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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

SMCGS Databases: Brands filed in adjoining counties

One drawer in the County Record Center contains filings of out of county brands.  Most were originally filed in either Santa Clara or Santa Cruz counties.  A few were filed in Alameda. Brands filed in San Mateo County have not been located at the record center.

The filing includes name, description of brands and ear marks as well as a sketch.  Also included is residence of the person filing brand.

The Act of May 1, 1851, concerning Marks and Brands took effect in August of that year.  It required the owners of horses, mules, cattle, sheep, goats and hogs to keep a mark, brand and counterbrand (venta - legal sale Sp.) that was different from those of his neighbors including anyone living in the county and as near as possible from anyone in the state.  The recorder was to be paid a dollar for the recording.

The law set out the schedule for when the livestock was to be branded and restricted how many brands an individual could use. (Only one per ranch per owner).

A counterbrand (venta) was required when an animal was sold and no bill of sale was created.

Section 11 of the law requires the recorders of each county to submit a list of brands to the recorders of adjoining counties.  The index here is the result of that section of the law.  In the earliest years the the recorders submitted lists as seen in the picture above.  Later, each brand was reported in a separate document.

Index to Brands Originally Filed in Other Counties

Early Brands Lists from other counties - with drawings
Act of 1851 Concerning Marks and Brands
Current California Brand Law

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NARA: Criminal Case Files 2

Part II  Civil Rights
By Martha Wallace and Cath Trindle

The violation of an individual's civil rights is one of the crimes tried in US Federal Court.  Among the cases heard in San Francisco in the late 1800s are those of John Jackson, tax collector for Trinity County, and Thomas Stapleton (Thomas Breeze) tax collector for El Dorado County.  The indictments were for demanding, exacting, and collecting a Foreign Miners Tax of $4 

Sacramento Transcript, 
Volume 2, Number 132
29 March 1851
In 1850 the first California state legislature passed the first Foreign Miners Tax Law, levying a twenty dollars per month tax on each foreigner engaged in mining. A revolt resulted and it was repealed in 1851. The Foreign Miners Tax Law was reenacted in 1852. By 1853 the Foreign Miner's Tax stated in Section 6, "The amount to be paid for each license shall be at the rate of four dollars per month, and said license shall in no case be transferable."  

Collections of the tax in 1850 amounted to more than $26,000 and between 1850 and 1870 provided more than 1/2 of the tax revenue for the state. Controversy over the tax was immediate. The Daily Alta California article, "Murders & Robberies", claims that the law caused an increase in crime in the gold country.  In fact, the tax was rigidly enforced against Mexicans and Chileans to encourage them to leave the gold region which in some cases prompted revenge.

By the 1870s the law was mainly enforced against the Chinese miners. The case against Sheriff John Jackson was instigated by the complaint of Ah Koo, who also claimed to be a citizen.

Sheriff John Jackson was found guilty. However, as the The Daily Alta California reported in  The Sentence of Sheriff Jackson on 26 Mar 1871 the judge, stating that although he was guilty he was acting under the color of the law,  only fined him $20. He also implied that the case could be immediately appealed to a higher court so the legality of the law could be determined.
In the second case, the complainants claimed they should not have pay this tax, as the tax was not collected from white miners (implying white "foreign" miners.) On 15 Dec 1873 the case was ordered nolle prosequi (will no longer prosecute.)


Daily Alta California, Volume 28, 

Number 9420, 20 January 1876  

Just a few years later in 1876 another set of civil rights cases was heard.  Both cases were against Thomas Maguire, the proprietor of a San Francisco theater.

Charles Green and George M Taylor and purchased theater tickets bur were not allowed to enter the theater and be seated in the seats they had purchased.  They claimed this was a violation of their civil rights.

The case of Charles Green was heard and a jury determined that Maguire was not guilty.  The judge in this case had excluded testimony that the doorkeeper had acted on orders of Maguire. The jury therefore found that the doorkeeper had acted on his own authority and therefore Maguire was not responsible.

