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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays

Here are a few links to Library of Congress blogs and materials to get you in the holiday mood.

Songs of the Winter Season Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell  Collected by the California Works Progress Administration 1938-1939.  Here you'll find some wonderful ethnic and folk songs for the holidays.

Topics in Chronicling America: "Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?"  "In 1897, Virginia O'Hanlon writes to the New-York Sun with a simple question and the response goes on to become the most famous newspaper editorial ever published....This topic page provides useful information for searching about the famous "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" editorial in Chronicling America's historic newspapers, including significant dates, associated search terms, as well as sample article links... Read more about it!"  Click on the links to the articles on the bottom to put yourself in a holiday mood.

After checking out these holiday links take a side trip to the LOC Blog Page and sign up for those that interest you.

Monday, December 16, 2013

San Mateo County First Families Blog

Russ Brabec actively researches Daly City and Colma Pioneers.  He's compiled family histories using records in the San Mateo County Record Depository, newspapers and other resources. Check out his list of available families the San Mateo County First Families blog.  While you are there check the other pages where you will find links to cemeteries, place histories and more.  This is a slowly growing collection of San Mateo County materials.  Do you have information you'd like to share?  Are you looking for information on early San Mateo County residents.  Contact to contribute to the blog.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Sunset View

San Francisco’s Cemetery for the Paupers and the Indigent

By Russ Brabec

The San Francisco City Cemetery [also known as the Golden Gate Cemetery] at the site of the present day Palace of Legion of Honor was ordered closed in 1898, to the pleasure of the Outer Richmond District residents of San Francisco.  No burials were to be made after March 1898.  With nowhere to bury these souls, undertakers searched for land that would be approved as a new paupers cemetery.  A. Verkonteren in 1899 saw the benefit of burying paupers on property that he thought he owned in northern San Mateo County.  His widow, Olive Verkonteren, quickly sold the land in 1899, and the cemetery operated by the Hagen brothers, James, Joseph, and William, grew to encompass a full square block of the Abbey Homestead Association subdivision east side of Hillside Boulevard. The ledger books containing the burials, which for a long time were thought to be lost, were given in 2013 to the Colma Historical Association by Olivet Memorial Park. The books cover the years 1901-1904, 1907-1919 and 1922-1948.  The book for the period 1905 and 1906 may have been lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire, and burials because of that event may have overwhelmed the record keeping. The cemetery is not maintained and the gravestones were removed many years ago. "The land is currently owned by the privately held Cypress Abbey Corporation." 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Skylawn Memorial Park

Located at the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains at the junction of Skyline and Highway 92, Skylawn Memorial Park is just a little different from the normal cemetery,  in that it now has a mortuary on the grounds as well.  The goal is to make things as simple as possible for the family.

Cemetery Website  Map of grounds  Resources

Find A Grave has less than 2500 burials listed, with about 37% of those having photographs. I would guess there are thousands more that are not listed.  Contact the cemetery to have them check their listings.

The staff seemed very helpful.  They gave us an escort to the grave site we were looking for, something we really appreciated.  Even with a map, the memorial park is huge and it would be easy to get lost.  One of the unique features was the scattering garden. Overlooking the mountains and our favorite Christmas tree farm, it is legal to scatter ashes from this point.  The area where the ashes fall is inaccessible to the public.  Those whose remains have been scattered are memorialized on tiles throughout the area.

Besides the Scattering gardern there are a number of columbariums, many unique in design.  There are also "gardens" designated for certain purposes such as Bai Ling YuanGan Hazikaron-Garden of Rememberance Jewish Cemetery, Jardines Del Recuerdo Hispanic CemeteryNorthern California Korean Cemetery, Santo Nino Filipino-American Cemetery and numerous veterans areas.  

There is a small list of burials available on California Genealogy and History Archives these might duplicate those on Find-A-Grave.  With the number of burials in this park, it seems it would benefit by a "project" to add memorials to FindAGrave, or BillionGraves.

