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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays

from the San Mateo County Genealogical Society
Are you looking for ways to fill your time during the holidays?  Here are some ideas.....

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Early Families: Justice and Louise H Christiane Bepler

In the Introduction to this, the first of thirty histories of Early Northern San Mateo County Families, Russell Brabec states.....

"I became interested in the people of the northern San Mateo County who settled there after the gold rush and statehood.  During my 38 years of employment with the City of Daly City, I observed that most of the written history of this era was of those people who settled in the central and southern part of the county.  Thus I began a project of researching many of the settlers of the northern part of the county.......

"The basis of my information came from the records of San Mateo County, the California Digital Newspaper Collection (internet) for nineteenth century and very early twentieth century newspapers, and the main library of San Francisco for city directories and newspaper microfilms.   
"I have referenced Deeds and Official Records in the footnotes on each page.  Footnotes without the note [not transcribed] have been transcribed by me.

"Each family faced different challenges, and it has been interesting discovering these events in their lives." 

Future blogs will list other families in the collection.  You will also find links on the San Mateo County Genealogical Society Website.  From the Research tab, click on First Families and page down to The Pioneers.  Click on a name to access a PDF file that may range from 6 to 80 pages.

But back to the Beplers.....   Russ's history starts with Justus's birth in Germany about 1826 continuing with his purchase of land in San Francisco in 1854.  The 24 page document includes numerous land documents, a timeline of family and area history, and a spectacular collection of maps.

There is documentation of the death of Louise in 1869 at the age of 33, shortly after the birth of twin sons Edward and Louis.  Edward died later that year.  Justice died in 1875  leaving three sons Frederick, David and Louis.  

You will find references to his probate as well as census records for family members.  But rather than spending a lot of time reading this blog ... read the original

A Chronological Account of Their Lives from
the Records the County of San Mateo,
the California Digital Newspaper Collection
and other sources

Russell Brabec 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

SMCGS Databases Online: Lis Pendens

Lis Pendens filings for San Mateo County are found in drawers 53-56A in the County Record Repository. There are also eight registers located on shelves along the back wall.   This index to the original filings located in the drawers includes records dating  from the 1850s through the early 1900s. 

You will find records related to right of way such as that of the Ocean Shore Railway Co, foreclosures, and satisfaction of mechanic's liens among others.  Some state that they are an effort to quiet title, which means a suit is being brought to obtain a determination of the title of a certain piece of property.  These suits can involve property lines, probate problems and more.  While these documents can provide great information for your family research, they are also interesting in and of themselves. They come in all colors and on various types of paper including oil cloth.  Some are handwritten.  Some are fill in forms.  Others have been specially printed in their entirety.  

Lis Pendens Index

lis pendens - The People's Law Dictionary
(lease pen-dense) n. Latin for "a suit pending," a written notice that a lawsuit has been filed which concerns the title to real property or some interest in that real property. The lis pendens (or notice of pending action) is filed with the clerk of the court, certified that it has been filed, and then recorded with the County Recorder. This gives notice to the defendant who owns real estate that there is a claim on the property, and the recording informs the general public (and particularly anyone interested in buying or financing the property) that there is this potential claim against it. The lis pendens must include a legal description of the real property, and the lawsuit must involve the property. Otherwise, if there is a petition to remove the lis pendens from real property not involved in the lawsuit, the plaintiff who originally recorded a false lis pendens will be subject to payment of attorney's fees as a penalty. 

Code of Civil Procedure
Lis Pendens - What it is and how it affects title 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Sunset View

 Cemetery for the Paupers
and the Indigent of San Francisco
 Colma, California

Russ Brabec has authored another great treatise on San Mateo County cemeteries. This one covers the creation and demise of Sunset View Cemetery which was the replacement for pauper burials when City Cemetery (Golden Gate) was closed to further burials.

You will find a well researched article that includes newspaper articles, maps, and a good share of controversy including probate problems and undertaker wars.  Below is the table of contents, click on the link to read the entire publication.



