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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Digging For Roots Onlne

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

Today we’re going to talk about PODCASTS.

The article on podcasts in  Wikipedia  states, “A podcast is a type of digital media consisting of an episodic series of audio, video, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. The word is a neologism derived from "broadcast" and "pod" from the success of the iPod, as podcasts are often listened to on portable media players.”

In short, it’s a free (my mantra in this blog series) file that can be downloaded and listened to on your computer or mobile device (I use my smart phone) or burned to a CD. In our case the file will be about genealogy. While the term may be new to some of you, podcasts have been around for a while now. In fact as I was writing this my wife reminded me that before she retired as a Teacher’s Aide for Special Education 4 years ago she had a class that was assigned to make a podcast for the school. Of course since the students were deaf they made a video version not an audio file like we’re discussing today. But I digress.
NPR, the BBC, various newsmagazines, sports organizations, and news commentators and others have podcasts available.

A good introduction to the podcast world is a talk that Lisa Louise Cooke gave at the RootsTech 2012 (you know, the genealogy conference that had more than 4000 people attending!). It is archived at . Note, you’ll have to pause the first video that starts and go down the page until you see Lisa and the “Genealogy Podcasts and Blogs 101” thumbnail.

Some of the most popular genealogy podcasts are put out by

Thomas MacEntee on Geneabloggers Radio , which has more than 70 shows archived;

The " Genealogy Guys " (George Morgan and Drew Smith) who just put up their 242nd (!) podcast;

Even the Federation of Genealogical Societies(FGS) has a podcast for members of  genealogical societies (that’s us folks!);

Probably the most popular (I’m just guessing here) is the Genealogy Gems podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke which started about 2007. She just uploaded Episode 143. Although there is a “Premium Version” that you can pay for, the basic podcasts are free;

FamilyTree Magazine (not associated with Family Tree software) has been putting out podcasts since 2008;

Personal Life Media hosts a Family History podcast that is also hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke. They’ve just posted their 46th episode.


You can listen live by going to a genealogy website, or download the podcast for later listening. I’ve found that the most efficient way to get downloads is to go to iTunes , search for “genealogy podcast” and an enormous list of podcasts will appear including more than I’ve listed here. And again, they are all free!

So the next time you’re doing chores around the house, driving in your car, or using your treadmill you can multitask by learning more about our favorite subject, genealogy.

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

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

San Mateo County Places

(c) Wikipedia
                              City of Souls                              
Cath Madden Trindle

The Town of Colma is the smallest city in San Mateo County.  Known worldwide as the "City Of Souls,"  it is just over 2 sq. mi in size, has just over 1,600 residents and houses more than 1.5 million souls residing in sixteen cemeteries. That's nearly 1000 bodies for every live person!

The community of Colma started as a cluster of businesses and homes along the railroad tracks and the El Camino.  In the late 1880s, with their San Francisco cemeteries reaching capacity, the Catholic and Jewish communities established cemeteries in the area.  When San Francisco banned all new cemeteries within their borders in 1900 and then demanded the removal of all burials in 1912 Colma became home for all San Francisco burials.  The number of cemeteries grew from the original three to a collection of sixteen today.

Although called Colma in early years, the Town incorporated as Lawndale in 1924. The residential and business area immediately to the north continued to be known as Colma. Because another city in Los Angeles County had the name Lawndale the post office retained the Colma designation, and the town changed its name to Colma in 1941.

Visit the Museum of the Colma Historical Association for a mini history of the town and it's living and dead residents.  Even better, plan ahead and book a tour that includes some great stories along with a visit to some of the cemeteries.  When the tour is over, stay awhile and browse through the great library collection.

It may be a small town, but Colma has it's own musical.  Colma - The Musical was nominated for a variety of awards when it came out in 2006, including the Gotham award for Best Film not in Theaters.  It won a few.  If you missed it, you can rent it from netflix or find used copies of this story of  growing up in the City of the Dead on Amazon for under $5 including shipping.


                                         History and Genealogy                              

                                         Town Information                                      

                                        Further Research                                       

Colma - A Worldcat Bookshelf
Online Archive of California - Colma
Colma - Arcadia Books
Epodunk - Colma
California Genealogy - Colma
Squiddo - Colma

Thursday, October 25, 2012

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Union Cemetery

California State Landmark #816 - Status granted March 26, 1963 

Cath Madden Trindle

Just down the street from my home in Redwood City lies one of the oldest cemeteries in San Mateo County.  Union Cemetery, located on Highway 84 (Woodside Road) has a unique history in that it is that the Union Cemetery Association which was formed in 1859 passed ownership of the cemetery to the State of California.  You can read more about the history of the cemetery on the Historic Union Cemetery website which is linked below.

