San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SMCGS Fall 2016 Seminar

Research Rewards 
From Paula Stuart-Warren 
 Genealogy By Paula

Saturday 22 Oct 2016

Paula Stuart-Warren CG (raised SM), FMGS, FUGA. Paula is a nationally-known lecturer,
professional genealogist as well as an author. Her research specialties include methodology,
 research planning, the U.S. National Archives, Midwestern and Plains states, Minnesota Historical Society,
the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Wisconsin Historical Society, American Indians and unusual records. 

 A Program of Four Lectures
  • What Next? Developing Step-by-Step Research Plans ... From the analysis of known information to the creation of research goals for finding the elusive answers, your research success ratio is improved with careful planning and use of proven techniques. Taking and dissecting raw data so that a detailed research plan evolves is easier than you might think. What do you do next with those documents, letters, family stories, and other items you found or were sent by your aunt? Failure to make a research plan runs the risk of overlooking important clues in the records we already have and repeating the same research. This session includes hands-on exercises. A research plan is truly not a daunting task.
  • NUCMC & Its Cousins: Keys to Lost Ancestral Records ... Where might Great Aunt Sadie’s diary be today? Where might records of the circuit rider from Ohio, Indiana, or Michigan be located? What repository houses the business records of an ancestor? Where might you find the files of a relative who was working on a lineage society application? As our families migrated westward, the records associated with them may have been left in several places. Many genealogists think that there are no records for part of the family but substantial information could be buried in a manuscript collection. There are many finding aids online and off that lead to these nuggets that represent hundreds of years of material. One important aid since 1962 is the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) which is a cooperative cataloging program operated by the Library of Congress. Almost 2,000 manuscript repositories from all across the U.S. have provided descriptions of manuscripts held in their possession.
  • Newspaper Research: The Dailies, Weeklies and Beyond ... Newspapers are one of the most important research sources. Too often genealogists use only the “generic” newspapers in their research. The ethnic, cultural, college and university, organizational, neighborhood, cultural, foreign language, and religious newspapers are often overlooked. Many of these have been indexed, though it may take some extra detective work to locate the indexes. This session presents details on the tremendous amount of information to be found in the usual newspapers and also these “other” newspapers and on how to locate them and any indexes. Learn how to locate the newspapers all over the U.S. and wring more information from them. 
  • Research Rewards in County Courthouses and Town Hall Records ... Courthouses and town halls all across the U. S. are treasure troves of records for family history research. Learn about vital, probate, tax, divorce, naturalization, criminal and civil court records. Today the records might be in an archive, historical society, on microfilm via the Family History Library, or even online. Learn what these records hold and how to find and access them and indexes. The examples used in the lecture focus on historical rather than current records and on the county and town level records

Menlo Park LDS Church 

Doors open at 8am - Registration, Book Sales & Silent Auction

Family History Center will be open during breaks, lunch and after the Seminar

Preregistration by 14 Oct 2016  -- Members:   $37.00 each   Non-Members:  $42.00 each   LUNCH:  $8.00 each  (registration includes Includes SYLLABUS)

Registration after October 14 & Walk Ins $48.00.

Become a new member, good thru Dec 2017 for $30 and save $5 on the seminar.

*Paula holds the ​Certified Genealogist® credential and is a firm believer in continuing education in genealogy and strives to keep up-to-date by participating in national and local conferences, reading the publications of many genealogical and historical organizations and individuals. She also gives back to the Genealogical Community. She served two years as a national officer of the Association of Professional Genealogists and has been an APG Committee Chair; served six years as a board member of the Minnesota Genealogical Society and continues as an active volunteer in genealogical, historical, and professional organizations. She currently serves on the Federation of Genealogical Societies Board of Directors and chairs the FGS Awards Committee. She has lectured at NGS and FGS national level conferences since the early 1990s.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

San Mateo County Cemeteries: St. Denis Cemetery

WMD 2016 (2) 
Today all that remains of St. Denis (Dennis Martin) Cemetery is an obelisk standing within the grounds of the Stanford Linear Accelerator.  
In 1850 Dennis Martin settled on 1000 acres of Rancho Cañada de Raymundo that he purchased from John Coppinger.  A young Irish immigrant, he was a good Catholic who invited missionary priests to stop in his house and say mass.  Feeling need for a church he remodeled a redwood building that had been used as a school house, creating a church in the shape of a crucifix.  The church was dedicated as St. Denis, his patron Saint, by Bishop Alemany dedicated it on 8 June 1856. (1)

St. Denis Cemetery was laid out about 300 feet from the church.  

