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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Digging for Roots Online: R. I. P. Google’s Tilde

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS
Some of you (most of you?) read that title and thought “Tilde?”.

In an earlier blog post in 2012 on the subject of genealogy books online I wrote:
 “Quick Search Tip—On Google the use of the tilde “~” (it’s on the top of the upper left key on my keyboard) means that the search will include synonyms of the word you’re searching for. For instance “~genealogy” will include the words “family history”, “family tree” “vital records” “genealogical” “surname” and probably many more in your search.”

The news that this is now no longer available as a search operator on Google is one of the reasons I read genealogy blogs. I recently read the October 9, 2014 Lisa Louise Cooke’s “Genealogy Gems” blog  that announced that the tilde had gone away.

Apparently this happened, with no notice, sometime before June 15, 2013 so all my searches using the tilde since then have been misleading.  Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Why did Google use the tilde? In math, the “~” symbol means “is similar to.” The tilde told Google to search for pages that are synonyms or similar to the term that follows. But I digress.

Now we will have to go back to using (genealogy OR geneology OR “family history” OR genealogical) ad infinitum.

There is a list of Google’s current Search Operators at Search Operators  and 

I missed the “+” sign when Google “deprecated” it (the term they use) and now this. Oh well, life goes on.


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

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Monday, September 1, 2014

First Families - Morris

Welcome SMCGS' newest Founding Family, that of Reuben Morris (1833 IN - aft 1866 UNK) and Margaret Lynch (1828 IRE -1901 CA).

Julie Mooney's account of her great-grandfather states: "Reuben Eldon Morris was one of the transportation pioneers in the Bay Area.  He was the owner of the largest stage line leading from San Francisco to the interior towns, according to the obituary of his widow, Margaret Lynch Morris.

"His ‘outerlands ‘routes would have included one to the western portions of San Francisco which were sparsely populated at the time, and to the south to Brisbane and likely South San Francisco. 

"Later he expanded to the ‘Mile House” routes which would have proceeded from San Francisco via what is now San Bruno Avenue around the east side of San Bruno Mountain to Brisbane and then via what is now Hillside Road in So. San Francisco to Mission Street.  The road then connected with El Camino Real.  His routes would likely stop at Castor’s Store in Belmont and end in San Mateo at 2nd Avenue and El Camino or Old County Road. .

"Reuben had a livery adjacent to the original blacksmith’s shop owned by Michael and Dennis Brown on 3rd and what is now Railroad Ave in San Mateo.  His daughter Rachel married Dennis Brown and had two sons.  Their respective homes remain side by side on the west side of No. Delaware Street numbers # 2 and #5 and have been beautifully maintained and restored. (1)

"The family moved to San Mateo County in the late 1850’s as he initiated the first stage line from Belmont Township to Spanishtown ( now known as Half Moon Bay), Purissima and Pescadero.

"In August 1859  the road from Condon’s to Belmont was declared a public highway.  And in October “Stage line and express from Belmont to Spanishtown and Half Moon Bay: Leaves Belmont ( Castor’s Store) at 1 pm every Monday, Wed and Friday…Leaves Spanishtown every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 o’clock , arriving at Belmont at 12 Noon.  R.E. Morris, propr. (2)

Mud wagon"Per the Wells Fargo Archivist, these were not stage coaches as we know them but, mud wagons – similar to the one on display at the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City.

"When the Freeman express contract was bought/absorbed by Wells Fargo Stage Lines, it is likely that Reuben Eldon Morris sold his livery company and routes in the county within a few short years. (3) 

Reuben, the grandson of a wealthy Henry County, IN farmer, most likely arrived in San Francisco in the early 1850s.  According to family tradition he married Margaret about 1855 in the city, but no record has been found to date.  Reuben seems to have drifted between San Francisco and San Mateo counties in the 1850s and 1860s.  He is listed in the San Francisco directories in 1861-63 and again in 1866.

Reuben Morris is last found in records in San Francisco or San Mateo County (or elsewhere) in 1880 when the family is found living in Township 4.

  Margaret Lynch purchased a plot (or perhaps it was a gift from her friend Mrs. Parrott) in St. John's Cemetery in San Mateo in 1887. Although no burial has been found,  it seems likely it was for Reuben. Margaret was living with her son-in-law, Dennis Brown in 1900 and was in the house of her daughter in Livermore in 1901 when she died.

James Crowe Mortuary brought her back to San Mateo and she is buried in the Morris plot in St. John's Cemetery along with her son George. (4)

You will find more information on Reuben, Margaret and their descendants in the San Mateo County Genealogical Society Library's First Family Collection.  Read about other early San Mateo County families on the SMCGS First Families Blog.

(1)  Daily Journal article 10/10/2000 by Paul Buchanan.

(2) R.E Schellens Notes:  ‘in having a roadway or public highway established out of Belmont.  The Board of Supervisors agreed to have such a public highway built out of a meandering farm road leading to Lower Lake sometime in august 1859.  This was followed by the inauguration of a regular stage line and express from Belmont to Spanishtown on Monday October 17, 1859.  R.E. Morris, proprietor.  The express part was taken care of by Freeman & Co. Express, with A.T. Castor of Belmont acting as their agent.  RNT 8/1974

(3) Local Historian John Edmonds in the Journal of Local History  Vol 5. No 2 Addition To San Mateo Stagecoaches: Morris should rightly be credited with developing the original stage line from San Mateo to Half Moon Bay and Pescadero.

(4) SMCGS - San Mateo County Death Records - Pam Reynolds
MORRISMargaret73Ireland10/25/1901Livermore, Cal.MarriedFWhiteHeart DiseaseDr. J. K. WarnerSt. John's, San Mateo11-2-1901Fiedler & Graham

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 HistoryResearchWiki. 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 this article 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 “Cemetery Photos-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 “Bring Out 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. 

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