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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

SMCGS Databases: Early Land Records

One of the first databases posted on the SMCGS website was the Early Land Records Index.  This index, mainly compiled by Russ Brabec with a little help from Cath Trindle consists of nine volumes of early records.
The index includes:
  • Patent   1-3 covering the years 1856-1921. Images of these volumes are available on FamilySearch  --  Land Patents were granted by the US Government on land they had acquired.  Most of the early patents in San Mateo County were verifying claims of those who had been given Spanish land grants.  Subsequent transfers of those original land patents are is made by deed.  It is possible to declare that the original patent has been transfered to an individual, which can give protections not necessarily transferred by deed.
  • Record of Deeds   1-4 covering the years 1855-1866.   Images of these volumes are available on FamilySearch.  FamilySearch has images of deeds well beyond these initial 4 volumes as well as images of many of the indexes that were created over the years.  These are all browse only, but are not difficult to navigate and find the records you are looking for.
  • Mortgages 1-2.  These records are available from the San Mateo Country Recorders Office.  These are just the first two of many Mortgage volumes available in the County Record Repository.  They can help provide a better picture of the worth of a property as amounts are often no included in the deeds.

For other early land records of San Mateo County see


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

SMCGS Upcoming events

April Workshop: 

Reading the US Census

with Maggie Melaney

Thurs, Apr 12, 2:30 - 4:00 pm
Cañada College Computer Lab
4200 Farm Hill Blvd, Bldg 9, Redwood City, CA

Cost: SMCGS Members $5,  Non-members $10

Do census records lie?  This workshop will focus on reading and interpreting the US census.  We'll use examples to learn how to mine the records for every bit of information they contain, and how to spot inaccuracies.  Participants will have access to Cañada College computers with Ancestry library edition. You may bring your own laptop.


April Meeting:

English Probate and Death Duty Records

with Christine Bell Green PLCGS

Saturday, April 21 (note 3rd rather than 4th Sat.)
10:30 am - 12:00 noon
Cookies & coffee 10 am
Sharing Stories: June Baxter reading "My Roommate"
Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

English probate records, when available, can be instrumental in providing primary information about family relationships. They frequently provide direct evidence that links adult children with their parents and/or siblings. Wills of childless or single people are especially worth collecting as they typically name several family members (including nephews and nieces).  During the 19th century an additional set of records, death duty records, which complement probate records is extant. Death duty records are available for both testate and intestate probate cases. Record types and methodology will be discussed.

Christine Bell Green has a professional learning certificate in Genealogical Studies from the University of Toronto. She is a ProGen graduate and an alumnus of the Salt Lake Institute, the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, and the Genealogy Research Institute of Pittsburgh where she studied a variety of advanced level courses. She is a past president and current seminar chair of SMCGS and a professional researcher who teaches Genealogy in Palo Alto and Mountain View/Los Altos Adult Schools. In her spare time she travels to visit her living relatives.

Spring Seminar 2018: Registration is open for the SMCGS Spring Seminar. We are very excited to host Sheila Benedict speaking on "Forensic Genealogy plus California Research: Missions to Present." It's going to be one interesting seminar! 

For more info and to register, click here.


Using Google Maps in Genealogy

With Mike Davis

Date: Thursday, May 10, 2018
Time: 2:30 to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Cañada College Library Computer Lab

Cost: $5 for SMCGS members, $10 for non-members

Presenter: Mike Davis. You can use Google Maps to plot a set of locations where your ancestors lived, the route they took when they migrated to America, or the outline of their first homestead. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll explore some of the hidden features of Google Maps. Please sign up for a free Google account before the workshop, if you don't already have one. Participants will have access to Cañada College computers or may bring their own laptop if they prefer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Genealogical Conferences

by Maggie Melaney

Have you ever been to a genealogical conference?  It should be a requirement for all aspiring family historians.  There are several to choose from, including the upcoming SCGS Jamboree at the end of May

I’ve just returned from Rootstech, the Olympics of genealogy, held each year in Salt Lake City.  Here are a few of the highlights:

1.  The vendors.  From Ancestry and FamilySearch, through the DNA testers to the small book sellers and regional groups, there are enough booths to keep you busy all day without attending a single talk.  Most have presentations, and many offer discounts on products to attendees.

2.  The speakers.  It seems like everyone I’ve ever heard of was there.  I saw Thomas McEntree, Dick Eastman, Judy Russell, Lisa Louise Cook.  Also ran into our own Richard and Janet Rands, who were there as volunteers.  And I got to meet and shake hands with Henry Louis Gates Jr.  What a thrill!