The case of George M Taylor was ordered nolle prosequi on 16 Jul 1877.  The book  Children of Fire: A History of African Americans by Thomas C. Holt discusses how the second case involving George Taylor helped to gut the Civil Rights Act of 1875.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Evergreen

On 5 Nov 1877 Agnes Maria Griffith Tilton filed a description and map with the County of San Mateo for a cemetery that was to be located on land that had been deeded to her husband John Quincy Adams Tilton by George Howard in 1865.  The survey describes the land as being on the South Easterly corner of RailRoad and Mount Diablo Avenes.

JQA Tilton died in Sep 1869 at the age of 42.  Where he was buried before the cemetery was established is unknown.  Perhaps he was buried on the family land.  It is also possible that his initial burial was on the grounds of the local Congregational or Episcopal Churches.  He served on the board of elders of both.  Perhaps his grave in Evergreen Cemetery was his original burial place with the cemetery built around him. The Evergreen Cemetery book might provide an answer.

Miscellaneous Book 5 Pg 68

The map which was drawn by AS Easton, a brother-in-law of JQA Tilton, shows a beautifully designed cemetery on a little over 13 acres of land.    

San Mateo County Official Map  Book B p 27

The cemetery was mentioned in the 1883 History of San Mateo County.

History of San Mateo County, California: Including Its Geography, Topography ...

IC Steele, B.F. Alley Publisher 1883

The Tilton House stood just south of the cemetery.  This drawing showing the home in 1878 would be looking over the cemetery towards San Bruno Mountain.  This drawing by Marjorie Boettcher in her monograph for Dr. Frank Stanger's San Mateo Junior College history class in 1939 is most likely based on a drawing in Moore & DePue's,  Illustrated History of San Mateo County, California, 1878.

Marjorie Boettcher, The Tilton Family,
1 Jun 1939 Monograph SMCHA SM129
After JQA's death Agnes turned her home into  a boarding house. In directories she is listed as boarding house proprietress, and later cemetery proprietress was added.

Not long after the establishment of the cemetery, the town of San Mateo felt the need to expand. The land the cemetery was located on was considered prime real estate.

Less than ten years later the cemetery had been closed and burials moved to St. John's Cemetery, which had been dedicated in 1886 with sections for both Catholic and protestant burials.

JQA Tilton Home 1939
38 North Claremont SM
The Tilton Family

Agnes was also struggling to make her boarding house profitable.  In 1886 she sold her San Mateo land back to the Howards who turned the land into town lots.

Read More......

 History of San Mateo Cemeteries, Michael R Luna, student monograph 20 May 1838 - SMCHA SM80

The Tilton Family, Marjorie Boettcher, 1 Jun 1939 Monograph SMCHA SM129

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

SMCGS Databases: Water Rights Appropriations

These applications for the rights to previously unappropriated state water can include maps, protests of the appropriations and other treasures for those researching in the county.  They date from the 1870s to the 1950s and include applications by both individuals and companies (farms, land developers and water).

The records in the database are located in drawer 67 or in Water Rights Book #1, both in the County Record Repository.

Index to Water Appropriations

Index to Water Appropriations

Index to Water Appropriations

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

San Mateo County Places: City of San Mateo

Diseño del torreno [sic] de S. Mateo : [Calif.]
UC Berkeley - Bancroft Library
The Rancho San Mateo, which was comprised of the current Burlingame, Hillsborough and about half of the City of San Mateo was established in 1846 by a grant from Governor Pio Pico to Cayetano Arenas. Cayetano's father Luis sold the rancho to the American mercantile firm of Mellus & Howard with the unpredicibilities of the Bear Flag Revolt and the Mexican American War.

In 1849 Nicolas de Peyster moved into the abandoned outpost on San Mateo Creek, where sheep had earlier been grazed for San Francisco Mission.  He established a roadhouse, the first between San Francisco and San Jose.  A year later he moved the roadhouse to the other side of the creek into San Mateo House.  That structure stood until 1964.  In it's later years it served as a nurse's residence for the adjacent Mills Hospital.