I've been exploring the cemetery for years, bringing along an entourage at times.  My granddaughter Madi(son) spent many a day there helping take pictures and learning her letters.  Over the years Caroline Ybarra helped me catalog and photograph many of the tombstones in the cemetery.  Those pictures and a database of over 2200 burials have been available on California Genealogy and History Archives for the last two years.  This database includes information from a variety of sources that might not be duplicated in the links below, so once you've used the other resources check back here for possible links CA death records, newspaper articles, etc.

Find a Grave lists 995 burials with a few photographs, worth checking as you might find family connections that are not available elsewhere.

During the 1970s many stones were destroyed by vandals.  And by the 1990s the cemetery was in dire need of care.

In 1992 the Historic Union Cemetery Association was formed and many of the ruined stones were repaired.  President John Edmonds, with the help of a very able webmaster, has created a cemetery guide that includes not only a burial list, but also a marker list, photographs of existing tombstones and stories of the cemetery residents including pictures in some cases.  Play with the lists, it is possible to sort them on any column just by clicking on the title. The website is a wonderful resource for early families in San Mateo County.  Digital copies of the Union Cemetery Burial Register 1854-1917 and the 1937 DAR Tombstone Reading project are available for perusal or download.

For those that prefer paper to Internet, a book by John Edmond'a can be ordered from Amazon
After a lull of many years, vandals again smashed three stones in 2010.   One hopes that the vandals are suitable haunted by the occupants.

If you're ancestors are buried in Union Cemetery and you have a picture of a stone that no longer stands, send it to the HUCA for inclusion on the website.  You might also consider including a story about the person interred and/or a photograph.  If you have a complete family history you'd like to share, consider including it in the SMCGS First Families project, or at least submitting it for the "Other Families" section of our website.

Check out pictures from SMCGS' field trip to Union Cemetery on Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

San Mateo County Cemeteries

Jean Bartlett will sign copies of her book, 125 Years of History, Ministry & Service, which tells stories of inhabitants of 

Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery

 at the cemetery in Colma on Wednesday, Oct 24.  For more see....

Pacifica Tribune writer pens local cemetery history book

You can buy copies of the book at the cemetery or by mail.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

San Mateo County History Highlights

San Mateo County History MuseumThe Journal of the San Mateo County Historical Association (v.xli n.1/Summer 2012) which is just out tells the story of the Nike missile areas at Milagra and Sweeney Ridges.  If you want to read up on this piece of the county's history, you'll find a copy in the SMCGS Library at Canada College. 

Check out past issues while you are there each issue explores one historical topic in depth.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

San Mateo County Places

Cath Madden Trindle

Pescadero is located on the Rancho Pescadero, a Mexican land grant given to Juan José Gonzalez in 1833. Among the early American settlers in the valley were Alexander Moore and Bartlett, Braddock and Robinson Weeks.  Moore built the first frame home in the area in the early 1850s. 
Another early family was the Steeles. They established a dairy farm in the Cloverdale Valley near Pescadero. The rich, fertile soil of the valley attracted other settlers, and by the 1860s Pescadero was a prosperous town surrounded by farms and lumber mills. 

Trout fishing and Pebble Beach drew visitors and by the 1890s Pescadero was a thriving seaside resort. Visitors could take the train to Redwood City or San Mateo and then then travel by mountain stage to Pescadero.  There they found Sarah Swanton's hotel

Another well known establishment is Duarte's Tavern first established in 1894 by Frank Duarte. The original building, along with the Swanton House was destroyed by fire in the 1920s, although the original bar remains.You can read the history of the tavern on their own website, or better yet visit for a cup of artichoke or green chile soup and a slice of pie and see the history on the walls. 

The demise of the Ocean Shore Railway and the fact that Highway 1 bypassed Pescadero eventually meant a shrinking population.  Today  Pescadero is smaller than it was.  It is a quaint little town with some cute little art shops that you should visit on your trip to Duartes and the nearby beaches.

Among the landmarks still standing are St. Anthony's Catholic Church  and the Pescadero Community Church  both were completed in 1867.  The community church with its classical revival style beat out the catholic church and today is the oldest surviving Protestant church on the Peninsula.  It was declared a state historical landmark in 1984.

For much more on the history of Pescadero read though  Pescadero Memories  by June Morrell.  She brings the days of old alive.

Check the Online Archive of California - Pescadero for records, maps and pictures of Pescadero that are sitting in repositories in California including the Steele Ranch Records.  The Library of Congress has some records for the area including LOC-Built in America - Steele Bros. Dairies  and LOC-Built in America - San Gregorio Street in Pescadero.  

