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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

San Mateo County Places - Hillsborough

"Hillsborough is located on the Rancho San Mateo Mexican land grant which was purchased by William Davis Merry Howard, son of a wealthy Hillsborough (sic), New Hampshire, shipping magnate, in 1846. Howard settled his family in this area, which attracted wealthy San Franciscans." - wikipedia  

In 1910 the members of the Burlingame Country Club felt that the City of Burlingame was threatening their privacy.  On the 25th of April 1910 they held an election and voted to incorporate as their own city.  The actual incorporation took place on the 10th of May.

All was not smooth in that first year of incorporation.  In July the San Francisco Examiner reported that insurgent forces had gone down to defeat in their effort to stop the annexation of a particular strip of land.  That defeat was by a vote of 35 to 31, so quite close.

Hillsborough has no commercial presence.  Lot sizes and zoning regulations were established large estates intended for the wealthy.

Noting that the zoning laws have varied over the years, with minimum lots of 1/2 acre established in 1953 the Hillsborough official city website goes on to say......

"One of the main attractions Hillsborough has for home buyers is its charm. Hillsborough still offers its escape from the pressures of the city. In addition to its generally quiet atmosphere, Hillsborough has excellent, award-winning public schools, police and fire protection and public works service. These are the qualities that have formed the character of the Town and have remained stable for over 100 years."   

Book List

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

SMC Cemeteries: Greenlawn Memorial Park

Woodlawn was originally purchased by some Odd Fellows members in 1903 as cemeteries were being closed in San Francisco.

Non-sectarian burials started in 1904 independent of IOOF.  In the 1930s some 26000 burials were moved from the Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Francisco (located near Masonic and Golden Gate Aves).  Those bodies are located in a section of the cemetery that is not open to the public.  A memorial marks the interments. Tombstones from the IOOF cemetery were used to construct the Aquatic Park seawall.

Today there are over 50000 burials in Woodlawn.  The cemetery maintains a strict privacy policy, requiring a permit to take pictures of any tombstones.  Records are held in the cemetery office for burials starting in 1865.

Some of the special burial plots located in Greenlawn include: the National Association of Master Mates and Pilots of America (Union Plot), the Theatrical Mechanical Association plot, and a monument to Americans who served in the armed forces of the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Canada.  There is also a section of Chinese burials.

 Website    650-755-7622

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

NARA: Federal Court Records - 2

An overview of records located at NARA San Bruno - Part 2

By Martha Wallace

1)     Original Jurisdiction of the Courts – what kinds of cases did they hear?

a)  Original Jurisdiction of Circuit Court
Federal circuit courts were established to serve as trial courts for federal criminal cases, patent & copyright cases, revenue causes, suits between citizens of different states, between citizens and aliens, and civil suits initiated by the US. They had appellate jurisdiction over large admiralty cases and appeals from the district courts.

b)  Original Jurisdiction of District Courts
District courts were established as trial courts for issues arising in the district involving admiralty and maritime cases, minor civil and criminal cases, and cases at common law. A clerk, a district attorney, and a marshal were appointed to assist the judge.

2)     What you will find in the files?

a)   Soot – In a time when the best indoor lighting was provided by gaslights, the soot from the burning gas covered everything. You will find it in the nooks, crannies and folds of the documents. Wash your hands often! Handwritten documents – the handwriting of the clerks, the defendants, the lawyers, and the judge is a delight to read – or decipher! If you can’t figure something out, look at other documents in the file to find the same letters, words, or names, and hope that will help you make a determination.  

b)  Case files containing bonds, information, libel of information, complaints, costs (of clerks, witnesses, informants, marshals, more), notice of trial, affidavits, petitions, orders, claims, monitions, reports of appraisers, answers of claimants/defendants, praecipe, dismissal, subpoenas, venire, demurrers, customs officers, tax collectors (Collector of Internal Revenue), informants, decrees, venditioni exponas, complaints, stipulations, notes of testimony (written by Judge Ogden Hoffman), condemnation & forfeitures, sureties, duties (See for more).

c)   Docket book – This large book has entries for each case showing the dates that actions were taken, a summary of proceedings, including a brief abstract of motions and orders, a record of the fees collected, and a statement of the disposition of the case. This can be cross-checked with the case files to learn more about the chronology of the case.

d)   What’s in the index/spread sheet/database columns 

  • Box number – the files are stored in numbered acid-free document boxes.

