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 - 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. Denis'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.