Other helpful links include
Wikipedia-Rancho Pescadero
Wikipedia - Pescadero
Pescadero, California 
Coastside History
Pescadero State Beach 
Pescadero Creek Park

Watch for further information on Mt. Hope and St. Anthony's Cemetery, Pillar Point Lighthouse and on specific families that might be posted to the SMCGS First Families Blog.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

First Families

Have you checked out the SMCGS First Families, Cemeteries and Places Blog.  There is a link on the right or click here.  First Families.  Contributions to both blogs are welcome and we encourage submissions of your First Family ancestors.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Time to Celebrate!!!!!

The SMCGS Marriage Index is Complete!!

This index to San Mateo County Marriage records spans 92 years, 1856 to 1948.  The index stops with 31 Dec 1948 because the stateof California began collecting marriages from counties in 1949 and a statewide index is available starting with that year.  You can find it on microfilm in some libraries and it is available on

The SMCGS Marriage Index includes the name of the bride and groom, their age and their normal residence as well as the date and place of marriage.  I have been surprised at the number of people who were married in the county that did not live in the county. Additionally when the law changed and you could get a license in any county of California and get married in another county you will find residents of other counties taking out their licenses in San Mateo County and then getting married in their home counties.  I've always wondered whether it was just a little easier here.

This has been a long term project which built on an earlier project to index the marriages through 1899.  That Index did not include all the information that was included in this newer index, however, so even those records were reconsulted.

Week after week a team that over the years has included Russ Brabac, Barry Goyette, Walter Castor, George Zinckgraf and Norma Sheen has met at the Country Record repository on Tower Road.  They indexed marriages from books 1 through 68.  Jo Rebuck, needing to work from home, spent years transcribing hand written indexes to computer files.  It is the most dedicated group of people I've ever worked with.

Not only have they finished this index but they are already taking on new projects.  SMCGS owes each and everyone a huge THANK YOU.

Besides Russ's ongoing project to index the Coroner's records we have a few projects underway that deal with obituaries.  We are looking for members who are willing to scan obituraries as well as those that are willing to index obituaries that are available online.  Both can be done from home or from our library computer.  Contact if you have a little bit of time to help.

Monday, September 10, 2012

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Purissima

Cath Madden Trindle

For years I've been intrigued with the thought of finding Purissima Cemetery, but never quite found myself nearby with enough time to explore.  This weekend after a wonderful town tour of Pescadero (more on that another day) we decided to take the plunge.  We knew that the overgrown cemetery was just off Verde Road near Half Moon Bay, just a little off the beaten path as we headed towards home.

We stopped along the side of the road in the only convenient place to leave a car and wandered looking for any kind of a path through the brush and berries.  Starting up the hill we soon encountered the poison oak that covers the area.  Being more than a little allergic, from that point on each step was gingerly taken.  We did find half the cemetery before deciding we better turn back.  

We weren't the first to explore, and we won't be the last.  Photographers, historians, writers, cemetery buffs, ghost-hunters, adventurers and the merely curious all are drawn to this abandoned cemetery.  Many wonder that no one has stepped up to preserve it.  Others state that it is left alone so that vandals won't do any more damage.

For those of you who don't want to venture through berry bushes, poison oaks and possible snakes, or those who would like to see where you are going before you begin to explore the many webpages and blogs devoted to the cemetery offer a virtual tour.
Start with a good understanding of where you are. GoogleMaps provides a great aerial view.  I wish I'd done this before I'd gone, the part of the cemetery you see here is the part we didn't find.  For those of you who prefer to find it using a GPS the coordinates are   To locate it on a topographical map it is section 21 Miramontes Twp. (Lat: 37° 24' 14"N, Lon: 122° 24' 54"W).  If you'd like to do a little geo-caching while you are there look for The Lost Village of Purissima.

For a little insight on the history of Purissima start with Wikipedia. Here you will find a little bit of history and links to a whole lot more.  The area was part of Rancho Cañada de Verde y Arroyo de la Purisima.  I won't tell you the tales though, other's have done it already and probably much better. 

June Morrell in here 2008 blog .... Purissima Cemetery... John Purcell's Gift, relates some of the history of the cemetery.  She also mentions a few names that are not on any of the lists found below.  These names came from information provided by Dutra mortuary of Half Moon Bay.  I wonder if they might provide information on other burials as well?

In 2007 Joseph Smydra discovered the cemetery and blogged about it in The Half Moon Bay Review - The Forgotten Town of Purissima.  Joseph got into the spirit of cemetery. The post is worth a visit.

