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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SMCGS Spring Seminar 2 May 2015

Immigration & Ancestral Customs

Four Lectures With Warren Bittner, CGSM

Warren Bittner, CG SM is a nationally known genealogy speaker with 30 years of research experience.  He is the owner of "Lost and Found", a small genealogical research firm.  For six years he was the German Collection Manager for the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  In 2010 he was assistant director of the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and is a former member of the board of directors for Utah Genealogical Association.  Warren was the first place winner of the 2010 National Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest.  He delivered the Chuck Knutsen Memorial Lecture for the Federation of Genealogical Societies in 2012.

  • Lecture 1:  “Complex Evidence:  What It Is, How It Works, Why It Matters”
  • Lecture 2:  “Impossible Immigrant!”:  Using “Reasonably Exhaustive Research” to Find a Brick Wall       Immigrant
  • Lecture 3:  “Beat Children With a Birch Stick So the Animals Don’t Get Worms”:  Reading For Historical Context   
  • Lecture 4:  “The Bittner Bastards of Bavaria”:  Understanding & Researching Illegitimacy
For further information or to register click here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

San Mateo County Places - Pigeon Point to Año Nuevo

Pigeon Point Lighthouse
By Rachel Kramer [CC-BY-2.0  via Wikimedia Commons
The Carrier Pigeon, a 175-foot long clipper ship with a gilded pigeon as her figurehead, was launched from the shipyards at Bath, Maine in the fall of 1852.  On January 28, 1853 she began her maiden voyage in Boston sailing around Cape Horn to San Francisco. On June 6, she was sited off Santa Cruz but as the day progressed, fog obscured the view both from shore and from the ship.  The captain, steered his vessel shoreward, believing that land was still distant.  Before land was sited, the Carrier Pigeon struck rocks and began taking on water. The captain and crew made it safely to shore, but the ship was a loss. A good portion of the cargo was offloaded and the vessel which had been valued at $54,000 was sold for $1,500. 

Since that time the point of land closest to those rocks, which previously was known as Punta de las Ballenas (Point of the Whales), has been called Pigeon Point.  

At least three more ships were lost near the point before March 1871, when Congress appropriated $90,000 to build the Pigeon Point Lighthouse.  The fog signal went into operation on 10 Sep 1871 and its five-wick lard oil lamp, and first-order Fresnel lens, comprised of 1,008 prisms, was first lit at sunset, November 15, 1872. The lens was first located in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  During the civil war it was removed

The 115-foot tower shares the title of tallest west coast lighhouse with California's Point Arena Lighthouse.  There is a small building attached to the base of the tower which contains an office on one side and an oil storage room on the other.  In the early 1900s, a separate oil house was built in an effort to store the votitile kerosene fuel safely away from the tower. 

Today the lens is not longer in use, however, the lighthouse is still an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation using it's 24 inch Aero Beacon. The old oil house contains an historic display of the lighthouse. Other buildings have been converted to a hostel.

Just a short distance away you will find Año Nuevo. The point and Island were named by Captain Sebastian Viscaino in 1603 while he was exploring for Spain,  It is now a state reserve.

The Dickerman-Steele Barn, which houses the park’s visitor center, was built of prime redwood between 1878 and 1880.  The style was common in Ohio and New York, employing pegs, bracing and roof supports.  

Just north of where the Dickerman Barn lies today, the Steele Brothers gave William W. Waddell a right-of-way across their property for a landing and wharf, soon after their arrival. He chose a spot approximately 500 yards west of Año Nuevo Creek, where the water was deep and there were no dangerous reefs. By 1864 Waddell had completed a 700- foot pier with a swinging chute to serve deep water schooners. That same year Horace Steele, Rensselaer's brother, built the Point New Years store near Waddell wharf.  In 1869 he added a house.

