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

Monday, August 25, 2014

San Mateo County Cemeteries

Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery

Menlo Park 

The current Holy Cross Cemetery started as a town cemetery in the late 1860s.  It was purchased by the Church of the Nativity and converted to a Roman Catholic cemetery in 1883. 

When Stanford University moved those interred in St. Dennis's Catholic Cemetery, many of the bodies were moved to Holy Cross.  There is a historical plaque near the entrance commemorating those burials.  

Holy Cross is still an active cemetery with up to 100 burials a year.  The interment register includes over 5400 names.

A quick walk through the grounds reveals names with a multitude of origins....Italian, Samoan, Irish,Tongan, Mexican and many more. Like many of the older cemeteries there are some unique plots and tombstones reflecting the mix of cultures. lists burials through 2005 provided by Fred Kemmerle and FindAGrave lists 4191 burials with 90% having photographs, and the burials 

Cemetery Records, which may include:  date of death, place of death, date of burial, date of birth or age, place of birth, parish from which the person was buried, and mortuary, can be obtained by submitting a Genealogy Request Form.The cost is $35. The website reminds us that cemetery information does not include maiden names, children, or death certificates.  The mortuary might, however, have that type of information if it is included in the cemetery records.

Cemetery Map                                         

Holy Cross Cemeteries 

Holy Cross Cemetery on Twitter

The Cemetery Office is located at  Saint Raymond Catholic Church, 1100 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park  650-323-6375

Monday, August 11, 2014

Digging for Roots Online: Cemeteries and Tombstones

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

At the July Society meeting we had an interesting program, "Care and reading of old tombstones" by Martha Wallace, and it reminded me of the many places on the Web where I’ve recently seen information about genealogy and cemeteries. To supplement Ms. Wallace’s talk, let me add a few places to “dig for roots” (but not literally, please!)

Usually the first place I start when I’m thinking about specific genealogy topics is the Family History ResearchWiki. I typed “cemeteries” in the “Search by place or topic” box and the first entry was “Cemeteries”.

I clicked on the link and got a wonderful page on cemeteries that listed various ways to find cemeteries and links to other websites.

Further searching on the Wiki led me to a page on “UnitedStates, Tombstone and Sexton Records:

Next I searched the FamilySearch Learning Center for “Cemetery” and got 9 video or slides on topics such as: episodes of the TV show Ancestors; “Researching Funeral Homes, Gravesites and Cemetery Records”; “Cemetery Art”; and “Messages From the Grave: Listening to Your Ancestor’s Tombstone”!

Now I went to and searched their Wiki for “cemetery records” and got thisarticle from “The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy”:

Next I used my third favorite Web site, to search for “CemeteryRecords”:

In addition there were links to: “Tiptoeing Through the Graveyard”, “How to Do a Tombstone Rubbing”, Tips for Taking Great Cemetery Pictures” (and yes, they recommend a mirror as mentioned by Ms. Wallace),  and other topics including a link to “The LimitedEncyclopedia of Grave Terminology”.

The fourth place I go to is the “GeneaBloggers” site by Thomas MacEntee, where one can search almost 3,000 genealogy blogs.

Here I found something I hadn’t even thought about (and have probably broken the law doing!)--an article on the “Legal Genealogist” site by Judy Russell, called “Cemeteryphotos: permission required?”.

Another listing was “Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols” by Joe Beine.

On another of Thomas MacEntee’s sites, “Blogtalkradio” there is a program called “BringOut Your Dead! Cemeteries and Genealogy

And, of course, we can’t forget the fine articles on our very own Blog on San Mateo County Cemeteries by the very knowledgeable Cath Madden Trindle!

There is a site on the MyHeritage genealogy blog called Cemeteries: Gravestonesymbols.

On the blog (yes, they have a free-to-read-blog too) there is an informative article for newbie cemetery genealogists called CemeteryEtiquette: What you Need to Know for that Cemetery Trip.

