Recent Posts

20 February 2020

Nichi Bei "Films of Remembrance," February 22 & 23

In the Japanese American community, February 19 is an annual "Day of Remembrance," marking the date in 1942 when President Franklin Roosevelt isssued Executive Order 9066, clearing the way for approximately 112,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry to be evicted from their homes on the West Coast and held in American concentration camps and other confinement sites across the country. This weekend, the Nichi Bei Foundation hosts its 9th annual "Films of Remembrance," showcases of films commemorating the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. On Saturday, the festival screens in San Francisco's Japantown; the program repeats in San Jose on Sunday.

The San Francisco Chronicle offers an overview of the film festival. It includes 11 short films, discussion with filmmakers, local news personalities, a multimedia concert, and more.

The full schedule of events can be seen here.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

10 February 2020

New Website Launched

The CGS Website Development Team has launched the new CGS website, with a new look and several new user-friendly features. Here is what you will see the next time you visit the site.

The menu bar across the top should be familiar. You can use the pull-down menus to access the content you are used to finding on our website. The SEARCH box at the top right has been improved to search our entire site–much more than it used to. Members can also LOGIN from the top menu bar.

We are pleased to  prominently feature several ancestor photos on the new website home page. To see more ancestor photos, just click on any of these images; that will take you to the Members’ Ancestors photos page, where you can hover over an image to see the name of the person and/or who submitted it.

To the right of the three Ancestor Photos you will see a list of upcoming events. These will be updated regularly. You can scroll through the list and click on an image to go to the Eventbrite listing where you can register for an upcoming event.

Just below the photos you will see three large boxes: CLASSES & EVENTS, VISIT OUR LIBRARY, and SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS, each with a short description and links to the pages where you can read more details. Below that are three more large boxes.

From here you can view photos of CGS PAST EVENTS, go directly to the BLOG, or DISCOVER what’s new in downtown Oakland near our library, including a list of places to eat within one block.

Beneath that are three small GOLD boxes that link to CGS videos, let you sign up for our free E-news, or hire a researcher.

There is lots more, including some new features at the bottom of the home page. The SHOP page has been expanded to include the swag items that are for sale at the library. SUPPORT CGS/DONATE is new and explains different the ways you can help our society thrive. LEAVE US A SUGGESTION is also new. Feel free to make comments about the new website or any other topic. Your suggestions will go directly to the website team and be addressed. You will also find a link to our entire CALENDAR at the lower left. 

You should find that the new site works much better than the old site did on phones. To report technical problems with the website look for the message at the very bottom and click on the link to the Webmaster. Also, note that in the lower right corner there is a link to our Sitemap. Clicking on this link will show you an outline of everything that is on the site.

The website team has worked very hard to complete this update. We thank everyone who has reviewed our content and offered suggestions and ideas for improvement. We hope you find what you are looking for easily and like the new look. 

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

06 February 2020

Chinese American Pilgrimage in Historic Marysville, February 22 and 23

Photo by Jay Nixon - copyright Bok Kai Festival
The Chinese American Pioneer Heritage Committee hosts its third annual Chinese American pilgrimage to coincide with the Marysville Bok Kai Parade and Festival, celebrating the Lunar New Year on the weekend of February 22 and 23. The weekend’s activities include in-depth panels, activities, and exhibits on Chinese American culture, history, and genealogy.

The historic town of Marysville, in Yuba County, was at one time home to the second largest Chinatown in the United States. It was a hub for Chinese Americans who built the infrastructure of California—railroads, roads, wineries, mines, delta levees, water and irrigation systems and agricultural farmlands. The town’s Bok Kai Temple, founded in 1854 by Chinese migrants who came to work in the gold mines, is the oldest continuously operating Taoist Temple in the country, and the annual Marysville Bok Kai Parade and Festival, celebrating its 140th anniversary this year, is the longest continuously held parade in California. 

This year’s theme is “Lost Chinatowns,” remembering the nearly 100 communities destroyed because of anti-Chinese laws, racial violence, and economic displacement. “Join us as we rediscover the lost Chinese American communities of Pacific Grove/ Monterey, San Jose, and Stockton,” say the organizers.  Two days of extended cultural programming include a Chinese American Documentary Film Festival, walking tours of the historic old Chinatown, demonstrations of early Chinese immigrant cooking, historic photo exhibits, musical and theatrical performances.  The historic Bok Kai Temple, Old Chinese School Museum and Chinese American Museum of Northern California are all open to visitors this weekend. A Saturday Pioneer Dinner honors and networks with community leaders and activists.

Sunday is a full day of history panels and workshops. Organizers discuss the sharing and recording of family stories, genealogical research, historical memory, and community history.  Learn about the exciting work being done to digitally recreate our historic communities and change the face of how public history is done. Historian David Lei will display a multimedia digital mapping of 1905 San Francisco Chinatown.  University of the Pacific history professor Jennifer Helgren and her team demonstrate their virtual reality recreation of Stockton’s “Little Manila.” Brian Tom shares the history of the Chinese American Marysville pioneer families and descendants. There is a screening of Felicia Lowe’s award-winning documentary, “Chinese Couplets,” which explores the impact that the Chinese Exclusion Act had on her family. The day concludes with the traditional firing of the bombs and the chance to catch a “good fortune” ring at the Bomb Day festivities.