By 1867, the wharf was handling two million feet of lumber per year.  For the next 13 years it served Waddell’s and other mills in the region. A small community sprang up, which became known as Waddell’s Landing. There was a lumber yard, a warehouse, and the New Years Point store/post office where Horace became postmaster. William Waddell died in 1878 and the wharf burned in 1880, but the store remained in place until the early 1950s.

Ano Nuevo Ranch House (circa 1895), five miles south of Pigeon Point Light House on the Cabrillo Highway, one of two salt box structures on the Caostside.  And Green Oaks Ranch, south of Pescadero at Green Oaks Creek is the location of a typical eastern style wooden house built by Isaac Steele in 1863.  

Read More:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Steele Brothers' Dairies of Pescadero

History of San Mateo County:  1883B.F. Alley pg 246
The pre-story is a little different as told by the California Historical Society, " In the 1850s Clara Steele settled with her family near San Francisco. She missed the delicious cheddar cheese she enjoyed back in Ohio made from a family recipe, so she hired an Indian man to help her wrangle the cattle grazing near her home. With the milk from these cattle she replicated the cheddar cheese she so loved. The results were so delicious that when she introduced the cheese to the San Francisco market it was an immediate hit! Clara, her husband Rensselaer and cousins Isaac, Edgar and George begin making and selling high quality cheese and butter and start one of the first commercial dairies in the United States, known as Steele Brothers. By 1857 the Steele Brothers were so successful they relocated to a 6,000 acre farm in Point Reyes to expand their dairy operation. In 1861 they purchased 15,000 acres in Santa Cruz County. Here is a tax receipt for the Steele Brothers Santa Cruz County property. Note the 7000 lbs. of cheese at a value of $280.00."  National Dairy Month 11 Jun 2013

Whatever the reality of the back story is, in 1862 Isaac and Rensselaer signed a lease for The Rancho Punta de Año Nuevo, originally in Santa Cruz County, with the option to buy a portion of the land from Clark and Coburn.

The Steele brothers set up five dairies: Pocket Dairy at Pebble Beach Hill; a Dairy in Whitehouse Canyon; Green Oaks which was run by Isaac; Cascade which was run by Rensselaer; and Cloverdale which was run by E.W.  Besides cheese the dairies produced butter.

In 1866 the original lease was up and Clark and Coburn regained control of Pocket Dairy and Cloverdale.  The Steele brothers purchased 7,060 acres, the land from Gazos Creek to the Santa Cruz County line.  Rensselaer remained at Cascade which he later divided between his children, Ella and Rensselaer.  George and E.W. moved to land that had been purchased in San Luis Obispo County and remained there even after money troubles forced the sale of much of the land.   Isaac remained at Green Oaks setting up Finney Dairy on his property.  In 1875 the land was converted to growing grain.

Isaac, a master of the State Grange was one of the first directores of the Granger's Business association and a founders and director of the Granger’s Bank in San Francisco. When the bank failed I.C. lost a significant investment.  He also served as a supervisor for San Mateo County.  In the late 1890s he divided his holdings among his family.

Catherine Baumgarten, wife of Isaac's grandson,  gift-deeded the land of Green Oaks to the San Mateo County in 1967 and donated the original papers of General Frederick Steele to the Library at Stanford.  

