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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

SMCGS Spring Seminar

Online Registration is now open for

Click here for online registration


Roots and Writing (ages 18+)
Instructor: Craig Siulinski
Place: San Carlos Adult Community Center-The Loft
Dates: Two sessions 4/2-5/21 and 6/4-7/23

Over the past decade genealogy and blogging have become popular activities for folks interested in researching and writing their family's history. Students will learn essential beginning-level strategies for genealogical discoveries and then transition midterm to writing family history stories to be shared with families and friends on a simplified blog platform.

register here

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

SMSGS Sharing Stories 2017

The Death of Frank Duncan

Dennis Maness

When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire struck my newly married grandparents Frank and Jessie Monday Duncan lived there. Their house was burned down and they decided to move back to Falls of Rough, Kentucky where Frank came from. In 7 years they had 4 daughters were prospering on a farm.

On November 11th, 1915, when his newest daughter, and my future mother, Rosa was only 7 months old, Frank’s appendix burst.

A burst appendix can be fatal if it is not attended to quickly. Although the exact causes of a burst appendix are not completely understood it seems that the appendix will become blocked and eventually become inflamed and rupture. When the appendix bursts it leaks bacteria from the intestines into the abdominal cavity. This can cause the formation of an abscess or a condition known as peritonitis, which is a serious infection of the abdominal cavity. Before the advent of modern antibiotics this condition often resulted in death.

A doctor was called to the farm and he and Jessie put Frank on the kitchen table and the doctor started to operate. But by this time there was nothing that could be done.

Frank knew he was dying and started to sing his favorite hymn It Is Well With My Soul.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to s
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And with that he died.

Dennis Maness has been a member of SMCGS for more years than he can remember.  He moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco during the Summer of Love, 50 years ago.  Dennis is a retired librarian and considers himself an amateur genealogist, although he's been at it since 1977.  He is also a great photographer ; his other major hobby.  Dennis says his favorite ancestor is W.T.F. Coles (solely because of the initials), with Pleasant Monday placing a close second. You can contact Dennis at dennis.maness   @

© 2017 Dennis Maness- Please contact author for use of any portion of this story.

It Is Well With My Soul - Big Small Village on You Tube - there are enough versions here to last hours
It Is Well With My Soul - LOC National Jukebox - Handel Chorus
It Is Well With My Soul - Discipleship Ministries

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Upcoming Events and Classes

Who’s in Your Neighborhood?  
Meeting the Diverse Research Needs of Your Community

Speaker: Linda Harms Okazaki
Saturday, February 24, 2018
10:30 am - 12 noon
Coffee and Cookies starting at 10 am

This talk will focus on examining the different cultures within our community of San Mateo County reaching back through historical events, laws, immigration patterns, and primary source documents. Many examples from local ethnic groups including Japanese Americans, Chinese, Filipino, and Pacific Islanders will be presented.
 In order for genealogical societies to become more diverse, we need to examine and embrace the different cultures within our communities. Is your genealogical society inclusive? Does your membership reflect the diversity of your community? What immigrant populations have historically lived in your county? Who currently lives there? Does your genealogical society reach out to the surrounding community? What records are specific to certain ethnic groups?
Linda Harms Okazaki is a fourth generation San Franciscan and has been researching her husband’s ancestry for the past several years, documenting his family in the internment camps and in Japan. She is passionate about researching, documenting, teaching, and sharing the stores of Japanese Americans. Her other areas of research include California, upstate New York, England and Australia. Linda is a member of APG, the Genealogical Speakers Guild, and the DAR. She is a graduate of GenFed, ProGen and several genealogy institutes. She currently serves as the president of the California Genealogical Society.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and a Master of Arts degree in Education. You may find her blog at


Instructor: Craig Siulinski
10 Sessions - Saturdays starting Mar 3
College of San Mateo (CSM)
Registration Closes Mar 3

The benefits of a shared autobiography writing class are many.  Sharing one’s writing in a positive supportive social setting is an affirming experience for the writer.  Making connections with others, particularly for elders, contributes significantly to one’s overall health and well-being. 
Students in Life Story Writing will learn to organize and write their life stories two pages at a time. Participants will learn how to bring stories alive by describing events using all the senses. By reading the individual stories in class each week, the students learn to listen deeply, understand and appreciate others and their life stories. At the end of the sessions the participants will have nine written stories, which could be the made into a book for oneself or as a gift for family and friends. The students can go as far and wide with their writing as they choose.  

Instructor Craig Siulinski has more that 18 years of teaching experience.


 Using the Tools on the DNA websites to Examine Your DNA Matches
Speaker: Christine Bell Green PLCGS

Saturday, March 3, 2018
11 am - 12 noon

South San Francisco Library, 840 W Orange St, South San Francisco CA

This talk will focus on using tools available at Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, and My Heritage to analyze and compare your DNA results with those of your close matches. The strengths and weaknesses of the tools and the various websites will be discussed.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mortuary Files of Valente Marini Perata & Co.

The firm of Valente, Marini, Perata and Co. was established in San Francisco in 1888.  129 years later it has closed its doors and donated the records to the Colma Historical Association.

Most burials are for those living in San Francisco, however, there is a smattering of records for those in the northern parts and coast of San Mateo County as well as other places through out Northern California.  Information in the early records can be sparse, some of the earliest give only a date and the name of the person "purchasing" services.  They are included in the Index, as the family name might lead to more information.

Other records give a wealth of information.  The ledgers for the years around 1910 often include obituaries, many are from Italian, French and other foreign language papers.  The index includes name, death date (in some cases this might be a burial date, date plot was purchased, or date of removal from one cemetery to another), birthplace, age, city of residence (or death), cemetery when they are given.  Volume and page direct you to the original record.  A note column might give a hospital, or other interesting information.

Embalming Table
The index is no substitute for the original record.  Contact the Colma Historical Association for a copy of the original entry.  Even better, visit and look through the journal's yourself.  Not included in the index are the many notations of payments for the burials that were indexed.  Payments might be made for months or years after a burial.  In the early books, you will find notations of "drinks" being expenses when arrangements and/or payments were made.

Embalming machine

Spelling of names is inconsistent even within single entries.  Think creatively about how your names might be spelled, or how we might have misread them,  The early books also have purchases of supplies and more recorded in the same books.  Later, the book pages become forms and the amount of information increases.

If you visit, be sure to allow time to tour the museum.  Not only will you find information on all of the cemeteries in Colma, you will also find some really fascinating  items, such as embalming tables and machines in the collections.  There are also some wonderful early photographs.  And best of all a crew of people that are eager to help you.

Index to the Records of Valente, Marini, Perata and Co.  

 Carolyn Williams posted the following on Facebook recently.

"Are you looking for a great genealogy event to attend in the Bay Area, California or nationally? There are three main calendars for finding genealogy events:
Conference Keeper (Calif & national events), type ‘California’ into the Search bar
Eastman’s Online Newsletter Calendar (Calif & national events)
Sutro Library in San Francisco has taken over keeping up to date the old SF Genealogy calendar most recently kept by Kathryn Doyle. Thank you to Sutro Library, California State Library! "