On a personal note, a few years ago I found, in a used book store, the book Storiesin Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography that is both visually attractive and fun to read. (Note: the link is to the site but the book is available elsewhere. When you look at the prices don’t hate me for paying only $2.00 for my used copy!)

And finally there was recently a news article about a person who did awful damage to many tombstones so they could photograph them for Find-A-Grave (which had no responsibility for this person’s actions). I think it illustrates perfectly what Ms. Wallace told us.

Cemeteries can give us more information about our ancestors and have broken many a genealogical brick wall.

Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,

“Life is short; do genealogy first!"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Genealogical Societies Revisited

Why have you decided NOT to join a society?
Margaret Melaney

A recent posting by Gail Dever on her website looks into reasons people join genealogical societies.  She now asks the question: Why have you decided not to renew your membership?  The results should be available on her site by the time you read this.  Here are some of her possible answers:

  • o   I had exhausted all of the society’s online resources.
  • o   My research in that region was finished.
  • o   The newsletter did not interest me.
  • o   I took up another hobby.
  • o   The members were snobby about how genealogy research should be done.
  • o   I did not like how the society was managed.
  • o   I joined another society.
  • o   I was no longer learning from the society.
  • o   Opening hours were not convenient.
  • o   No parking.
  • o   The lectures and workshops became stale.
  • o   Staff/volunteers lacked adequate knowledge to assist members.

To this we might add the question “Why have you decided NOT to join a society?”  What genealogical needs do you have that a society does not meet?  Of course, you may not HAVE any genealogical needs, like the researcher I spoke to recently who announced “I’ve traced my family back to William the Conqueror and am taking it to Kinkos to be printed and bound.”  Well fine.  But is it sourced??  Do you have all the photos, maps, documents, wax seals to substantiate and fill out your history?

Oh…you do.  Congratulations.  Will you now take up hang gliding?

Or perhaps, just possibly, the genealogical society, local or otherwise, still has a place for you.  Let’s take a look at the above list from a new perspective:

  • o   I added to the society’s online resources, and explained them to new users
  • o   I changed my focus to another region, or became the society expert in my region.
  • o   I contributed to the newsletter
  • o   I took up photography and created a book about my family
  • o   I showed people how I do genealogical research
  • o   I ran for the board and changed how the society was managed
  • o   I coordinated efforts between my society and another
  • o   I am teaching in the society
  • o   We went online, and open hours became a thing of the past
  • o   Parking is still a problem
  • o   From my contacts, I found new lecturers and workshop leaders
  • o   I’m always glad to share my experience with other members

There IS life after William the Conqueror.  And your genealogical society can be a part of it.  It doesn’t mean you can’t take up hang gliding as well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Digging for Roots Online: Palaeography

 By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

I had just sat down in a RootsTech 2014 classroom for what should have been a class in using non-English language records when it was announced that the speaker had to cancel the class. Instead they were substituting a talk by a professor and graduate student from BYU (Brigham Young University) on a new program and website that was just then being built—the website is called “Script Tutorial: Making sense of oldhandwriting”.  

Now I have to admit that, in spite of this actually being important if one wants to do serious family history research, I have never done much handwriting transcription or abstracting, relying on others to do the job for me. After hearing this lecture that may change.

Before we continue let’s make sure we know what we’re discussing; in a blog post in the UK’s version of The Huffington Post ( , Scott Phillips defines it this way:

"Palaeography Noun (mass noun): The study of ancient writing systems and the deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts."
He continues: “If you have worked with any manuscripts, wills, indentures, deeds, etc. from before the invention of the typewriter, then you know this isn't your father's handwriting we often find ourselves dealing with in our family history.”

At this point may I say that “palaeography” is the British spelling; in the U.S. “paleography” is the more common spelling. But since most of the sites I’ll be mentioning today spell the word the British way I used that in the title.