3.  The talks:

  • The Sheboygan Dead Horse story with Colleen Fitzpatrick.  Learning how to evaluate photos for location, date, and other information
  • The National Archives (UK) - digitising the collections with Audrey Collins from the UK.  This was one I really wanted to attend, since I do lots of British research.  It was great to hear it from the horse’s mouth - the family history records specialist at Kew.  She had lots of good tips on searching the records online and what they hold
  • Using Geo-Tech Tools to Answer Research Questions with Fred Wertz.  We all love maps, right?  Here’s how to use location to tell a story and answer questions.
  • Big Data: Buzz Word or Family History Revolution?   Joshua Taylor spoke on “big data”, which are the trends and patterns behind the raw data we generally focus on.  What are the migration patterns?  the naming patterns?  Where did people go to church or seek employment?  Looking at the big data helps narrow a search or eliminate conflicting results.

Joshua also spoke on Diversity in Family History Tech.  This was a real emphasis of Rootstech 2018.  Someone asked me when I came back what I thought the ethnic makeup was this year.  Just from a look around at the attendees and vendors, it seemed much more diverse in terms of countries and groups represented.  And a much wider age range as well!

Here’s a sample of exhibitors:

  • 23&Me
  • Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • DAR
  • Desert Book Co.
  • Epson printers
  • Family Tree magazine
  • Irish Family History Centre           
  • New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
  • Quebec Genealogical eSociety
  • and yes, the Ukrainian Bar Association for Foreign Affairs

Much more information on the highlights, as well as rootstech 2019, can be found at

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Golden Hills Memorial Park

Like Hoy Sun Cemetery, Golden Hills Memorial Park was developed by the Hoy Sun Ning Yung Association as once again it became obvious that more burial ground was needed.  George Q Woo and a private investment group acquired 14 acres at the base of San Bruno Mountain, part of the former Cypress Hills Golf Course.

The first burial in this cemetery, which has room for 14,000 burials,  took place in February 1994.

Golden Hills, Gum Shan, is the name for California in Chinese. The opening of this cemetery marked a new age for Chinese-Americans.  No longer temporary sojourners in the United States, this cemetery is considered to be their final burial place. The cemetery works with families to bring ancestral remains from elsewhere for permanent placement in Golden Hill, where descendants can properly care for them.

Small incinerators are located in this cemetery, where family can burn imitation money so that those buried can purchase necessities in the "next world".  Food is placed at grave sites for travels of eh deceased. Oranges and 3 sticks of incenses can also be found, representing Heaven, Man and Earth.

Names engraved in red on tombstone indicate that an individual is not yet deceased, but that a resting place has been purchased for them.

Find A Grave - only 38 Burials listed
Phone: 650-755-1133


March Meeting:

Making a Family Video to Share

with Dr. Jan Joyce Aherns

Sat, Mar 24, 10:30 am - 12:00 noon
Cookies and Coffee  10 AM
Sharing Stories: Laurie Coulter reading "Imagine San Mateo in the 1950s"
Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

You love genealogy research, but at family gatherings and cocktail parties your relatives' and friends' eyes glaze over when you start talking about it, right? This talk/workshop will show you how to make your genealogical information into an engaging video that everyone will love. Create videos for family, friends, and clients. 

At this talk, you will determine your audience and video topic, identify materials you have or need to find and how to organize them, write a script, create high-impact visual and audio effects, record, edit, and publish your video. This workshop will focus on mainly on developing content with a light touch on technology and software.

Dr. Aherns is a genealogy researcher whose personal work has focused on Ohio and Pennsylvania, England, Germany, Ireland, and Norway. She began researching in 1998 to better understand genealogy customers when she managed the marketing initiatives at Before beginning her genealogy career in writing and speaking, Jan earned a B.S. in Business, Marketing from Miami University, a MBA in Marketing from The Ohio State University, and a Doctor of Business Administration from Golden Gate University.


Book donations: If you have genealogy books gathering dust and you are ready to find them a new home, please consider donating them to SMCGS for our twice-yearly Seminar Book Sale. Bring your books to any monthly meeting. Contact with questions.

Spring Seminar 2018: Registration is open for the SMCGS Spring Seminar. We are very excited to host Sheila Benedict speaking on "Forensic Genealogy plus California Research: Missions to Present." It's going to be one interesting seminar! 
For more info and to register, click here.