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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Church of England Parish Records – More than Baptisms, Marriages and Burials

Wednesday, June 20th at 7.30 pm Grace Lutheran Church,

2825 Alameda de las Pulgus, Sam Mateo

Many of us have English (or Welsh) roots, and, if ancestors lived in the home country after 1840, the research is relatively easy.  Every-name censuses are available from 1841 and every 10 years thereafter and a national index of civil registration began in 1837.  However, researching prior to 1837 is much more challenging.  Few of our ancestors owned land, most did not write wills and the primary record group to research are church records. 

Not everyone, even in a country with an “established church” belonged to it. Not everyone was baptized or buried in the Church of England (although most marriages between 1754 and 1837

are to be found in Church of England records.)  But all inhabitants of a parish may be found in the large group of civil records associated with the parish.  Prior to 1834 the Parish had a civil as well as an ecclesiastical function.

What type of records might these be?  Well one large set pertains to paupers – the widows, orphans, elderly, disabled  and unemployed who resided there – and we all have ancestors who were down on their luck at one time or another!  Wealthier parishioners of course had to pay rates or taxes to support these people, pay for road or highway maintenance and taxes on the land they occupied (even though they didn’t own it.) Just like us – they sometimes complained or even tried to dodge the taxes!  Every parish had vestry members and officers such as Constable or Overseer of the Poor.  Your upstanding ancestor could be a vestry member or parish officer.  Your family could be named in a settlement certificate or your ancestor in apprenticeship papers.

There are a wide variety of records available – but of course not everything is available in every parish.  But where these civil records (sometimes called Parish Chest Records) are extant a wealth of information can be found for your ancestors and your family.  Come and learn what’s available in these records.
Christine Green

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tom Lantos Research Center and Release of the A-Files

Keaton Swett
Grandson of
US Representative Tom Lantos
Marcy Goldstein
Director of Archival Operations
In a very moving ceremony the National Archives at San Francisco (San Bruno) released the A-Files and dedicated the Tom Lantos Research Center this morning.  Keaton Sweet, attending with his sister Chanteclaire, told of the love of his grandfather for his adopted country and his dedication to the preserving the history of her immigrants.  A survivor of the Holocaust, Lantos was determined that such horrors would never be repeated. A paper sculpture by Linda Tomoko Mihara will be installed in the room in his honor.
Tom Mills
Chief Operating Officer
Among the attendees at the ceremony were many members of SONA (Save our National Archives).  This group worked for over 14 years with Rep. Lantos and later with Rep. Jackie Speier to bring those files of West Coast immigrants to the San Bruno facility.  See note below on USCIS and their role in preserving the files which originally had a 75 year shelf life.

Today those years of dedication to the cause were rewarded as the celebration included the release of files from the INS district offices in San Francisco, Honolulu, Reno and Guam.  In all over 40,000 case files have been transferred to the San Bruno Facility.

Dominick Gentile
Chief of Records Divisioin
The Honorable Jackie Speier
US Congress CA 12th District
Tom Mills, COO of NARA, and Dominick Gentile, Chief of the Records Division for United State Citizenship and Immigration Services told of the path to their release.  The Honorable Jackie Speier, the granddaughter of  Armenian and Jewish immigrants, noted that many of us were lucky enough to be born as US Citizens.  These important files tell the tale of those who were not.

Jennie Lew
Communications Co-Chair
After the ceremony, attendees were invited to the conference room where a handful of researcher were viewing their ancestors A-Files for the first time.

Visit the NARA website to learn more about the A-Files, which files have been released to date, and how to gain access

Alien Files ("A-Files") at the National Archives at San Francisco

Rosalyn Tonai
Executive Director
Nation Japanese American
Historical Society
Jeanie Low
Communications Co-Chair
Visit the CSGA Blog to read more about the records themselves.

Jeremy Frankel

Note: Realizing the importance of the A-files, "USCIS moved to make these files permanent in the ‘90s. Local advocates requested that we not include them in the files that were centralized in a facility near Kansas City, MO. Instead, we agreed to archive them in San Bruno, where people in the Bay Area could access them, rather than view them over the Internet."   Sharon Rummery, USCIS  
In fact, many employees from both USCIS and NARA have worked many hours to ready these records and provide an index for Bay Area researchers.  They all deserve a hearty thanks.  

Cath Trindle, SMCGS Publications Chair & CSGA Projects Chair

Monday, May 14, 2012

Digging for Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

This is the third installment of resources found on Now we come to what I’ve used most and found the most helpful—the Research Wiki (called elsewhere the FamilySearch Wiki).

As with the other two places, Discussion Forums and Research Courses, you get to them by clicking on the “Learn” link at the top of the page which takes you to the “Getting Started” page. The Research Wiki is the first link on the left below “What’s in Learning Resources?”

