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01 April 2021

Research to the Rescue

Two missing pieces discovered by the CGS research team

By Chris Pattillo

During the library closure our Research Committee has continued to respond to requests for lookups and research. The number of calls is down – possibly because everyone has had more time at home during the pandemic to do their own work. In a typical year, the Research Committee receives about ten requests for genealogy research and another twenty-five calls for lookups.

Most calls come from nonmembers of CGS who find out about our research services by Googling and somehow making their way to our website. Kimberly Riner learned about our services from our Facebook page. She considers herself an intermediate researcher, having worked on her family history for several years, but she’d hit a brick wall. Kim’s goal was to pin down the name of her great-grandmother on her paternal line. As is often the case, she’d been told some false information about her family origins. That, combined with some sloppy work by a census taker, had her stumped.

Kim contacted our research committee and Pat Smith got to work. Relatively quickly Pat found clues on the 1900 census that ultimately confirmed the name of Kim’s great-great-grandfather and that led to several more generations further back. Kim was delighted. She wrote, “Wow!! You are amazing! I can’t believe how much information is in that package. Thank you so much!”

How many times have you heard someone tell you that you cannot always trust what was recorded by the census taker? Pat was suspicious when she noted that the enumerator had erased what he originally recorded and then written “Asia” as the birthplace of Kim’s great-great-grandfather. Pat surmised that what was originally written had been “Portugal” and that when Kim's grandfather elaborated with "Azores" the census worker had misunderstood the place and written “Asia.” Pat followed her hunch and confirmed that Kim’s ancestors on her father’s side were from the Azores – a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean west of Portugal.

The census taker had also written that Kim's great-great-grandmother was from Massachusetts. Kim had been told that her great-grandmother was from California, so that threw her off as well. Sometimes when you’re stumped, a pair of fresh eyes is what is needed. That is what Pat Smith was able to do for her client and Kim was thrilled. She wrote back to Pat, “I really can’t thank you enough. I’m going to see where all this info gets me and I will contact you when I get stumped again!”

This sentiment jibes with Pat’s experience working with people who hire the CGS Research Team. Typically, they are people who have good research skills, have made a lot of progress and simply are stuck. Kim was very satisfied. It was also a rewarding experience for Pat, who estimates she's volunteered for seven to ten years. "It feels good when our clients get excited – that we’ve been able to help them,” she said.

Pat Smith went the extra mile for client Kim Riner,
visiting St. Mary's Cemetery in Oakland
to take this photo of her ancestors' headstone

Kim added, “Pat was able to find a great deal more information including a really interesting story about an inmate who [my second great-grandmother's sister] married. I imagine for the time it was quite the drama! Pat was able to find my ancestors as far back as my sixth-great-grandparents from the Azores.”

Kim compared several research services before finding CGS and found our fees are very economical. The current fee is $50 per hour with a two-hour minimum. Committee member Pat Smith reports that most research projects end up costing $100 to $200. Most clients come to CGS to do research on their California ancestors. Then they find out that our team does more than just California – we do research for every state. CGS also has the resources to investigate other parts of the world. Pat was able to read the documents from the Azores that were written in Portuguese. She also does Danish and Swedish research. Diane Richards, another member of the team, reads French and others can handle German and Spanish. Our large membership means we can usually find someone to help with just about anything.

Pat misses the collaboration with her fellow Research Team members and looks forward to the library reopening, when they can gather again. Until then don’t hesitate to contact the Research Committee if you need help:

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