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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