View at San Mateo, San Mateo Co 
Lawrence & Houseworth, 1866 LOC Collections

With the coming of the railroad the area grew.  The first train went through San Mateo of 17 Oct 1863.  The line between San Francisco and San Mateo Was officially completed in 1864. Charles B Polhemus, main architect of the railroad, laid out a town and the population slowly grew.

However, San Mateo did not incorporate until 3 Sep 1894 when by a vote of 150 to 25 it officially became a town.  By then Crystal Springs Dam had been built, giving the area a secure source of water, and a  Fire Department had been established.

Official map of San Mateo County, California. Bromfield, D. (Davenport)
Schmidt Label & Litho. Co.  1894   LOC Collections
In 1902 San Mateo became the terminus of the San Francisco Street Car Line.  The earthquake of 1906 brought refugees down the peninsula and San Mateo along with the rest of the county grew.

City of San Mateo
San Mateo City Charter & Municipal Code
City of San Mateo Document Center
San Mateo Local History Collection - OAC (descriptions and online items)

You will find more information on the history of the City of San Mateo at:

More Maps

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

NARA: Criminal Case Files 1863-1917

Part I  
By Martha Wallace and Cath Trindle

When does a criminal case end up in Federal Court rather than a state court?  The answer is definitely not that it was more serious.  In fact a great number of the cases found in this record set are for such weighty crimes as not paying taxes on the sale of friction matches, not having a liquor license, or cutting trees on federal land for personal gain. The criteria for ending up in Federal Court is that the crime violated a federal law, therefore we find tax cases,  civil rights cases, admiralty cases and the like.

Take for example the selling of those friction matches without a tax stamp.  By the 1870's the friction matches that were manufactured in the United States were most often the type referred to as drunkard's matches, an improvement on parlor matches. Parlor matches combined white phosphorous, paraffin among other ingredients on wooden sticks that were generally left attached at the bottom.  Drunkard's matches were created when the bottom of the match was dipped in a non-flammable substance. An 1877 article in Popular Mechanics, Matches, by John A Garver A.B. describes the manufacture of matches in depth.

A tax on the sale of friction matches had been imposed by the Internal Revenue Act of 1864 (Sec 168) and amended in 1866.  (repealed by the Tarriff Act of 1883). The law required that a stamp be placed on each packet of matches that sold.  The cost was $1 for packages of up to 100 matches, and an additional $1 for each 100 matches or portion thereof.  There were generic stamps that could be used by anyone, and also proprietary stamps that were used by individual companies.  To put this tax into perspective, just those matches exported in 1879 brought in nearly $380,000 in tax revenue.  The article mentioned above also discusses the stamp tax and the effect it had on match manufacturing in the United States.

In November of 1877 James Schyler of Half Moon Bay was charged with possession of twelve (12) packages of matches for which the tax had not been paid. Half a year later the charges were dismissed against not only Schyler but against a number of others charged with the same crime.  But not everyone was so lucky.  William Olden, who had been manufacturing the matches, was sentenced to a fine of $500 or 30 days in the Alameda County Jail.  Those who pled guilty for the most part received a $100 fine or between 1 and 6 months in jail.  Some went to trial and were found not guilty, others found guilty received sentences similar to those who pled guilty.


In 1887 there were a number of indictments surrounding fraudulent public land surveys, against those who benefited by the surveys and those who swore to their authenticity. Towards the end of this record set there are a number of murders at sea with varying decisions and punishments.

With over 2000 case files, in 63 boxes and two docket books, this database just might provide some color for your family history.  Watch the SMCGS Blog for more on the Federal Criminal Court records at NARA.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

FDR's Alphabet Soup

Records from the Great Depression
Cath Madden Trindle

New on the SMCGS Blog

Formerly hosted on the California State Genealogical Alliance Blog, this series of articles and blog posts about the agencies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" is now available on the San Mateo County Genealogical Society Blog.

