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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

California Statute Abstracts by Sheri Fenley

Cath Madden Trindle

Over the years I've been fortunate enough to meet some really wonderful genealogists.  Sheri Fenley of Stockton is one.  Her blog, The Educated Genealogist, is a reflection of her effervescent personality, always fun and interesting.

Recently she has been abstracting the early California Statute books.  These are the books that contain all of the laws passed in each session of the California Legislature. While many laws were passed to govern the "masses" the volumes are sprinkled with laws passed for the benefit of individuals and specific neighborhoods. 

In my California genealogy classes I always mentioned these session books. They can provide fascinating details of the lives of family members.  But access was cumbersome, so few delved into the records.

Sheri's abstracts provide a new means of access.  To date she has abstracted records from a variety of years between 1850 and 1913, and it looks like she will continue.  Each year includes a link to the Statute volume, where you can read the entire proceedings.  Be sure to read the posts where she lets the stories unfold, using newspapers and other records to fill in the details not included in the Statute books, and following it forward through the years.

Sheri attributes her interest in the Statute books to  The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell.  Judy had posted about them on her blog prior to a visit to California, so thank you Judy as well as Sheri for this magnificent addition to our California research resources. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Happy Holidays

from the San Mateo County Genealogical Society 

Barry's Bits

culled from the San Francisco Examiner by Barry Goyette 

Put on the Christmas vinyl...
Sit back, relax and listen.....

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SMCGS Sharing Stories 2017


Harold Augustine “Hal” Lane (12 Jan 1921 – 10 Feb 2004)
Submitted by Diane Elaine Wilson

Cousin Gertrude never used her real first name after she was twelve years old. She was a teenager in the Roaring Twenties, and snapshots show her in coquettish poses at the age of fourteen. Those poses later would usually include a cigarette in her hand, often in a long holder. The best smokers of the movie screen were her idols and models. Gin was tall, slender and best described as gangly. I have an unforgettable mental image of her doing the Charleston.

Ginger, or more often, Gin, was alternately in love with Commander Richard E. Byrd, whom she called her “Dickie bird,” and Robert Montgomery whom she called her passion.

Gin made me feel important. Although she was five years my senior, she always treated me like an equal, asked my opinion, listened.

When she and her next youngest sister were being taken to a barn dance, Gin suggested that her youngest sister and I come along. We were thrilled to be in the company of these almost adults. We were little more than twelve. Bobbie and I squeezed into the rumble seat of a ‘Model A” Ford roadster and enjoyed a most grown-up evening.

Hal's Graduation Picture
When I was in high school Gin had a date to go to a University of Santa Clara dance at the Palace Hotel. At the last minute her boy friend couldn’t make it, so she asked me to escort her. Was I flattered that she would be seen with a young twerp like me? Yer darn tootin’! We even went with a group down the alley from the hotel to Breen’s “where you could get a real drink.” Cousin Gin told me that it was okay for me to have a Tom Collins highball because I had a relative with that name.

I wasn’t the only person that Gin mothered or big-sistered. Her sister-in-law, Elaine [Diane: my Mom!] told me years later that Gin had been her confidant. She learned all about birth control from Gin, she said. And then she proceeded to have seven kids. Gin had four. I asked which side of the subject Gin had spoken on – pro or con.

Ginger was one of my favorite people, not only in the family, but in the world. She was a doozer.
Diane Wilson has lived in the SF Bay Area her entire life.  She is a retired computer programmer who considers herself an intermediate level genealogist.  Her other hobby is geocaching. Hal and Ginger were 1st cousins, their mothers were sisters.  Ginger was Diane’s Aunt, the oldest sister of her father.  You can contact Diane at mistycity @

© 2017 Diane Wilson - Please contact contributor for use of any portion of this story.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

SMCGS Databases Online: Leases

So, you found your family in census records but you can't find a deed?  Maybe you haven't found them at all, although the family insists they were in San Mateo County before the turn of the century.
Perhaps they leased the property they farmed or the shop they ran rather, than owning the land or building. The newest addition to the SMCGS database collection is an Index to Leases from the beginning of the county through 1921.  The early leases were recorded in Miscellaneous books but by the 1870's dedicated lease books were used.  Occasionally leases were recorded in the Miscellaneous volumes after that date, and a few are found in the Deed books.  The lease books end with #9 as does the index we used as the basis for our index.  Most likely leases continued to be recorded in either Miscellaneous books or Official Records after that date.

Not every lease was recorded, and many were recorded sometime after they went into effect. Sometimes, there was a problem on one side with meeting the terms of the lease.  Other reasons might include: one of the parties assigning their rights to someone else, the surrender of the original lease, or the death of the lessor with the estate taking over.  Many properties were continuously leased by the administrators of estates and you will find copies of court permissions to lease said properties in the volumes indexed.  Be sure to check who asked for the lease to be recorded as that might give a clue as to the reason it was.

While many of the leases are short and give little information beyond the location of the property, and even that is sometimes missing, others are full of information.  The lease of a restaurant or hotel might include a full inventory of every item included in the lease, right down to salt and pepper shakers.  Farm leases might include buildings, equipment and livestock.  There might be already-sown fields that are not included or agreements that crops would belong to lessee even if the lease was terminated.

Some lucky researchers will find property maps and building plans. 

Some individuals can be followed from farm to farm, as they expand operations, change partners or move to a different area of the county.

There are a number of "mineral"  and "timber" leases, many of which were "assigned" (transferred to others) numerous times.  There are a few equipment leases. Besides a possible description of the equipment, terms often included restrictions on where the equipment could be used. 

Our index includes: Name of each party and their Role, the Date of the original lease and the Date it was recorded, Fee book number if given, Notes (description of property, location of additional records, etc.), record location (record set (book) Pages).  When a corporation or fraternal organization was one of the parties, the principals are included and identified by role, if the corporation or organization appeared to be based in San Mateo County.