The site we’re talking about, “Script Tutorial” had literally come live on the Web just two days before RootsTech! As they say on the home page 

“Work on the Script Tutorial will continue throughout 2014, please "Pardon Our Dust" as we make these revisions.” The authors describe the page this way:
This website offers guidance in the deciphering of documents written in handwriting styles or alphabets no longer in general use. It concentrates on alphabets used between 1500 and 1800 in western Europe.
Currently it offers instruction in English, German, Dutch, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese;Latin and eastern European languages will be added in the future.” (We will be discussing only English in this post.)

The opening screen shows this:

You should click on the center “Researchers” where, on the right hand side, you will see:

You will find an introduction to English Script, Techniques & Tools, Documents, and my favorite, Interactive Exercises.

But, perhaps, before you continue, I would recommend going to the FamilySearch Wiki  and searching for “handwriting”. (They don’t use the word paleography!) You’ll see this:

They also took my next suggestion right out of my mouth: Other web sites can be found by going to Cyndi's List - Handwriting & Script or by doing a search on Google for terms such as handwriting, paleography, or Old English with the term England.


Although I think “Script Tutorial” may become the #1 place to go to learn palaeography for now you may wish to go to the [U.K.] National Archives-Palaeography, and use some of their tutorials.

Another excellent place for tutorials is “EnglishHandwriting 1500-1700: an online course”  

A bit more academic tutorials can be found at MedievalPalaeography.

Clicking on the Henry VIII half groat for instance, will get you to a page with a column of choices:

(This is a partial list) I clicked on “Start reading 1):

There is a good discussion on the “Society of Genealogists: The National Family History Centre” site. (

And on another page (

Kip Sperry is considered one of the best experts on Early American Handwriting. In fact that is the name of possibly the best book on the subject. We have it in our Society library:

Since this blog post is about online learning, I recommend a page offered by that has an excerpt from this excellent book (

And it goes on from there.

I suspect I have just scratched the surface of Internet information on Palaeography/Paleography and that you will find this useful in the future when you run across those seemingly undecipherable manuscripts and records.

Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SMCGS Spring 2014 Seminar

Saturday, May 3, 2014 – 9:00am – 3:00pm

“Brick Walls:  Bust ‘Em, Don’t Build ‘Em”

Menlo Park LDS Church - 1105 Valparaiso, Menlo Park

Members $20 Non-members $25Lunch $8
Register Online with Paypal  by Apr. 25
See Mail in Form Below

Family History Center open at breaks, lunch and after seminar

  8:00 – 9:00
REGISTRATION & Time to Browse our Silent Auction Items & Book Sales
  9:00 – 9:15
  9:15 – 10:15     LECTURE ONE
“Assumption Is the Mother of All Screw-ups” – Susan Goss Johnston
Genealogy research requires the creation of hypotheses, but those sneaky, silent assumptions that creep into our work may result in maple branches grated onto our oak tree.  Learn how to avoid making those assumptions.
10:15- 10:40
 10:40 – 11:40   LECTURE TWO
“Writing Your Family History One Byte At a Time” – Susan Goss Johnston
Writing a family narrative is a great way to highlight conflicts and holes in your research; and a fascinating narrative will bring your family to life.  Learn how to write it one byte at a time.
 11:40 – 12:45   LUNCH
LUNCH – Time to check out the Silent Auction Items, Book Sales and the Family History Center

 12:45  –  1:45   LECTURE THREE
“Seven Strategies For Finding the Hard Ones – Part 1” -  James Baker
Sometimes our genealogy research hits a “brick wall”.  Mr. Baker will present his seven strategies to “find the hard ones”.  He will talk about the methods for finding new data, the results, and the “payoff”.  Examples of successes using these strategies will be presented.
 1:45  –  2:00   BREAK

 2:00  -   3:00   LECTURE FOUR
“Seven Strategies For Finding the Hard Ones – Part 2” – James Baker

Directions to Menlo Park LDS Church - 1105 Valparaiso Ave. MP

From 101 North or South:  Exit 101 at Woodside Road and proceed west to the El Camino.  Turn left onto the El Camino.  Proceed south through Redwood City and     Atherton to Menlo Park.  Turn right at the stoplight at Valparaiso.  Proceed for 5 left turn only blocks.  Just past Arbor Rd. on the left is the LDS Church.