You will find a link to an index to the posts in tge pages box to the right.  I hope you enjoy delving into the agencies of the Great Depression as you look to add some color to the history of your families.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

San Mateo County Places: The Cow Palace

When the livestock exposition at the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco was shown to be one of the most popular features, the idea of building a permanent structure to house future livestock expositions in the San Francisco area was born.  Ten years later, it was still just an idea.  Then in 1925, the San Francisco Exposition Company was formed to finance the project. 

Nineteen firms and individuals each contributed $20,000, and the land was purchased in the Marina District, the site of the 1915 fair.  

Six years later, the plan was still just a dream. The San Francisco Chronicle in their issue of 2 Feb 1936, gives a picture of what happened next.  
The article goes on "After being kept secret in several hundred column inches of type over a period of five years the proposed pavilion blossomed forth as a brand new project when work actually began last week."

In 1931 the California state legislature formed Agricultural District 1A in San Mateo and San Francisco counties.  The stated purpose was to raise funds for an "agricultural exhibition palace on the county line."  The legislature promised to match up to $250,000 in funding.  

Getting started wasn't easy.  First SF Mayor Rossi vetoed the funding, later the Board voted it down.  When finally it was passed in SF the State Board of Equalization stepped in and deleted it from the county budget stating that it was over the maximum allowed according to the "Riley Plan".

Finally in 1935 it was approved by everyone, and Federal money was added to make it happen. Now a program of the WPA,  thousands were employed in construction.

Although designed mainly to hold "animal" exhibitions, plans included a half mile track for harness racing and a polo field was to be included in an adjacent lot.  There were also hopes that there could be bike races and boxing and wrestling matches.

The name evolved from a local newspaper which asked,  "Why, when people are starving, should money be spent on a "palace for cows?" A headline writer turned the phrase around and the name was born.

Completed in 1941, the first show at the Cow Palace was held in April.
UC Berkeley - SF Bulletin Collections
The Cow Palace (Grand National Livestock Exposition Pavilion) was completed in 1941. The new arena boasted a concrete and steel roof that covered nearly six acres. The first event to be held in the new arena was the Western Classic Holstein Show in April, 1941. In November of that year, the first Grand National Livestock Expo, Horse Show and Rodeo was held, featuring a tribute to the late Will Rogers. The show was declared a smash hit.

December brought the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of World Ward II.  The government rented the Cow Palace for $1 a year for the next five years. for the staging of troops being deployed to the Pacific Theatre and as a repair garage for the ordnance department. 

Following the war the Cow Palace saw the return of the Grand National, circuses, national conventions, the SF Shamrocks, the Dickens Fair, Raves and much more.  Read more........

History of the Cow Palace
The Palace for Cows belongs to San Mateo
Stock Plant biggest of it's Kind   SF Chronicle 14 Apr 1937

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

SMCGS Databases: Official Bonds and Election Certificates

Before taking office, elected officials were required to file bonds. Election Certificates were documents signed by the county clerk, verifying the election.

These bonds and certificates are located in the county record center in one of the small drawer cabinets (SM - RC5B1 - 15 - 21) You will find original signatures on many of the documents.

There are two indexes to the bonds and certificates. They are currently located on shelves that are being moved so the final location of the books is uncertain, but the indexes have been recreated digitally by Lauren Perritt and  are available here.

Index to Official Bonds and Election Certificates


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Friendly Acres - Redwood City

It has been on my agenda to write about Friendly Castle in Redwood City, but I find there is no need. Lauren has pointed me to a fantastic source of history for Friendly Acres, that includes not only information on Friendly Castle, but also Sweeny Ranch, the Red Feather Factory, Sanders Airport, and  familiar names such as Stafford, Phelps, and many more.  Although the last posts by B. Spangler appear to be in 2015, this well researched historic picture of the Friendly Acres neighborhood is worth reading in full.