View Larger Map

Highway 92 and Skyline (650) 349-4411

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Digging for Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

Twice during lectures I attended at the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree 2013 the great genealogical reference books Red Book and The Source were mentioned. A few months ago at a SMCGS meeting The Source was listed in the speaker’s handout, and just last month both works were mentioned in two webinars I attended.
Now I have a confession to make—I haven’t used either of these books in years even though I actually own a copy of “The Source”! But they are wonderful sources for doing your genealogy so these mentions prompted me to look into them again. Now you may be asking what does this have to do with my “Digging for Roots Online” theme but I have great news—they are both online! And free! And, unlike the print books, have clickable links in their articles. (Confession #2—I hate typing in links from printed sources.)

On the site ( click on the “Learning Center” tab at the top and scroll down to “Family History Wiki”.

On the right hand column you will see

Explore the Wiki
The Wiki is made up of four kinds of fantastic content:
§  Other great content
§  Content added by you

and there you see links to both books.

The current edition of The Source, the third, was published in 2006. Ancestry describes it this way:
When Ancestry published the first edition of The Source in 1984, it quickly became a standard reference in the field of genealogy and family history. That same year, it received the coveted “Best Reference” award from the American Library Association. The 1997 edition, built upon the foundations laid down by its predecessor, sold more than 100,000 copies. A poll of librarians placed The Source, sometimes referred to as “the genealogist’s bible,” at the top of the “Top 10 Genealogy Books” for the wealth of information it offers to beginning and experienced genealogists…”

Next there is a clickable listing of the table of contents:

Third Edition Table of Contents

List of Appendixes

§  Family Associations (Coming soon...)
§  Hereditary and Lineage Organizations (Coming soon...)

The current edition of Red Book, the third, was published in 2004. Ancestry describes it this way:
“Red Book is designed to help family historians learn where to find information about their ancestors by taking an approach focused on localities. It is an expansive guide to the most useful resources in each of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia. Organized by state, the content easily directs the user to information-rich resources in areas including:

§  Vital Records
§  Census Records
§  Internet Resources
§  County Resources
§  Background Sources
§  Land Records
§  Probate Records
§  Court Records
§  Tax Records
§  Cemetery Records
§  Church Records
§  Military Records
§  Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
§  Archives, Libraries, and Societies

Major highlights of the content are the county resources published in table format for each state. Information in these tables often include county name, when the county was formed, which counties the new county was created from, and dates for when each county started recording information such as birth, marriage, and death records or land, probate and court records. Each state also has a county, town, or parish map.”
The clickable table of contents is very basic:
and so on to:

Now you can see one of the few drawbacks of using either book; the copyright dates, 2006 and 2004, respectively.
But there is an easy way to check for outdated links—just use the FamilySearch “Research Wiki” ( and search for the county you are working in.

Both of these online books are extremely helpful tools and will repay many times over your looking and using them. I’m so very glad I rediscovered them.


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

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair

September 3 & 4, 2013

For the first time ever, the National Archives will host a virtual Genealogy Fairwith live lectures and chat via the website UStream and a call-in genealogy help line.
  • Lectures:  This two-day program will showcase tips and techniques for using Federal records at the National Archives for genealogy research. Lectures are designed for experienced genealogy professionals and novices alike.
  • Genealogy Help Line:  Call with your genealogy questions during the fair. National Archives staff in Washington, DC, will be available from 1 to 4 p.m. eastern daylight time (EDT) on September 3 and 4 on our special hotline at 202-357-5420.

    You may also email us at, or call our Washington, DC, Customer Service Center telephone during regular business hours at 1-866-325-7208.
WHEN: September 3 & 4, 2013 (see schedule)
WHO: Speakers include genealogy experts from the National Archives and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.
HOW: The National Archives will host the virtual Genealogy Fairvia webcast using the websiteUStream and a call-in genealogy help line. Recorded sessions will be available online after the event. Closed captioning and American sign language interpreters are part of the broadcast.
WHERE: The National Archives will host the live lectures via webcast on UStream.
SCHEDULE: times listed in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)
Genealogy Help Line Schedule:  Call in during the fair, from 1 to 4 p.m. (EDT) at 202-357-5420.

