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10 December 2007

Two ways to give back

The California Genealogical Society and Library is celebrating our first holiday season at our new address in the Breuner Building at 2201 Broadway in Oakland. It was gratifying to receive this from the Breuner Building Operations Manager, Carly Perez-Banuet:

This holiday season we have two great ways to give back! The first is One Warm Coat. Please bring in any coat you no longer need and One Warm Coat will help distribute back into our surrounding area. You can drop off to security or the management office on the mezzanine level. My goal is to have the final coat pick-up on 12/21/07.
The second is our annual food drive with the Alameda County Food Bank. The food collection bin is set up in the lobby and ideally we will have multiple pick-ups. We will have them pick up once the week of the 17th and one the first week of January. I have attached a wish list of needed foods. You may have also noticed their billboards up in the area…our donations going right back into the community!
* The following is a list of the most needed food items:
  • Canned Fruit and Vegetables
  • Canned Meats and Fish
  • Peanut Butter
  • Pasta
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Canned Soup
  • Dry Cereal and Oatmeal
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Powdered Milk

From the One Warm Coat Web site:

Lois Pavlow created One Warm Coat because she wanted a coat to be given to someone in need. Lois organized the first One Warm Coat drive on Thanksgiving Weekend in 1992 at Union Square in San Francisco, California.

In 2002, Sherri Lewis Wood starting expanding One Warm Coat’s efforts beyond San Francisco so that all who had an interest in donating a coat or hosting a coat drive could easily do so. The impact of these simple and meaningful coat drives makes a difference in the lives of many. Today One Warm Coat drives are held in 49 states across the country from September through March, and include international locations.

From Alameda Counyty Food Bank Web site:

The Alameda County Community Food Bank is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has been serving the community since 1985. As the county's clearinghouse for donated food, the Food Bank provides food assistance for 40,000 low-income Alameda County residents each week, which includes 14,000 children and 7,000 seniors. Most adults served are among the working poor.







  • Provide food to 300 community agencies that serve on-site meals and/or food bags for their clients 
  • Distribute bags of food to school children in need
  • Distribute fresh fruits and vegetables several times a week to member agencies
  • Operate a toll-free hunger helpline that makes over 1,000 referrals each month
  • Conduct food stamp outreach clinics
  • Educate the community and public officials about the causes of hunger and poverty

    07 December 2007

    California Digital Newspaper Collection

    I had the pleasure of representing genealogists and CGS at California Newspapers in the Digital Age: Making Our History Available - A Conference in Celebration at the University of California, Riverside, on October 14, 2007. The conference heralded the California Digital Newspaper Collection, a free online resource that is the culmination of 16 years of work by Dr. Henry Snyder and the staff of the Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research.

    Dr. Snyder, who recently won the National Humanities Medal, Assistant Director, Andrea Vanek and their project teams have been crisscrossing the state, rescuing newspapers and newspaper microfilm from garages, attics and storerooms to amass a collection of over 50 million pages from more than 9000 newspapers. This effort, called the California Newspaper Project was part of the United States Newspaper Program, a partnership between the NEH and the Library of Congress created in 1990 to provide enhanced access to U.S. newspapers. According to Snyder,

     California has the second-largest number of published newspapers in the United States, even though the first one wasn’t published until 1846. Newspapers are the single most important record of local history, yet also the most ephemeral. They don’t survive. People read them one day and burn them in the fireplace the next.
    Over the years and as the technology has changed, the projects have gone from cataloging to microfilming to digitization. The center has received two grants to fund the digitization project. The first grant covered newspapers published between 1900-1910. The Center digitized over 100,000 pages of California newspapers for this period: the San Francisco Call, the Amador Ledger, the Imperial Valley Press, and the Los Angeles Herald. The Center will be digitizing an additional 100,000 pages for the second grant, which targets newspapers published 1880-1910.

    Snyder cautioned that the site is still in the developmental stage and that technicians are working hard to make it user friendly and fast. Commercially available software did not live up to the center's expectations so two programmers developed a special software for the project. Beta versions are available for the San Francisco Call (coverage 1900-1911) and the Daily Alta California (1849-1890 some years missing). The search box includes a "calendar" option that reveals the dates that have been digitized.