Dead Cemeteries - Purissima includes a video of history buff John Edmonds discussing the demise of Purissima. 

The Wandering Graveyard Rabbit has visited and includes some of the historical background on their website.

Find A Grave and both list most the stones that were read by Mrs. James A. Ramsey in 1935 for the Los Gatos Chapter of DAR.  There are also a smattering of burials that occurred after that date.  On Find A Grave you will also find photographs of some of those buried here.  John Pitcher who died in 1924 joined many other family members in the Pitcher plot.   Emma L Hoopes Martin died in 1881.  Her husband Nicholas and their two sons are buried in Union Cemetery in Redwood City.  There is quite a bit of information on her family.

Also pictured are Henry Dobbel, his wife Margaretha and son August.  Other family members are buried nearby.  The last burial in Purissima was Elizabeth Margaret Young Bower who died in 2001 some seventy years after the cemetery was abandoned.  

Some great photographers have been at work in the cemetery.  You'll find pictures of tombstones and some great scenery.  Much better than those my phone allowed. All of these are posted on Flickr.

End your tour with a few words from those buried here.  GhostGirls have posted a video on YouTube and some audio files on their own page.   Happy hunting!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Digging for Roots Online

 By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

I love genealogy conferences. But they have two drawbacks: they cost a lot, especially when you add in travel, food, and hotel expenses and secondly they cram so much into a few days that you can get overwhelmed and probably forget some (much?) of what you learn. But I’ve discovered a supplement and sometimes a substitute—the genealogy webinar. defines a webinar this way:
“…a seminar or other presentation that takes place on the Internet, allowing participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter, ask questions, and sometimes answer polls.

The best place to start is to check out the listings on GeneaWebinars, which describes itself as “a calendar and blog devoted exclusively to coordinating online genealogy seminars.”

Here you’ll find a calendar of upcoming webinars;


and a “How It Works” essay.

In this post I’ll talk about some webinars I’ve attended and some that I’ve heard good things about.

The first is my personal favorite, Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Most of the webinars are at 11 AM on Wednesdays but if you can’t watch them then they are held for free viewing for about 10 days on the Legacy Family Tree Website. After that you can purchase them on CD.

This is a sample of what topics have been covered just this year:

“The 5 C's for Success in Genealogy Today” by Barbara Renick

“Neglected History” by Megan Smolenyak2 (and may I say I paid big bucks to hear this same talk at SCGS Jamboree this year; you could have seen and heard it here for free!)

“The Genealogy Cloud: Which Online Storage Program Is Right For You?” by Thomas MacEntee

“Digital Images for Genealogists and Technologists: scanning, digitizing, editing, and preserving your photos” by Geoff Rasmussen

“Researching Your German Ancestors” by Kory Meyerink

“Obituaries: Clues to Look For. Tips for making sure you get the full benefit from an obituary notice” by Thomas Jay Kemp

“Ten Brick Wall Tips for Beginners” by Marian Pierre-Louis

“Tracing Immigrant Ancestors” by Lisa Alzo.

This is just a small sample of the topics covered. And did you notice the presenters? They are top-of-the-line and nationally known genealogists.

Next are the webinars put on by the Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS).

As they say on their site: “Jamboree Extension Series presentations will be scheduled on the first Saturday and third Wednesday of each month. Saturday sessions will be held at 10am Pacific time / 1pm Eastern time; Wednesday sessions will be scheduled at 6pm Pacific time / 9pm Eastern time…. The live broadcast of each session is open to the public and FREE to all everyone (space is limited to 1000 attendees). Webinars are recorded, archived, and available for the next twelve months day or night, in the members-only section of the SCGS website.”

Here’s a sample of their past webinars:

“Me and My Laptop: Getting the Most out of your Laptop while Researching Onsite” by Linda Woodward Geiger

“Seeing the Patterns: Organizing Your Information” by Michael John Neill

“Grandma’s Flak Jacket: Why Your Children Need You To Do Family History” by Janet Hovorka

“Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker. Researching Your Ancestors’ Occupations” by Denise Spurlock

“The Genealogist as CSI” by George G. Morgan

Family Tree University sponsored by Family Tree Magazine.

These are for-pay webinars and a little too pricey for my poor budget but I’ve heard good things about them.

Here is a list of future webinars:

This site has free webinars on such subjects as:

Instagram for Genealogists featuring Carrie Keele

FAMILY TREE MAKER WEBINARS feature one-on-one training provided by Russ Worthington

Ancestry Trees can Jumpstart Your Genealogy Research

Michael John Neill has a reasonably priced for-pay site

Topics include:

Sections, Townships, Base Lines, etc--Land Descriptions in Federal Land States.