Special hotel rates are available in nearby Yuba City and Wheatland. For complete details, see the Eventbrite listing.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

30 January 2020

Update: USCIS comment period extended to February 10

You may have heard that U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing to exponentially increase fees for retrieval of their genealogy records. In some cases this would mean raising costs as much as 500 percent. We wrote about this previously in our blog. USCIS is the repository for most immigration and naturalization records from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. The proposal has drawn protests from historians and genealogists and even from some Congressional members, most notably Senator Mitt Romney

Alien Registration File for Raymond Hiroshi Hirai, Alien Registration #A1740872,
Records of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Photo courtesy of Rina Hirai.

The deadline to submit public comments on the issue was originally December 2019. Now USCIS has extended the deadline for public comments to February 10, 2020. The folks at Records, Not Revenue recently announced the extension of the deadline and offered the following advice:

"We have four steps for you to take right now to help us oppose the fee hike:
1) If you haven't yet submitted a comment, please do so. All the information you need to know is at Submit your comments at:

2) Once you have submitted a comment, or if you have already done so in the past, please make sure you write your Senators and Representative! We have received interest from several Congressional offices, and hope this two-week extension can gain us some further interest.

3) If you have submitted a comment AND written your Senators and Representative, you are welcome to submit supplementary comments! There is no need to submit repeat or duplicative comments. If your comment has not yet posted to the online portal, but you received email confirmation and/or a receipt number from your previous comment, there is no need to submit the same comment again. However, you are welcome to add additional thoughts to your previous comments; just be sure to include reference to your previous comment in your supplementary comment.

4) Share share share! Make sure your spouse and your siblings and your parents, cousins, neighbors all submit a comment, too. About 20% of the current posted comments are about the Genealogy Program - and that takes up just 2 pages of the 92-page proposed rule. Every single comment matters. Download the one-pager from our website for an easily shareable document.

As always, let us know if you have questions, if you hear anything from your elected officials, or if we can help in any way."

CGS has made a formal statement of opposition to the proposed fee increase. Board members Linda Okazaki and Grant Din are our representatives with the committee. If you haven't yet weighed in on the issue, this is your chance!

Copyright © 2019 by California Genealogical Society

27 January 2020

CGS Member Perks: A Visit to the Oakland Library History Room

Photos by Kathy Ikeda and Jennifer Dix

Librarian Dorothy Lazard in the Oakland History Room

One of the many perks that come with being a member of the California Genealogical Society is getting to go on special members-only outings every year. On January 23, a group of us got a close-up look at the Oakland Public Library’s historical and genealogical holdings. The delightful Dorothy Lazard, principal librarian at the Oakland History Room, gave us an introduction to the library’s rich trove of books and artifacts.

The History Room holds numerous documents that could prove invaluable for local genealogical research. These include bound volumes of Oakland birth and death certificates from 1870 to 1904, records of the West Oakland Home orphanage, Oakland Police arrest records from 1877 to 1912, indexes to vital records and cemeteries in several other counties, numerous old photos, and much more. For details, check out the old-fashioned card catalog, housed in good old wooden storage drawers (the library catalog is also online).

The library has some very detailed resources for property research in the Map Room. Dorothy passed around the oversized “Block Books,” tax assessment records showing owners’ names block by block. They also have a finely detailed Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, which showed the footprint of buildings and recorded physical details such as building material, number of floors, whether it has a basement, etc. Dorothy showed us that by backlighting pages, you may detect previous structures that were pasted over during later surveys.

Looking at the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map in the Map Room
Dorothy demonstrates how backlighting may reveal
earlier elements of the map

Dorothy gave us a brief overview of Oakland’s history. West Oakland is the original core of the city that was incorporated as Oakland in 1854. It grew quickly over the next half century and by 1909 was the second largest city in California. We got a rundown on the origins of the annexed districts: for example, Brooklyn was originally settled by Mormons and named for the ship that brought the settlers from New York in 1854; the San Antonio neighborhood takes its name from the old Peralta family ranch. The glass display case in the History Room is used for rotating exhibits. Currently it showcases Oakland’s final annexation in 1909, when the city came to encompass Claremont, Fruitvale, Dimond, Fitchburg, Beulah, Melrose and Elmhurst districts.

While only a fraction of the library's historical collection is available online, there's still a lot to see. Go to the library's home page and click on "Oakland History Online" to start exploring. Our thanks to Dorothy Lazard for the wonderful tour and to Jane Lindsey for organizing the event. Our next two outings are coming up soon! Click on the names below for more information:

Feb. 25: Field Trip to the California Historical Society

All smiles after an informative and enjoyable visit!

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society