WMD 2016
A lawsuit filed by Maria de la Soledad Ortega Argüello and Jose Ramon Argüello claimed that the land was in fact part of Rancho de Las Pulgas, rather than Rancho Cañada de Raymundo In 1864 Dennis Martin, along with the estate of Coppinger and other purchasers of land in the vicinity lost their final appeal to the land. (3)  

The loss of his land included that on which the church lay.  Dennis moved to a smaller farm that remained in his possession, but never fully recovered from the loss of his thriving business. In 1882 he moved to San Francisco.  When he passed away in 1890, estranged from his daughters,  his remains were buried in St. Denis Cemetery. (4)

In the meantime St. Denis which was originally in the care of the Jesuits passed into the hands of Rev. Denis F. Dempsey, the pastor of San Mateo.  It was one of the established missions, which also included Colma and Redwood City. With the dedication of Church of the Nativity in 1872 the church was abandoned. By the time Dennis Martin was buried there, the church had been torn down, replaced by straw sheds and the cemetery lay neglected.

Eventually the land was purchased by Senator Leland Stanford who ordered that the cemetery be maintained.  However, by 1953, it was in ruins.  That was the year that the cemetery was exhumed, originally housing was to be built there. That plan was abandoned and eventually SLAC was built in 1962. 

One hundred and seventy four grave sites were identified at the time of the exhumation of St. Denis Cemetery, but remains were found for only 24 individuals.  The remains of Dennis Martin weren't among them.  All remains were re-interred in Holy Cross Cemetery in Menlo Park.   There is a stone marker in Holy Cross commemorating the burials and a stone and brass marker located at the entrance to 3000 Sand Hill road.

In 1950 Father Thomas McKeon of Church of Nativity provided a list of burials found in the records of St. Denis Church to Palo Alto Historian, Guy Miller.  Dennis Martin Cemetery, which lists 45 burials between 1856 and 1862, has been digitized and is available on FamilySearch. If there were in fact 174 burials in the cemetery, I have not found a listing of the rest.  Perhaps the cemetery includes burials that were not Catholic. 

See the Menlo Park Historical Society's Notes on the Dennis Martin Cemetery  for further details and maps of the location.


  1. Parish History - St. Denis Parish, Menlo Park & Portola Valley provides a more detailed history of the parish.
  2. Pictures by William M. Donovan for this blog. You will find up close pictures of the obelisk, plaques and some maps on St. Denis Cemetery by Jym Clendenin.  This page is linked to Notes on the Dennis Martin Cemetery mentioned above.
  3. This case was discussed in a previous blog post, NARA: Private Common Law Case Files 1855-1863 
  4. Bo Crane has written a biography, The Life and Time of Dennis Martin, San Mateo Pioneer which is available on his website or from the Menlo Park Historical Association.  Bo will be the speaker at the SMCGS Meeting on Sept. 24, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

September  Meeting
Date: Saturday, September 24th 10:00AM - 12 Noon
Topic:  The Life and Time of Dennis Martin, San Mateo Pioneer
Speaker:  Bo Crane

“Bo Crane has written the definitive study of the most pervasive American pioneer of the mid-peninsula area. Arriving as a young man in Mexican territory with the first wagon train to cross the Sierra Nevada, Dennis Martin acquired land, built a home, saw mills and a church, but eventually lost all and died a pauper. Crane provides the details based on his extensive research and personal exploration. It’s a story you will enjoy reading and a book you will treasure as a reference.”

— Jym Clendenin, Menlo Park Historical Association President