The Steele Family with San Mateo County Emphasis

1. Nathaniel Steele (1783-1862)  m1 . Esther Benedict .  They had four children who stayed on the east coast.  Nathaniel married second  Dameras Johnson  (Nathaniel followed his sons to CA and died in Marin Co.) 
Isaac Steele (2)
  1. Frederick Steele 14 JAN 1819 NY -  12 JAN 1868 in San Mateo County. Frederick has been in the army and traveled around the west before settling in San Mateo County shortly before his death.
  2. Isaac Chapman Steele 14 AUG 1820 NY - 25 FEB 1903 in Pescadero   married his cousin Huldah Emeline Steele (see below) and they had four children.
    1. Robert Steele - no information known.
    2. Frederick Nathaniel Steele  8 Jul 1846 OH - 24 Sep 1907 Green Oaks Ranch, Pescadero, He married  Chloe Roxyntha Worden (1848-1934)   and they had four children, Isaac, Clara, Emma and William.  Fred recieved Green Oaks from his father.
    3. Effie Nov1850 OH -  25 Oct 1913  Point Ano Nuevo m. Edwin Dickerman (1845-1912) and they had one known daughter.  Effie received New Year's Point Ranch from her father.
    4. George Horace Steele 8 Feb 1860  Petaluma - Death 10 Dec1913   Point Ano Nuevo married Elizabeth Ann Christman (1869-1950) and they had four known children: Rufus, Wilfred, Ella and Bernice. George received Ano Nuevo Rancho from his father.
  3. George Steele  14 May1825 NY -  22 Oct 1901 San Luis Obispo County m Delia Maria Day 1833-1912
  4. Edgar Willis Steele 4 Mar 1830 NY -  18 Feb 1896 in SLO  m Julia P. Stanley 1838-1867 m. 2 Emma Smith 1840 - ? 
  5. Osman N. Steele (              ) a deputy sheriff who was shot during anti-rent riots in New York. Osman married his cousin Mary B. Steele (see below)
2.  John Steele (1779-1845) m. Polly St. John (1807-1858) they had 8 children the following four can be found in San Mateo County
  1. Rensselaer Ebenezer Steele 06 Nov 1808 NY - 14 Nov 1886 in Pescadero  m. Clarissa Ann Jameson 29 Jun 1823
    Rensselaer Steele (2)
    NY - 31 May 1866 
    m2 Hattie Younglove 1839 OH - unknown 
    1. Ella Adaliza Steele 15 Aug 1844 OH -  03 Jan 1919 in Pescadero, San Mateo, CA, USA  m. Rutherford Higgins Brown 1839 – 1897 and they had one son.
    2. Smith Ebenezer Steele 15 Apr 1846 OH - 03 Jan 1863   
    3. Rensselaer Ebenezer Steele Jr. 4 Nov 1869  Pescadero - 11 Sep 1935 in Pescadero m and divorced Gertude Polsen, No known children
  2. Samuel Horace Steele 27 Aug 1910 - 12 May 1896 Pescadero m. Amanda Matilda Remington.  They had four children only one of whom is found in San Mateo County
    1. Charles Edward Steele 6 Mar 1851 OH - 8 Dec 1930 Pescadero m. Ida Jane Moore (1856-1946),  They had five known children.
  3. Mary B Steele 15 Feb 1816 NY OH - 25 Jul 1884 Pescadero m. first her cousin Osman (see above) and second, Seldon J. Finney (1825-1875) and they had at least two children Isaac left Finney Dairy to Mary.
  4. Huldah Emeline Steele 18 Jan 1826 OH - 13 Apr 1896 Green Oaks Ranch, Pt. Ano Nuevo. Huldah married her cousin Isaac Steele, see above.
For more details and documentation of the Steele family genealogy and their San Mateo County Dairies see:
  • California Steele Family Tree   owner: wanderingmtn  This is an ancestry online tree which includes a number of photographs and documents.
  • Catherine B. Steele, Wilfred H. Steele, Linda A. McBride, George H. Steele; The Steeles of Point Año Nuevo, Their Ancestry and Kinship: Showing Their Direct Line of Descent from John Steele, who Emigrated from England to Massachusetts, 1631, 2007 124 pages. (Note: I was unable to find the 2007 version of this book anywhere in the Bay Area.  Copies of a 1971 version are available in various libraries.  The pictures of Isaac and and Rensselaer above were adapted from this book. 
  • Steele, C. B. and Steele, W. H. (1971). The Steeles of Point Año Nuevo:  Their ancestry and kinships
  • Steele, G. H. (1948).  The Steeles of California and their forbearers
  • Cunningham, A.  (1967).  Historic old ranch offered to SM County as park.  Palo Alto Times, July 12, 1967.
  • Library of Congress - Steele Brothers Dairy - Historic American Buildings Survey - Pictures
  • Guide to the Steele Family Collection Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History
  • Roy, W. Cloud, "History of Pescadero, California",  The Story of San Mateo County, California The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company. Chicago, Ill 1928
  • CA State Parks - Steele Brothers Dairy Ranches

