifically about family trees and genealogical research, such as My Family Tree and Me by Dušan Petričić. If you don’t mind using a tablet or electronic device to read with your child, these may be available as e-books from your local public library. I’ve developed a reading list in my San Francisco Public Library account with these and other titles.

Many thanks to friends and colleagues in genealogy and parenthood Linda Harms Okazaki, Asia Yee Mountz, and Petra Fraties for their input and contributions to this blog post. This article published on the Your DNA Guide blog further discusses family narratives and building resilience in children.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

06 June 2020

Online genealogy, week of June 8-15

Here are some online genealogy events offered this week. Most are free. See our post Genealogy Learning in the Time of Coronavirus,” for links to archived classes at Ancestry, FamilySearch, RootsTech, and more.

To register for a class below, please click on the name of the organization.

June 15: Risky Business: Limiting Liability in a Litigious World by Judy G. Russell

The New England Historical and Genealogical Society offers these free online classes:
June 8: Honor Moore with Our Revolution: A Mother and Daughter at Mid-Century (New England Historical Genealogical Society)
June 10: Researching English Eastern Canada
June 10: First Steps in Family History 

Legacy Family Tree and MyHeritage host "Free Weekend Webinars" in June. They feature a variety of speakers on 3 different tracks:
Technology, June 12-14, 6 classes
Great Britain, June 19-21, 6 classes
African American, June 26-28, 5 classes
Visit the website for details.

FamilySearch has free webinars every week. This week:
June 9: Online Resources for Reading Dutch Documents
June 9: ¿Qué dice? Como leer la escritura antigua (in Spanish)
June 10: England Records Beyond the Grave
June 15: Best Practices on Family Tree for Nordic Ancestors 

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society hosts two free webinars:
June 8: The New York Gateway: Immigration, Emigration and Migration by Jane E. Wilcox
June 9: 2020 New York State Family History Conference--What's On the Program? Susan R. Miller and D. Joshua Taylor

Conference Keeper has a large calendar listing activities by genealogical associations around the country. Here are a few notable events:
June 9: Finding What You Need and Using What You Find (Virtual Genealogical Association) by Pam Vestal
June 9: Pity the Poor Orphan: Children’s Homes in America (Allen County Public Library)
June 9: Genealogische Karten online selbst erstellen mit StepMap (in German)
June 10:  Duplicates in Family Tree, Part 1: Why They’re There and How to Find Them (BYU Family History Library) with Kathryn Grant 
June 11: The Fisherman Who Wanted to Marry the Executioner’s Daughter: Stories You Missed from German Marriage Sources (Germanic Genealogy Societ) by Warren Bittner
June 11: Adventures with Adobe Photoshop Elements: Enhancement, Contrast, and Brightness Correction (Allen County Public Library)
June 14: U.K. Parish Registers (Virtual Genealogy Association) by Robert Parker

Stay safe, be well, and happy learning!

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

Quarantine Quests: A Treasure Trove of Stories

Chris Pattillo is collecting "Quarantine Quests," stories of genealogical projects and discoveries made by our members while sheltering at home due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This Quarantine Quests story is from CGS member Jan Rubin.

CGS member Jan Rubin with her paternal
grandfather, Roy Baxter, 1953

Being quarantined at home has given Jan Rubin the time to reflect on her family’s history and to think about why she is so committed to continuing to research and weave together the many pieces of her family’s story. It has enhanced her sense of who she is and how her ancestors have shaped her. When the quarantine began Jan decided to focus on her paternal grandfather, Roy Raymond Baxter.

Jan inherited her family’s records – a treasure trove of photos, postcards, letters and research done by other family members. These documents and memorabilia came to her from her father, who had saved them from his father. Roy Baxter was a native of Nova Scotia who had studied to become a farmer, as his father and grandfather had been. But after a series of setbacks beginning around 1920 – his farm burning down, the Spanish flu pandemic, and a brief economic depression that followed World War I – Roy and his wife left Nova Scotia and traveled across Canada, with Jan’s father being born in 1921 in Edmonton, Alberta. After a final visit back to Nova Scotia, the Baxter family, including Roy’s brother, emigrated to Washington State in 1927. They heard from a friend from their hometown that there were jobs at a plywood factory in the Grays Harbor area of Washington and Roy and his brother went to work there.

