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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Life and Times of Dennis Martin

We all know the excitement of finding information on our families, but Bo Crane has gone a step beyond.  He has delved into "The Life and times of Dennis Martin", not because he is related, but because he wondered why a creek bore his "full" name.  His interest led to a fascinating study of one of the earliest settlers in the area that eventually became San Mateo County.

If you missed the SMCGS meeting last Saturday, you failed to hear how he found an 1883 map showing the buildings on his land.  Of course by then he had lost the land through the final 1864 Supreme court decision in Greer et Al vs. the Arguellos.

Bo delved into that land decision as well as all other aspects of the life of Dennis not only in San Mateo County, but in his journey from Ireland to Canada, and by wagon train to California in 1844.

The back of the book provides the following summary, "Dennis Martin, an Irish immigrant, died as a broke old man in San Francisco and was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in his own abandoned cemetery wiles west of the Menlo Park depot. His estranged daughters refused to attend his burial. His times spanned the Irish immigration to the New World, the Westward movement from the Missouri River to across the snowy Sierra, armed power struggles between Alta California factions, the Bear Flag revolt, the Gold Rust, the Railroad Big Four and the Silver Bonanza Kings, the demise of Searsville and Mayfield along with the growth of Menlo Park, Woodside, Redwood City, Portola Valley, Palo Alto and Stanford University, as well as the beginnings of Atherton, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos Hills and San Francisco

In gathering information for the book, Bo visited with family members and historians. He gathered maps and pictures from Stanford, the San Mateo County Historical Association, Bancroft Library and more. His list of primary sources fills five pages.

This well researched, well written book goes well beyond the story of Dennis Martin and his family.  About halfway through the book, you run into the appendix,  "Historical Background - Chapter by Chapter." The background discussions cover everything from Woodside, Searsville and SLAC to Ireland, early Canada, Missouri, and the O regon and California trails.  There are notes on many early families in the county, early churches, early cemeteries.  You can read about the Greers, the Mezes, the Hopkins and many other early players in the county's history.

Although you can find the book in the SMCGS library, it is well worth adding to your home library. You can order a copy by sending an email to, visting his website, or on Amazon.

Denis Martin Cemetery

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SMCGS Databases: Obituary Index Update

Over 10,000 names have been added to the SMCGS obituary index.  Every obituary in this index is available from SMCGS, see the research page for details.  The collection has grown in the nearly twenty years since the Peninsula Times Tribune gave SMCGS their obituary morgue when they closed their doors from the last time.  That collection, originally in envelopes, was indexed by the SMCGS computer club under the direction of Bob Tousey.  It was later photocopied by Barry Goyette and even later those pages were scanned.  All of those original obituaries came from the Redwood City Tribune or it's successor the Peninsula Times Tribune.

Not long after that collection was received, we received our first batch of obituaries culled from the files of the San Mateo County Historical Association.  In most cases we do not know what paper they were from, but assume most were from the San Mateo Times or duplicates of what we had received from the Redwood City Tribune.  SMCHA has continued to cull files over the years and we have added them to our collection as they are received.  Other minor collections have also been added as thy are received.  

The most recent additions come from the Colma Historical Society.  They gave us over 50 years of rolled obituary pages from the San Francisco Examiner (1906-1959).  They in turn had received them from Woodlawn Cemetery.  It is unclear where they had originated. In some cases there were missing obituaries and crosses through others.

We have culled those pages for San Mateo County residents and are turning over the remains to the San Francisco Group of CGS. This project is only half complete, but it seemed a good time to update the online index to include those that are done.

Click here for index.
Click here to obtain an obituary listed in the index.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Early Families: Northern County Families, cont.

Russ Brabec has contributed another set of families to this growing biographical resource.  This installment adds another five families to the collection.

Robert Sheldon Thornton
Perhaps the highlight of the additions is a three part series on Robert Sheldon Thornton, his family and the state beach that bears his name.  If you haven't had the pleasure of finding one of these biographies in the past, you will be astounded by the amount of research in each one.  You will find a detailed time line of the lives of those followed, maps, references to deeds and other county documents, newspaper articles and much more.

Even if you have no connections to these families, you will find the biographies interesting and worth the read.