From 280 North or South:  Exit 280 at Sand Hill Rd. east and proceed east to the El Camino.  Turn left onto the El Camino.  Proceed through Menlo Park to the stoplight at Valparaiso Ave.  Turn left onto Valparaiso.  Proceed for 5 left turn only blocks.  Just past Arbor Rd. on the left is the LDS Church. 

Right click on form to open in a new tab for printing

Friday, February 28, 2014

Burial Place Finally Found!

Burial place finally found – thanks to indexing volunteers who helped get the Holy Cross Cemetery records online at!

Joyce Morey

One of the people I started researching when I first became addicted to this hobby was my husband’s great grandfather, Cherubino Mariotti.  He immigrated to San Francisco from Corsagna, Italy around 1870. He married Maria Fischer in 1880 and sadly died in 1883 at the age of 33.

I searched for his burial place for a long time.  I had been to Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma numerous times as this is where most of the family had been buried.  I had asked them if he was also buried there but was told they had no record of a “Cherubino Mariotti”.  (My fault – I could have found him sooner if I had known way back then to be very specific with my request and not so specific with the name but to look for variations in spellings and to get a list of everyone with the same surname.)

While visiting the cemetery with a cousin a couple of years back we asked them to look up a gravesite for us.  They told us that the index was now online so we could look it up ourselves next time.  The index is online at  I was able to look up the other family members on it so I thought I would try to find Cherubino again.  This time I know better than to rely on any specific spelling, however, I got lucky with my first try on the last name Mariotti – there was one listing but it listed the first name as “Columbus”.

Well another lesson I have learned over the years is to look at the image itself which fortunately was attached.  Sure enough it did say Columbus BUT the other information was a good match for Cherubino.

Line 8:
Name: Mariotti, Columbus
Nativity: Italy
Married/Single: Married
Occupation: Laborer
Residence: 424 Fulton
Parish: St. Bon
Death: Typhoid Fever? (hard to read)
Died: 1883 Nov 28
Age: 31
Purchaser: Catherine Mariotti

While the first names are not correct I believe this is Cherubino.  The residence 424 Fulton was his and Maria’s address at that time, their parish was St Boniface.  St. Boniface was a German parish and while Cherubino was Italian he attended this church with his German wife.  The death date is the same and age is very close.  This register would only have been as correct as the information they received from the informant at the time.  The informant may not have even been his wife, since she was 22 years old and 8 months pregnant at the time, someone else may have helped her provide the cemetery with info for his burial.   (And in all of my research I have never come across a “Columbus” Mariotti in San Francisco).

Mount Calvary Cemetery was originally part of Lone Mountain Cemetery (cousins have said this is where they were told he was buried) which was located between Geary Blvd, Turk ST, Joseph's and Masonic Avenues.  His grave was among those removed and reinterred at Holy Cross. There are no individual grave markers, only three crosses standing at the top of the mound.

Inscription on base:
Interred here are the remains of 39,307 Catholics moved from Mt. Calvary Cemetery in 1940 and 1941 by order of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Rest in God's Loving Care.

The Removal Record was also found on this website. Cherubino was reinterred on 24 April 1940.  The family was still living in San Francisco at that time. I wonder if the family could not be found and that’s why he ended up with the other people who had not been claimed instead of in a separate grave with the rest of the family buried at Holy Cross.

It’s possible that his surviving family could not be located.  Even though they still lived in San Francisco, the family changed their name from Mariotti to Morey in 1911…but that’s another story!

Register was found at under Cemeteries.

"San Francisco Colma Cemetery Index," database, SFgenealogy. ( : accessed 29 Jan 2013), entry for Mariotti, “all collections” searched .