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

SMCGS Databases Online: The SMCGS Obituary Collection

This SMCGS Obituary Collection currently includes over 57,000 indexed and scanned obituaries as well as a large collection of obituaries that are indexed elsewhere.  This project started when the society received the obituary morgue of the Redwood City / Peninsula Times Tribune when they closed their doors.  That original collection was indexed by the SMCGS Computer club.  As it became more troublesome to store and use the obituaries in their original envelopes the society decided to photocopy the obituaries.  The copies were then placed in binders in the SMCGS Library. Eventually the pages started to wear so it was decided that we should scan the pages.  This was the start of the collection that exists today.  

You will find the following collections in the index

  • PTT Redwood City Tribune / Peninsula Times Tribune - obituary morgue (1969-1992)  Indexed by SMCGS Computer Club - copied and scanned by Barry Goyette and Cath Trindle
  • MISC Obituaries contributed by a variety of sources, newspaper generally unknown (mainly 1960s-1990s) - Copied, Scanned and Indexed by Barry Goyette and Cath Trindle
  • SMCHA Obituaries culled from the Biographical files of the San Mateo County Historical Association and added to SMCGS  (mainly 1970-1995 some earlier) - Indexed and scanned by Jo Rebuck, Lauren Perritt , Donna Farmar, Celeste Guillory, Cath Trindle - a work in progress
  • DJ Daily Journal - Scanned and Indexed by Jo Rebuck
  • BORK Obituaries of San Mateo County Individuals listed in Southern California Newspapers Collected by Eleanor Borkenhagen - Scanned and indexed by Cath Trindle
  • DP Daily Post - Scanned and Indexed by Jo Rebuck
  • DN Daily News - Scanned and Indexed by Jo Rebuck 
  • VET Veteran's Memorial - Scanned and indexed by Cath Trindle 
  • DN Daily News - Scanned and Indexed by Jo Rebuck 
  • SMCT San Mateo County Times - assorted pages - Scanned and indexed by Cath Trindle
This is an ongoing project.  As the SMCHA culls more obituaries we will add them to the collection.  Additionally if anyone has access to other papers in the county and would like to contribute it would be appreciated.

The following collections which are indexed on Obituary Daily Times are also available in our scanned files.
  • Pacifica Times Tribune 1999 + collected and indexed by Chris Havanar scanned by Jean Ann Carroll
  • San Mateo Times 1999 + collected and  indexed by Chris Havanar scanned by Jo Rebuck, Donna Farmar, Lauren Perritt and Cath Trindle

To obtain a copy of any obituary in our index or from the collections listed for the Obituary Daily Times see Research Services under Research on the SMCGS website.

Check out the other SMCGS Databases and good luck with your research.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Ocean View Lodge 143 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded in Half Moon Bay in 1868. A benevolent society, with a mission to to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan, ” the lodge opened and operated the Odd Fellows Cemetery on San Mateo Road. Many of the early "non-catholic" residents of the coast are buried here including members of the Johnston, Granger, Albrecht, and Hatch families.

The 2012-2013 Half Moon Bay High School Industrial Arts Class created a nice gateway marking the graveyard, and a new fence separates it from adjacent Pilarcitos Cemetery.  The cemetery could use some came.  Many stones are broken or toppled or need cleaning to make them readable.  Although the area was covered with lush green (weeds?) they were not high indicating that some maintenance of the grounds might take place.

Because Pilarcitos and the IOOF cemetery were not separated for years, be aware of the fact that cemetery readings might put your ancestors in the wrong cemetery.  Dana Chaliff's 2004 readings most likely have the correct cemetery, Find a Grave has many burials listed in both.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery
Hwy 92
Box 712
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019