Find other events, seminars and meetings for California Genealogists by following the weekly update on the CSGA Blog.  If you subscribe you will get an email with each posting. (Max 2 a week, includes items of legislative importance to California genealogists)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

San Mateo County Cemeteries: St. Johns

All photograph's courtesy of Russ Brabec 2013

Tucked away in the hills of San Mateo lies one of the oldest cemeteries in the county.  The land was donated in 1885 by Abby Parrot in memory of her husband who had died the year before.

MARCH 29, 1884  
         (inscription west side of Parrot Mausoleum)  

Parrot Mausoleum

The cemetery which is located at 910 Oregon Ave, is open to the public from 9am to 5 pm daily.

The link to the cemetery website was not working on Aug 10 and the notice indicates it has been down for nearly a month.  If it becomes viable again or a new site goes online, the old domain should probably work.  You will find a link on the cemetery page on the San Mateo County First Families Blog.  You will also find a link to a map there to help you find the cemetery.

Among the treasures you will find in the cemetery is the unmarked mausoleum of Agness Poett Howard Bowie.  There are also memorials for many Parrot family members whether they were buried in the cemetery or not.

St. John's Cemetery - Find A Grave lists 2888 burials with about 38% photographed.  Tim Conroy read the entire cemetery in 2004 and the listing is available on and USGenWebArchives.

The San Mateo County Community College District is offering a class by Michael Svanevik in September entitled Underground San Mateo - A subterranean look at St. John's Cemetery.

Cemetery Brochure

Sunday, June 30, 2013

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Woodlawn

Every cemetery is exciting, but when you are under two finding one with books, water, pictures, statues, waving birds and more is very exciting.  Woodlawn can provide an hour or so of fun for even the youngest cemetery walker.  

Sweeping views of the area make it a pleasant walk for everyone.  There are a large number of Chinese burials, many with pictures on the tombstones. Perhaps because I am unable to read them, they seem more like works of art than burial monuments.  

Located at 1000 El Camino Real, Woodlawn was established in 1904 as the replacement for San Francisco's Masonic Cemetery, which had been in existence since 1854.  Woodlawn was the twelfth cemetery in the then town of Lawndale.  

You can read more about the cemetery, it's signature castle and early logistics by clicking on History on the cemetery website's About Us Tab.  You will find a contact form on the same tab if you would like to ask for more information on a particular burial.

Brotherhood of the Sea Memorial
Among the special monuments in the cemetery is that of the  Brotherhood of the Sea and among the famous buried here is Emperor Norton.

 Find A Grave has over 8000 interments listed, many with photographs of the tombstones.  You will also find a map of the cemetery.

Billion Graves lists just under 700 burials at Woodlawn.  As most of these have a picture, you might find a photo or burial missing from Find A Grave.

An early picture of Woodlawn can be found in the SF Library photo collection.

Pictures from Woodlawn and other cemeteries can be found on Art in Stitches.

Just in case you would like to understand some of the many symbols found on tombstones, here and elsewhere,check out Cemetery Symbolism - A Wary Glossary

Woodlawn Memorial Park
1000 ElCamino Real, Colma CA 94104
Telephone: (650) 755-1727  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

San Mateo County Places

Belmont- Ralston Hall

                       Gardner Sanitarium                     

On 18 Aug 1900, Dr. Alden Monroe Gardner, medical superintendent for the State Asylum for the Insane at Napa, purchased the Ralston estate in Belmont for $35,000 from the Union Trust Company of San Francisco. This was to be the home of the Gardner Sanitarium, the state’s 1st private mental sanitarium. (RD 87 #181)


 As advertised in the  California State Journal of Medicine in 1904, the sanitarium specialized in nervous disorders, including substance abuse and also served those recovering from serious illness.

 The Directory of Physicians and Surgeons in the State of California for 1908 includes a multi-page advertisement with variety of pictures of the facilities.  It is interesting to note that there are only 24 physicians listed for all of San Mateo County that year.  Of those nine had been in practice in California for less than ten years. The Gardner Sanitarium is the only medical institution listed in the county.  