Did Your Ancestor Get a Civil War Pension?

Charts, Charts and More Charts.

The Genealogical Proof Standard for the Non-Professional.

Creating Families from Pre-1850 Census Records

There are still other webinar sites you might enjoy (check out the Geneawebinars site listed above.)

Genealogy webinars started becoming common and popular around 2010 and continue to grow in both number and quality. Try some out today.

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

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

San Mateo County Genealogical Society’s
September 2012 Workshops at
Cañada College Library
Workshops are $5 for SMCGS Members - $10 for Non-Members
Workshops are FREE to Cañada College Faculty, Staff & Students
September 4, 2012 – 2:30-4pm
SCOTTISH ROOTS ONLINE – With Cath Trindle, Professional Genealogist
A hands-on opportunity for those with Scottish research to explore some of the great websites devoted to Scottish genealogy. This workshop will highlight government sites, pay for view and subscription sites as well as some of the many free sites that help us further our Scottish research. No Scottish in your family? Come anyway. Other attendees may appreciate an extra pair of computer savvy hands.
September 6 and 13, 2012 – 4:30-6pm
BEGINNING GENEALOGY – With Chris Green and Diane Smelker
Learn how to get started with researching your genealogy. Session One will cover “Looking at Home and Talking to Family” and “Census Basics 1900-1940”. Session Two will cover “Major On-line Resources”, “Vital Records Overview” and “Bay Area Libraries With Genealogy Resources”. Additional classes on request.
Tuesdays September 11, October 9, November 12 and December 11
Drop In Workshops
Lucy will help anyone with Spanish records in the New World: Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America. We will search for records, translate those we find, and add information to the person's family tree. Receive one-on-one assistance with your Mexican and Hispanic research.
Planning to attend? - Email

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Digging for Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS
Call me old-fashioned but I love books! But I also love computers and what they can do, especially on the Internet. And, as I’m sure all of you do, I love genealogy. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could combine all three of these loves? Well, that’s what this post is about—genealogy books on the Internet!

There are books all over the Internet (a Google search for “~genealogy books online” gave me 3,800,000 results!) but for our purposes we’ll discuss the Big Three--Google Books, FamilySearch, and The Internet Archive.

Google Books
Go to  click on “More” and then click on “Books”.

There is a YouTube video (of course!) on what Google Books is and a bit on how to use it at

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.

But I digress:
What kind of genealogical books can you find on Google Search?

There are vital records--

and individual genealogies,

family genealogies--

classic genealogical studies--

county histories--

historical works that may give you more insight into your ancestor’s lives—


And even genealogy themed novels!


FamilySearch Books

The last time I was at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City I went to look for a family history book on one of my family lines. When I got to the place where it should have been I found rows and rows of shelves that were empty! When I asked the staff what was going on they said that the books had been taken to be digitized, so that is why this site is so important for online users. I may be wrong but I think they said that the books would not be coming back for public display but would be kept in some underground or offsite storage.

Here’s how to read them: 
Go to click on “Books” (near the top), then click on the “Family History Books” link.

Below the search form there is a good description of this site:

Family History Books is a collection of more than 40,000 digitized genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. The collection includes family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees. The valuable resources included in Family History Books come from the following partner institutions:
§ Allen County Public Library
§  Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library 
§  Brigham Young University Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library
§  Church History Library 
§  Family History Library  
§  Houston Public Library - Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research
§  Mid-Continent Public Library - Midwest Genealogy Center 

There’s not much more that needs to be said about this wonderful jewel of genealogy knowledge. There is, however, one warning you need to know—when you do a search for a title or subject the site will download the entire book as a PDF file before you can begin to read it. This is sometimes a lengthy process with large books. But worth it.


The Internet Archive

Go to, and click on the word “Texts” at the top.

You can search for pretty much the same kinds of books as I listed in the Google Books description.
In addition they have the [non-indexed] entire run of the U. S. Census. But again a warning—the interface is really ugly and often confusing but worth it when you find something that isn’t anywhere else on the Internet.


There are many other sites that offer books. You might consider using Heritage Quest and at your local library if you don’t have a subscription.

Sidenote: Here are two descriptions of the difference between the home subscription of and the Library Edition:

Check out Cyndi’s list at

Dick Eastman discusses an interesting new web site called “Genealogy Book Links” in his July 12, 1012 blog post at

And finally there is a useful web site called “Your Personal Genealogy Library: Family History Books Online” at

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

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”