Jan is grateful to relatives and ancestors who for generations saved the pieces of their lives and handed them down to her. When she made research trips to Nova Scotia these same relations shared their stories and guided Jan to the places where her ancestors lived and worked. Now she is focused on stitching it all together, like making a family quilt, so that she in turn will continue the tradition and share the story with future generations.
Roy age 16, Amherst, Nova Scotia

Jan joined CGS in 2017. Like so many new to our society her first encounter was with Jane Lindsey, who immediately jumped in with gusto to guide Jan in her endeavors. Throughout my interview Jan repeatedly acknowledged how generous CGS members have been in helping with her research and methodologies. She is using a timeline structure to organize her material – one of the first tips learned. She mentioned help from Pam Brett, Lisa Gorrell, Maureen Hanlon, and Sally Houston, who all have generously shared their tips for tackling a somewhat daunting undertaking. Jan regularly attends the CGS monthly FTM group where she enjoys a sense of camaraderie fostered by facilitators Ron Madson and Karen Halfon as facilitators.

Man seated in field with baby, cat, horse
Roy with son Gerald Baxter (Jan's father) Edmonton, Alberta
Canada 1922
Telling her grandfather’s story has been intuitive and revealing at the same time. Jan has personal recollections of spending time with her grandfather when she was a young child. She knew him as a quiet man who was soft spoken – never a braggart. She has a strong sense of this man and acknowledges how he has shaped her life. The revelations have come through her research. In wanting to add context to her grandfather’s story Jan has visited the places he lived and worked. She has seen the boots and lunchboxes that men wore and used while working in the plywood factory where he worked for many years. She has stood in the places where he fought during World War I. These experiences, images, recollections provide the context that explains her grandfather’s life and who he was.

Roy during WWI, 1916
While quarantined, Jan has fallen into a rhythm of how she spends her days. After breakfast and the daily news, she typically devotes a couple hours of her morning to work on her family history, a break and then her afternoon is divided between another major project and taking time to connect with other people. The balance has worked well. Most days she focuses on a particular task she wants to accomplish but on other days she is able to let that go and allows herself more flexibility.

Right now, her goal is to “get to the bottom of the box,” so to speak – to make sure she has reviewed and processed every item she inherited and to put it into order. What’s next? A book, a blog, a Nugget article or researching her mother’s side of the family? The quarantine has given Jan time to reflect, to go back in time because she knows it is important to honor her ancestors, to record their struggles and quiet achievements.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

01 June 2020

Online genealogy, week of June 1-7

Here are some online genealogy events offered this week. Most are free. See our post Genealogy Learning in the Time of Coronavirus,” for links to archived classes at Ancestry, FamilySearch, RootsTech, and more.

Online Conferences:
June 5-7: The Ontario Genealogical Society hosts a virtual conference. There are online events every day this week leading up to the conference. See website for details.
June 6: America: Our Records and Our History (Pima County Genealogical Society)
June 6: Genealogical Society of New Jersey virtual conference

To register for a class below, please click on the link of the organization.

Legacy Family Tree and MyHeritage offer these webinars:

June 2 & 3: Sources for Landed and Titled People by Paul Milner
June 3: "What are the Odds?" An online tool that can help solve DNA puzzles by Jonny Perl

FamilySearch has free webinars every week. This week:

June 2: The Research Process, Research Help, and Searching Records

Conference Keeper lists many of the above, as well as the following:
June 2: Return to the Catskills (Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center Event) by Phil Brown
June 2: "How do you do that? Practical Suggestions for People Who Want to do Genealogical Lecturing" (Utah Genealogical Association) by Jean Wilcox Hibben
June 2: Understanding Graveyard Symbols (Allen County Genealogy Center) by Cathy Wallace 
June 3: From a Box in the Closet to a Treasured Family Heirloom: Organizing and Digitizing your Family Photos by Sara Cochran
June 3: Exploring the Rhineland-Palatinate by Claire Gebben
June 3: How to Use the FamilySearch Wiki and Catalog with Amber Oldenburg
June 4: Researching Indigenous Ancestors in Northern Ontario by Jenna Lemay
June 4: Brickwall Busting Strategies: Hammering at the Wall by Mid-Cities (Texas) Genealogical Society
June 4: Village Family Books [Ortssippenbücher] (Germanic Genealogy Society) by Warren Bittner
Jun 4: Y-DNA Basics with Q&A on any DNA topic (Allen County Genealogy Center) by Sara Allen

June 5: The English Garden: Perfection on Earth (New England Historical and Genealogical Society) by Curt DiCamilo

June 6: Beginning Italian Genealogy Research (Virtual Genealogy Association) by Mary Hojnacki
June 6: Using Military Records for African American Research Workshop (Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society of Nashville) with Tina Cahalan Jones

Stay safe, be well, and happy learning!

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society