Part  I -  The Early Years

Part II - The Cause

Part III - The Problem

Part IV - The Participants

Part V - The Result

Part VI - Epilogue

Lot Maps 1899 – 1961

1992 Parcel Map

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

SMC Families: Guerrero

Francisco Guerrero y Palomares 

Born in 1811 in Tepic, Mexico(1), Francisco came north in 1934 as part of a colonizing party that rode from Mexico to Mission Dolores.(2)  Perhaps he was attracted by the promise that he would be able to obtain a piece of mission land by filing a claim with the governor in Monterey citing his military service.  To receive that grant he would be required to draw a diseno (sketch map) of the land he wanted and build an adobe on the granted land.(2)  Over the years Francisco accepted various appointments to office in Yerba Buena including serving as alcade in 1836 and again from 1839-1841.(3)    

On 16 Oct1839 the Governor "ad interim," Manuel Jimeno, granted Francisco 7766 acres [one square league] along the Pacific Ocean with Montara Mountain to the north, the first ridge of the coastal range to the east and El Arroyo de en Medio [in the middle, the place where cattle were rounded up for the annual rodeo] to the south. This grant was approved by the Departmental Assembly on May 22, 1840. Additional land was granted on 1 May 1844 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena and approved by the assembly 12 Jul 1845.  This stretch of land near Pillar Point was called El Corral de Tierra.  The name perhaps reflected the way the hills seemed to encircle it to form a great natural corral of earth, or perhaps the fact that the point itself was used as a corral by simply fencing off its narrow neck."(5)   Only half of El Corral de Tierra was granted to Francisco, the other half went to Tibucio Vasquez.

Land Case File 49 - Josepfa Haro de Guerrero El Corral de Tierra (4) 

Francisco did not live on his land, his home was in San Francisco near Mission Dolores.(6) Even when many Mexican land grant holders fled San Francisco to live on their grants during the Mexican American War, Francisco and his family remained in San Francisco.

Francisco died on 13 Jul 1851 at the age of 40.  The cause of death was a fractured skull caused by being beaten with a slungshot (bag of shot) by Francis LeBras, a Frenchman.(7)  LeBras was acquitted perhaps on the urging of others who had feared the testimony of Guerrero regarding land grants. The attack was investigated by a Vigilante Committee and in newspapers.  A Coroner's inquest was held on the 14 thru 16 Jul 1851. The site of the murder was the corner of Twelfth and Mission streets. In 1906 the first station of the Ocean Shore Railroad connecting San Francisco to the old coastal lands of the Guerrero Rancho was constructed on the same site.

Today there are many reminders of Francisco on the land.  In the Mission District lies Guerrero Street,  On the coast,  land is still surveyed and recorded in the old land grant system of Corral de Tierra Palomares rather than in the township system used by the United States Land office in most states west of Ohio.

Francisco was buried in the Mission Dolores graveyard, across the street from the family home. His estate probated on 27 Oct 1879 in San Francisco. (8)

Athough the estate filed a claim for Francisco's San Mateo County Rancho, it wasn't until 1866 that the Guerrero claim to El Corral de Teirra was finally patented by the federal government. Patent Book One pg 471 records the patent which is given to Josefa DeH Guerrero et all.

As late as 1911 the Guerrero Adobe still stood, but an effort by Coastsiders and the Univesity Museum at Stanford fell short of the $300 needed to save it from being disassembeled for its timber by it's owners.  Today the Francisco Guerrero y Palomares claim has become part of the Golden Gate National Recreation area.

Francisco Guerrero and Maria Josefa Silvera De Haro (see De Haro) were married on 4 Sep 1841 at Mission Dolores (9) and had the following children
  • Agustin (Hipolito) Guerrero, born 13 Aug 1842 and died 7 Jan 1882.
  • Julian Emeterio Guerrero was born on 16 Feb 1844 and died 18 Mar 1844.
  • Nicolas Ramon Guerrero was born on 10 Aug 1846 and died in Jun 1848.
  • Victoriano William Guerrero, born abt 23 Dec 1848 and died 29 Aug 1928.
  • Francisco Macedonio Guerrero was born on 12 Sep 1851and died in Feb 1853.