  • Docket Book – the number of the docket book; the page in the docket book if available.

  • Case # - the cases were numbered sequentially.

  • Plaintiffs – who filed the suit, usually the United States.

  • Defendants – who or what was being taken to court – in many cases it’s a list of items confiscated by Internal Revenue or Customs.

  • Witnesses and other parties – names mentioned in the case files such as witnesses, claimants, bondsmen, investigators.

  • Date of Offense

  • Date Filed

  • Location – cities and counties in northern California, with occasional southern California and other west coast locations.

  • Subject – Type of case (information, libel, complaint) and nature of the offense.

  • Attorneys – the US District Attorney and defendant’s attorney (if noted).

  • Disposition – who won – or was the case dismissed?

  • 3)   What you will not find

    a)  Transcripts – Word for word transcripts were not a part of court documents at this time. The best document to learn the reason for the case is the complaint/information of the original filing. If there are judge’s notes or notes of testimony, you will learn a little more. If the case was reported in the newspapers, you will find more specific details there.

    b)  Not found – In some instances the document file was not found in the box, but there is an entry in the docket book. The information entered in the database is what could be gleaned from the docket entries.

    4)   How to request the files   If you find that an ancestor was involved in one of the cases, contact NARA to visit and see the whole file.  NARA Contact Page

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016

    NARA: Federal Court Records - 1

    An overview of records located at NARA San Bruno - Part 1

    By Martha Wallace

    Federal circuit courts were established to serve as trial courts for federal criminal cases, suits between 
    citizens of different states, and civil suits initiated by the US. They had appellate jurisdiction over large admiralty cases and appeals from the district courts.

    1.   California Federal Courts through the Years  . 

    Judge Ogden Hoffman Jr.
    San Francisco Call
    19 December 1893
    a.   California became a state in 1850 and the first federal court opened in May 1851: the United States District Court for the Northern District of California with Judge Ogden Hoffman appointed by Congress. 
    Judge Hoffman served from 1851 to 1891. In 1852, the judge of the Southern District died and the Northern District judge also served that post until 1854. 

    Merchant Exchange 1856
    Bancroft Library
    The first courthouse opened in 1855 in the Merchant’s Exchange Building on Battery Street. This court considered cases involving admiralty, land disputes, and public order. In 1866, California became one judicial district and in 1886 it was divided again into Northern and Southern districts.

    Matthew Hall McCallister
    City Hall, San Francisco
    b. In 1850 there were nine circuit courts, originally created for the nine justices of the Supreme Court to “ride circuit.” From 1851 to 1855 there was no circuit court for California. The district courts in California held jurisdiction of both district and circuit courts. At that time, California was too far away from Washington, DC, for an assignment to a Supreme Court justice.

    c.   In 1855, the US Circuit Court for the Districts of California was established without a Supreme Court Justice to preside. This court had the same jurisdiction as other federal circuit courts. It met once a year in San Francisco, with special sessions as necessary. Matthew McAllister served as the judge until 1863; his salary was $4500.

    d.  In 1863, the California circuit court was abolished and Congress created the Tenth Circuit and appointed a Supreme Court justice to serve that circuit. The first justice to hold that position was Stephen J. Field. Jurisdiction included California and Oregon. In 1865 Nevada was added. The Tenth Circuit was abolished in 1866 and California, Nevada, and Oregon were assigned to the Ninth Circuit, with Lorenzo Sawyer as the first judge. California remained in the Ninth Circuit, with further states added in succeeding years.
    Stephen Johnson Field 1875
    Library of Congress

    Lorenzo Sawyer
    History of the Federal Judiciary