    05 December 2007

    Book repair workshop

    Part of this year's October Family History Month line-up was a Book Repair Workshop held Tuesday afternoon, October 16, 2007. Bill O'Neil, the chair of the CGS Book Repair Committee, passed along some of his expertise to several apprentices who paid $15 each to learn from our resident expert.


    Bill is a retired high school art teacher who has loved books since he worked in a library as a kid. He became interested in book making and took a class in the mid-1990s to learn the skill. At about the same time he read that the CGS Book Repair Committee was looking for volunteers and knew it was a perfect fit.

    When Bill joined the book-repairers they were being led by Richard G. Thrift, who created the committee in 1987. Bill has fond memories of Dick Thrift, who had been made an Honorary Life Member of CGS before his death in 2002. Bill has been leading the group ever since.

    The Book Repair Committee, which meets the second Tuesday of every month, has become indispensable to the maintenance of the library collection. The committee recently celebrated the repair of its 2,000th book which represents about 100 books repaired every year. The committee also lends a financial support, since they estimate that the average repair would cost the society about $60, if it was done professionally.

    The workshop participants learned the techniques used in repairing books by actually creating a book for themselves. Bill provided the pages (a copy of the "how to" pamphlet authored by Dick Thrift) and the pupils created the binding. Bill reports that the group proved to be highly skilled which made for a very successful workshop. And everyone went home with a self-made instruction book and souvenir of the day.

    Photographs courtesy of Jane Knowles Lindsey.

    03 December 2007

    NEHGS Comes West

    Oakland's Scottish Rite Center was the scene of this year's joint conference with the New England Historic Genealogical Society "NEHGS Comes West" held on Wednesday, September 26, 2007. 127 guests enjoyed the all-day program featuring 5 presentations, lunch and a silent auction. Two lectures were presented by Online Genealogist David Allen Lambert of NEHGS who started the day with Researching Your New England Ancestors Prior to 1850.

    CGS Research Director, Nancy Simons Peterson, presented New England Holdings at the California Genealogical Society and distributed a two-page summary of the major Northeastern holdings at our library.


    The silent auction raised over $1600 for CGS.


    Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland Regional Family History Center, Debbie Smith and CGS board member and "look-up" maven Lavinia Grace Schwarz were among the attendees.

    The NEHGS book sale was a total success - they sold out.


    Former CGS president, Rick Sherman and 2 guests.


    David Allen Lambert, CGS President Jane Lindsey and NEHGS President and CEO D. Brenton Simons were the featured speakers.


    Most of the waving crowd are members of both societies.


    NEHGS President and CEO D. Brenton Simons made a luncheon presentation What's New at NEHGS. CGS President, Jane Lindsey, spoke about What's Happening at CGS.


    David Allen Lambert, author of the David Lambert Blog, closed the program with Online Resources for Locating Your New England Ancestors.

    Photographs courtesy of Jane Knowles Lindsey.


    01 December 2007

    Steve Harris - Collector of City Directories & Phone Books

    Sometimes the best reason to belong to your local genealogical society is the help you can get from fellow members. It can be as simple as the clarity achieved just by speaking a research problem out loud to a willing listener or being able to informally consult with members who have the expertise you lack and are willing to share their resources. But Dr. Stephen Harris took sharing to a whole new level when he made his collection of city directories and telephone books available to CGS members.


    Steve, who has a doctorate in psychology from U.C. Berkeley, worked for the Contra Costa County health department and is now semi-retired. He is also a CGS member and professional genealogist whose interest in family history dates back to the Oakland hills fire of October 1991. When Steve lost his home he also lost all of the family documents that he inherited from his parents. He admits he hadn't paid much attention to them before but after they were destroyed he began to wonder if it was possible to replace them and to reconstruct the history of his family. Things just took off from there.


    Steve started his collection when he rescued some old phone books that were being discarded by an archive. He has found that most libraries don't like them because they are so fragile and that while city directories have been extensively microfilmed, telephone books seldom are. His collection, which now numbers over 5000 volumes, dating from the mid 1850's to the 1960s, is housed in a space down the hall from CGS in the lower level of 2201 Broadway, Oakland.

    Dr. Harris has generously granted CGS members access to his collection two days every month: the second Saturday and the third Friday. Members are to check in at the CGS desk first. From there they will be directed to Steve's library. Dr. Stephen Harris can be reached at wizard848@earthlink.net.

    Photographs by Kathryn M. Doyle, 27 Apr 2007.