For more information see

La Peninsula - Summer 2011 SMCHA

1.   Information provided by Julie Christy , e-mail 10/10/2000.
3.   Brown, John Henry, Reminiscences and Incidents of the Early Days of San Francisco. San Francisco (SF:  Mission        Journal Publishing Co., 1886.)
4.   United States. District Court (California : Northern District). Land case. 49,  [1837] UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
5.   Stanger, Frank M, South From San Francisco: San Mateo County California Its History and Heritage (San Mateo County Historical Association 1963), pg 41.
7.   Alta California; San Francisco Chronicle, June 20, 1911 "Working to Save Historic Adobe, to prevent ruin of old Guerrero Home, fine specimen of Spanish Architecture can be had for $300."
8.   SM - Official Record Books.
9.   Information provided by Julie Christy  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

San Mateo County Places - West Union

West Union Creek is a 4.5-mile-long stream originating on the east slope of Kings Mountain  and flowing down to the valley formed by the San Andreas Rift where it turns near the Phleger Estate to flow southeasterly on an unusually level course (for a mountain stream) to Adobe Corner in the town of Woodside where it joins Bear Gulch Creek, which in turn flows to San Francisquito Creek and ultimately, San Francisco Bay. (Description from National Park Service)

The origin of the name "West Union Creek" is attributed to Willard Whipple who named it "Union Creek".  He established two mills along the creek that he intended to call East Union and West Union. Those designations did not take, the mills being called instead  Whipple's Upper and Whipple's Lower Mill.  The upper mill was more widely known and the area around it was soon designated West Union. The Upper Mill was located in a direct line from today's Whipple Road.

Golden Gate National Parks Trail Map - Phleger Estate
Showing Whipple's Upper Mill just north of Phleger Estate

San Mateo County Times Gazette reported on 7 Mar 1885  "A little village of about a dozen houses was formed on the banks of the headwaters of San Francisquito Creek. This little burg, taking its name from that part of the county in which it existed, was called West Union. Its inhabitants, of which there were few, consisted mainly of the millhands in the surrounding hills. Close by, cosily nestled in the woods, was the village burial ground, composed of about a half dozen graves of the victims of accidents in the woods and others.  ........The village has entirely disappeared and in the place of the adjoining graveyard can now be seen broad acres of farm land."

The San Mateo County Times Gazette reported on 11 Dec 1886 that ..... 

"Years ago a little cemetery was located at West Union some fives miles north of Woodside...Only one body has been removed from the cemetery...Alexander MacDonald...The land has come into possession of some Italians who desire to use the property as part of a vineyard." 

Alden Tagg in his Norcal-L  posting 10 Oct 1997 states "The cemetery I have a hunch was west of Canada Road, perhaps a bit south of the school site."  (see San Mateo County Places: West Union

West Union School circa 1910
A school was established in the area.  In a post to Norcal-L on 10 Oct 1997 Alden Tagg notes "... the USGS/GNI does not show a West Union, however the Woodside 7.5 quadrangle does.  I guess no one's perfect. West Union Creek runs about 1/2 mile west of Canada Road andcomes down from the hills running NE then turns SE to run into Bear Gulch Creek south of Woodside Road. The West Union School was NNE of where the WU Creek bends from NE to SE, about 1/2 mile south of Edgewood Road a bit east of Canada Road. Hwy 280 runs through the old school property."

There were 72 students when the San Mateo County Gazette reported on 22 Oct 1859 ......

MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE – On the first day of July last, J.H. Pratt, Esq., who had been for some time engaged as teacher of the school at West Union, in this county, drew from the county treasury, one hundred and sixty two dollars, and two days afterwards started for San Francisco, since which time he has not been heard from. He was to have been absent but a few days, and was to have reopened his school after a short vacation. Mr. Pratt was temperate and regular in his habits, and his long-continued absence has created considerable uneasiness on the part of his friends. Fears are entertained that he has met with foul play. All his clothing and effects were left as usual – he having taken nothing with him except the clothing he wore at the time, and his money. He had recently purchased some land in Petaluma, and went to San Francisco to make a payment on it. We had a conversation with him just before he left, in which he stated that he should be absent but a few days, that he expected his wife out soon from the East, and intended to make this county his home. We do not know what State he came from. He was recently admitted to the bar in the District Court of this county, upon a certificate from the Supreme Court of Ohio. He was a rather short, thick-set man, sandy complexion, slightly bald, and about thirty-five years of age.