FamilySearch describes the Wiki this way: The Research Wiki is a free collection of family history articles provided by family history enthusiasts from around the world. The wiki makes it easy for people to share research information and useful tips. Research Wiki articles are valuable resources for anyone who wants to learn more about their family history.”

The opening page contains many links and helps that you should explore thoroughly so you can get the most out of this outstanding research tool. As I write this there are 67,060 articles listed. (Clicking on the small thumbnails in this article will bring up larger and more readable versions.)

The first thing to do is to click on the “Tour” link. The links on that page include three sections: “Research Your Family History”, “Contribute Your Knowledge to the Wiki”, and, “Collaborate with Others”. These contain essays and videos that will guide you in your use of the Wiki.

Let’s see what you get when you perform a search; we’ll use two examples, a place search and a topic search.

On the recent poll on our Blog the greatest number of you selected “Midwest” as the area of the U.S. in which you were doing the most genealogical research so let’s do a wiki search for “Ohio”. You can perform a search on the opening page or by using the search form in the upper right of any page.

On the search results page we get 1,696 hits for the word “ohio”. Fortunately the first entry is usually the best result and in this case that is the entry for the “Ohio” page. The first thing we see is usually something that the writers and editors (that’s all of us folks!) feel will pique our interest and give us a taste of what the page offers.

In this case there is a list of “unique genealogical features” such as a guide to birth, marriage, and death (BMD) records in the state, a teaser about how early Ohioans got their land, and a link to a description of county resources, a document that “…lists Ohio genealogical materials available at the State Library of Ohio for each county in the state. It serves as a guide to Ohio genealogical resources, including 14,000 volumes and 15,000 microforms in the non-circulating genealogy collection.” It looks like anyone serious about Ohio research will want to make a road trip to the Ohio state library!

Below that is a clickable list of counties including a very important list of “extinct jurisdictions” such as Connecticut Western Reserve, which newcomers to Ohio research just might not know about and would lead to other resources.

 And for the visually-oriented (and I’m one of them) there is a clickable map of the counties.

Each of the links will take you to that county’s specific page with much more information on genealogical resources.

Below the map are sections on “Major Repositories” and “Migration Routes”.

Below that (the information just keeps on coming!) is a list of important “Research Tools”.

The “Did you know?” section below that has interesting facts about the state that you might not realize but will give you insight into your ancestors lives. For instance did you know that “Ohio has one of the highest concentrations of people with Welsh ancestry?

At the bottom is the ever important “Sources” list which will identify just how authoritative the page is and may lead you to other sources you never realized existed.

Back up at the top on the left side is the section that I use most in my research, the “Ohio Topics” which include links to articles in the Wiki on such things as American Indians, Census records, Gazetteers, Naturalization and Citizenship, and perhaps most importantly, Vital records.

For our second search let’s look at an area that has gained more attention in the past year or two—Newspapers.

Our search for “Newspapers” leads us to a list of 6,367 articles. As with our other search the first link, “United States Newspapers” is probably the best one to start with.

Right at the top of the page is my most used area, the Table of Contents.

Below that are three informational paragraphs on the publishing history and coverage of most newspapers.

In place of a map there is a graph with links to lists of State and Territory specific newspapers.

After this there are sections on “Why use newspapers?”, “Before searching newspapers, know this”, “Where to get United States newspapers”, “Your local library and interlibrary loan”, and, “Web sites”.

Then, what I feel is the most important section for me at least, are links to “Historical newspapers online” and “Current newspapers online”.

Followed by “Current newspapers online”

Next is “Identifying and finding newspapers in an area” with links to both online links and print resources.

Lastly there are “Tips” about newspaper publishing, ethnic newspapers, and links to “Web Sites” including a link to the “Wikipedia's List of Online Newspapers” (not to be confused with the FamilySearch wiki) which has been described by genealogy speakers as the best and most complete list of online newspaper archives.

And finally there is the usual list of sources (here called “References”) used in writing this wiki entry.

I believe the FamilySearch Wiki is one of the most important research tools we can use in our search for our family histories. I’ve just started digging deeper into it and I hope you too will enjoy and learn from it as much as I have.


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

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Monday, May 7, 2012

Poll Results

Our First Poll has closed.  Twenty Seven people voted on the question In what area of the U.S. are you interested in doing [most of your] genealogical research? with the following results.

13  Northeast       48%
4    MidAtlantic       14%
5    South            18%
15  Midwest          55%
8    West             28%
4   Pacific States   14% 

We will be breaking those results down into specific states in future polls. But this month we are interested in learning what Non US regions your research focuses on.  

Vote today.  
Community input is encouraged.
Help direct the library and program committees as the strive to meet the needs of members and others in the community.