The Report of the Commission of Lunacy v.6 (Sacramento: 1908 California Commission of Lunacy p106) - Gardner Sanitarium- Belmont stated that the minimum rate for care at the sanitarium wass $125 a month.  There were at that time 33 patients with a maximum bed count of 60.  Nurses did not wear uniforms, so patients would not stand out.  The 79 acre estate allowed patients to roam without interacting with the public.

Although Dr. Gardner died as a patient in his own sanitarium in 1913, his son  P.S. (Sherman) Gardner continued to run it until 1922. 

In 1923 the Ralston property was sold to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  They had been looking to relocate their college from San Jose.  Today, ninety years later, Ralston Hall, mainly closed as funding is sought for seismic restoration is still a part of Notre Dame de Namur University.

Patients Playing Billiards - 1922

                              Ralston Hall                               

                                  Dr. Alden Gardner (1849 NY - 1913 CA)                         

                                           Some residents of Gardner Sanitorium                            

                                            San Mateo County Hospitals                                          

Thursday, April 11, 2013

San Mateo County Places

St Matthew - San Mateo

                      Red Cross Hospital                                              

Is Red Cross Hospital in San Mateo familiar to you?  It wasn't to me,  or the other indexers that were working in the San Mateo County Record Repository, a few weeks ago either.  Yet many San Mateo County births took place there.  Barry went home and did a little research coming back with the fact that the Red Cross Hospital was the beginning of what is now Mills-Peninsula Hospital.

At the time of the Great Earthquake, there were no hospitals in San Mateo County.  The need became evident and St. Matthew Parish in San Mateo with the support and funding of Mrs. Elizabeth Mills Reid first started a "nurses" home with six beds in 1908.  Rather than try to tell a story that is so much better told in the records of the times, the intention of this post is to help you find some of the many articles that told the tale as it unfolded.

Start with  Nursing in Mission Stations: How a Small Hospital Was Started (American Journal of Nursing 1908 Vol 8, Issues 7-17 p705) where you will read about the installation of Beatrice Woodward, a trained nurse, as parish nurse at St. Matthews.

The American Red Cross Bulletin (Vol 4 pg 89) gives an account of the beginning of the cottage and the updated modern hospital that was opened in Feb of 1909.  You'll also find pictures of the dining room, the Red Cross Guild Ward and the operating room.

In their statistical report, Benevolent Institutions 1910 the Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census (1913 Washington DC: Government Printing Office, p262) lists only Red Cross Hospital on the Peninsula as a benevolent hospital or sanitarium.

The Directory of San Mateo, Burlingame and Hillsborough for 1912  (p5) reported that the hospital was planning to expand at a cost of $100,000.

The American Red Cross Bulletin expands on that in Vol 8-9 page 193.  That volume has the picture of the hospital above as well as a picture of the sun room that was added to speed patient recovery.

On 31 Oct 1913 the Daly City Record reported that the Troy Laundry Machinery Co. agrees to install a laundry system in St. Matthew’s Red Cross Hospital at San Mateo in 60 days for $3285.

In 1916 The Modern Hospital (vol 7 p34) reported that Red Cross Hospital, San Mateo, CA was planning the addition of a maternity ward.

By 1921 the American Medical Journal (vol 76 p1088) reported five hospitals with 25 or more beds in San Mateo County.  In addition to Red Cross Hospital (45 beds) there was San Mateo County Hospital (60) in San Mateo, Canyon Sanitarium (36) in Redwood City, California Sanitarium (with 100 beds dedicated to TB,  the largest in the county) in Belmont, and South San Francisco Hospital (35).

While some sources state that the name changed to Mills Hospital in the "mid-teens," directories and vital statistic certificates show the name as Red Cross Hospital to about mid 1921.

The Red Cross hospital is just one of many institutions supported by St. Matthew in the early twentieth century.  The parish was also responsible for Bishop Armitage Orphanage, the Maria Kip Orphanage, the Church Divinity School of the Pacific Coast, St. Matthew's School for Boys and St. Dorothy's Rest.

   Links to further information on Red Cross Hospital   

   Links to further information about Elizabeth Mills Reid  

   Links to further information about St. Matthew Parish