In Nov 1860 the school house was the site of county elections with  George F. Maynard serving as Inspector and  Robt. Greer and James Berry as Judges.  San Mateo County Gazette 6 Oct 1860

A petition dated 4 Nov 1861 stated, " The West Union (School) District shall be founded as follows, to wit; Commencing at the SE corner of the Wolf Ranch; thence West along the south lines of the lands of M Wolf and John Claffey to the point nearest the center of Sec 30 T 5 S R4W; thence to NE corner of the NQ quarter of Sec 9 T6 S R5W; thence East to the SW corner of the Home Farm; thence along the West line to the NW corner of said farm; thence to the SE corner of the Wolf Ranch. taking in Williams and Danl Ross to the old Watter Mill and to the Ride of the Mountain"

Signing the petition were: Robert Greer, OS Payne, Thomas Knights, Samuel Walker, Sylvester Waker
SH Snyder, M Erickson, Ales Little, Michael G Kelly, Jeremiah Conroy?, James Duffy, Edward Donnelly, Andrew McCormac, John Hanley, John S Richards, Michael McLaughlin, John Regan, Benjamin Ross, Michael Surrill ?, John Butte (Burke), Alex Stott, A S Bonen, Charles Hill

By 1920 only three students remained in the district and Superintendent Roy Cloud requested a temporary suspension.

Among those born in West Union was James V. Swift. Antone Scada and  Amada Valdes are listed in James Crowe's Death book as dying there and John Tomalis is listed in the Early Death Records.

West Union Creek Bridge
Sawmills in the Redwoods: Logging on the San Francisco Peninsula 1849-1967 Frank Stanger
The Town of West Union - John Edmunds

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

James Vincent Swift

"James Vincent Swift, postmaster of Redwood City and editor and proprietor of the Redwood City Democrat, is one of the county's best known and respected citizens. Born in January 1862 at West Union, a few miles from Redwood, Mr. Swift has lived and wrought his career in San Mateo County.
After receiving his early education in the Redwood schools Mr. Swift entered the printing office of the Times-Gazette at the early age of seventeen. He soon mastered the mechanical and editorial ends of the paper and in 1898 he had advanced  sufficiently to buy a half interest in the Democrat. In 1902 this paper became his sole property and has so remained. Mr. Swift has succeeded well in his ambition to make his paper one of the most progressive and enterprising in the county; and no move for civic betterment or the public good has failed to find a staunch supporter in Mr. Swift and his paper.
Mr. Swift's deep interest in Redwood's progress has caused him to serve four terms as city assessor, three terms as city trustee and five terms as trustee of the Redwood school district. Although San Mateo was recognized as a strong republican county, Mr. Swift has worked untiringly and fearlessly for the democratic party. As a fitting tribute to his party loyalty came Mr. Swift's appointment as postmaster this year. No appointment to public office ever received more genuine approval.
Mr. Swift has been married and has a son, Arthur and a daughter Eileen (Mrs. J.J. McCormick). Arthur is head of the mechanical department of the Democrat, the editorial being in charge of Mr. James Hedge, since Mr. Swift took over the duties of postmaster. Mr. Swift belongs to the Native Sons, and the Eagles." Biographies of Representative Men p 181-119,  History of San Mateo County, California: Including Its Geography, Topography, Climatography and Description, IC Steele  

 Sunday, February 21, 1915 

San Francisco Chronicle p.14

He bought the Democrat with W.L. Davis in 1898.  The partnership dissolved in Mar. 1903. 

This is a partial reconstruction of the family using census records and entries in SMCGS indexes.
Miles (Myles) Swift bn @ 1827 Ireland d. 1880-1900  m. Mary @1830 Ireland -1906
1. Elizabeth M. (Lizzie)   1858 SM - aft 1933 - unmarried in 1900
2. William J.   Jan 1860 - 1887
3. James Victor 1862 West Union - 1933   m. Emma Haferkorn 1 Jan 1885 Menlo Park
  1. Arthur  15 Mar 1885 - 7 Mar 1965 married Josephine Nicholas who died in 1927
  2. Eileen --- Swift, girl 27 Nov 1886 b. 23-Nov J. V. Swift - Times Gazette  m. J.J. McCormick
4. Morris A (Maurice)  1864 - 1914 m. Emma Derry -  living in Twp 3 in 1910
  1. William
  2. George 
  3. Leland V. 22 Jun 1898 - 2 Aug 1968 SM
  4. Olivia 6 Feb 1903 - 13 Apr 1987 Sacramento m Peter Christian Zinsli
  5. Mary Catherine (May) 29 Apr 1902 - 16 Dec 1994 SM  m1 Arthur L. Bowman m2 Wootten
  6. Maurice August 1905  m. Louise Alfreda Slater    
5. Rosa E.   1864 - 1933 unmarried  

By 1870 the family had moved to Redwood City.

Read more:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

San Mateo County Records: Estray Notices

Estray, in law, is any domestic animal found wandering at large or lost, particularly if the owner is unknown.