The Friendly History Corner

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Chinese Christian

Although San Francisco had prohibited burials within the city as of the beginning of January 1898, an extension had been granted for the burial of Chinese in City Cemetery, due to the inability of the Chinese Six Companies to purchase land for a cemetery in San Mateo County.  Finally in July "Patrick Brooks sold 2 acres of land for $1,000 to the Chinese Christian Cemetery Association in an area that is now Daly City.

Chinese Six Companies (六大公司) refers to the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. The Six Companies consisted of the Sam Yup Company, Yeong Wo Company, Kong Chow Company, Ning Yung Company, Hop Wo Company, and Yan Wo Company. In 1882, they extended their earlier cooperative efforts and officially established the benevolent association in San Francisco.

SF Chronicle 24 Jun 1911
Troubles for the Six Companies did not end with the purchase of the cemetery land in 1898.  Many Chinese were buried in Colma as an interim resting place before their bones were returned to China.  In 1911 with over 3000 bodies under contract to be moved, San Mateo County imposed a rate of $10 for a permit to remove each body.  The effort to remove the burials without a permit went all the way to the Supreme Court. The decision was that the Board of Supervisors could impose the fee.  There was an effort to reduce the fee to $3.

Many Chinese came to the United States hoping to make enough money to live comfortable lives on their return to China. Even in death it was important to many to return to be buried beside their ancestors where living relatives would honor them.  There are many good articles on Chinese burial customs y u'll find a few links below.

SF Chronicle  12 Nov 1911


Chinese Cemetary Association, 34 Jason Court, San FranciscoCA 94133 Phone: (415) 982-4148

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Barry's Bits

Culled from the San Francisco Examiner Obituary Pages by Barry Goyette....

Complaints that San Francisco takes advantage of San Mateo County have been part of the political scene pretty much from the day that the counties were separated.  This 1912 article complains about the railroad rates.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

FDR’s Alphabet Soup

Records from the Great Depression
Cath Madden Trindle

Federal Writers Project (WPA) 

1935–1943   NARA RG –  69.5.5 

At its peak, the Writers’ Project employed about 6,500 men and women around the country as writers, researchers, editors, historians, and other field workers, paying them a subsistence wage of about $20 a week.   Among the projects undertaken by the Writer's Project were the American Guide Series, the Historical Records Survey, Life Histories, Slave Narratives and more.
LOC Collections

§  The American Guide Series  (Digital Editions) – Publications specific to California were created by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of California.

§  Historical Records Survey  See separate blog post

§  California Historic Landmark Collection – Essays written between 1936 and 1940 which may or may not be included in Guide series.

§  Finding Aid for the Federal Writer’s Project of California Records in UCLA Special Collections.  These records which contain essays and research relating to city and county governments, institutions, commerce, arts, sports, history, defense, folklore and more, are specific to the Southern California section and are contained in 206 document boxes.

§  Inventory of the Federal Writers Project Records, 1936 in San Francisco State University: Labor Archives and Research Center

§  The OAC list includes 942 items in 525 collections including an intriguing anonymous letter alleging communist influence in the Project in Oakland and a Documentary History of Migratory Farm Labor in California.  This is an online offering edited by Raymond P. Berry in 1938.  Not all items were created by the FWP, many tell of its history and those that were involved, including biographical information on those that participated.

§  NARA RG –  69.5.5 – Correspondence of specific projects, correspondenc and other records of the Los Angeles, CA, district office, 1935-37, information on FWP copyrights, 1935-40 over 2500 images for guides.  For further information see Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Federal Writers’ Project, Work Projects Administration by Katherine H. Davidson, comp., 1935- 44, PI 57 (1953).

§  Library of Congress – Federal Writer’s Project  — includes more than 6000 online items, including American Life Histories, manuscripts from the FWP 1936-1940.  Web Guide – Federal Writer’s ProjectBorn in Slavery

 For more information on the WPA
§  Works Progress Administration – Wikipedia
§  WPA – 1937 an historic video on YouTube