The Estray Act of 27 Mar 1897 provided that anyone that found any estray or domestic animal upon his property or on the roadway adjacent to his property may take the animal into possession and have a statutory lien on the animal for all the expenses incurred for its care.

The person who is holding the estray must file a notice with the Department of Agriculture within 5 days of impounding it.

An authorized inspector could take possession of the animal.  The inspector must try to find the owner and turn the animal over in exchange for the handling expenses.  If the owner did not come forward within 14 days the animal could be sold with the net proceeds (after paying the expenses) going to the Dept of Agriculture.  The owner could claim the net proceeds within a year.

Some of the Estray Notices filed in San Mateo County can be found in various drawers in the County Record Depository.  Here is an index of those found to date.

Dr Date Found by Where Description
5 1910 Barron, Andrew S Owl Dairy - Beresford 2nd township 4 calves
5 1907 Conti Bros. Colma one mare, 2 yr old colt, 6 m old colt held for damages to yard
5 1909 Corey & Rease Pebble Beach Hotel Pescadero 1 sow 2 barrow black
5 1909 Cramer, Charles Belle Air Park San Bruno Roan Colt
5 1902 Dotta, Louis Ranch north of Pescadero 2 year old heifer
5 1910 Emhoff, Frank Ranch Pescadero dark bob tailcow
5 1905 Enos, Manuel South San Francisco 2 wk calf
5 1898 Gillogley, Peter San Pedro bay mare about 8
5 1903 Greene, B S Colma bay mare  
5 1903 Griffin, M S Colma in potato field 3 heifers 
5 1897 Hall, Asa San Carlos bay colt
5 1904 Marceau, F Lake San Andreas sorrel colt
5 1908 Picaso, Andrew Ranch Pescadero Bull and Heifer
5 1902 Regley, CP Twelve Mile House  black horse about 8
5 1897 Silva C Ranch near San Bruno on mission road red milch cow
5 1896 Wilber A appraisal of lost property - Bicycle
61 1918 Holberton, George NW Side of Whipple 1 mile from RC 55284A and 55325- 43 Holstein
61 1940 SF Union Stock Yards 81441 

Learn more about Estray laws:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Hills of Eternity

In Judaism death is viewed as a natural part of life. 

In 1850 the Congregation Sherith Israel established a cemetery in the area now known as Pacific Heights (Vallejo St. between Gough and Franklin) in accordance with the two basic principals that are part of the natural life cycle: k’vod ha-mayat — the dignified and respectful treatment of the dead — andk’vod he-chai — the honored treatment of the mourners.

Ten years later they dedicated a second cemetery the area that is now Dolores Park.  On 22 Jan 1867 the San Francisco Bulletin (V.XXIII I.89 P. 3) reported the incorporation of the Hills of Eternity Cemetery Association.....  

Twenty one years later, on 30 Nov 1888 the Bulletin (V.LXVII I.47 P. 3) reported the opening of a new cemetery in San Mateo County..

Click here to read entire article

Hills of Eternity Memorial Park (Giboth Olam ) consists of twenty acres of  the foot of the San Bruno Mountains.  Endowed care helps keep the landscaping throughout the cemetery.  In addition to in ground burials, the Portals of Eternity Mausoleum, which was designed in neo-Byzantine style by Samuel Hyman and Abraham Appleton in the early 1930s, and the Gardens of Eternity Mausoleums offer above ground burial and niches for cremains. 

Hills of Eternity has designated sections for several Bay Area synagogues including: Congregation Beth Am, Congregation Beth Jacob, Congregation Kol Emeth, Congregation Or Shalom, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, and Peninsula Sinai Congregation.

Three of the four Jewish Cemeteries in Colma, Home of Peace, Hills of Eternity, and Salem Memorial Park, share staff and record-keeping.  Contact the office for help in locating burials within the cemetery.

1301 El Camino Real
Colma CA 94014
(650) 755-4700
Hours   8:30 to 4:00, Sunday through Friday.

For more information:

Congregation Sherith Israel
FindAGrave 13032 Burials listed 80% photographed
Cemetery Travel: Week #116
Roni & Jerry's Genealogy - Portals of Eternity shows a map for the mausoleum as well as some pictures inside and out.
American Jewish Archives - Congregation Sherith Israel - San Francisco 1866-1900
International Jewish Cemeteries Project