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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

San Mateo County Records on Family Search

A few years ago FamilySearch spent months in the San Mateo County County Record Center digitizing records.  Among the records were the entire series of Naturalization Records, Coroner's Records, Deeds, Homesteads, Patents, and Marriage Applications.

The images are currently available to browse, but are not indexed.  Fortunately SMCGS has indexes for many of the available volumes, including the naturalization records, the Coroner's Records, the Patents, Homesteads and some of the Deeds.  By using the indexes on our website first you can then access the online images .

The list of available volumes is arranged in Alphabetical Order, which sometimes makes it difficult to find what you are looking for.  With that in mind, we have created a page on this blog with links to the individual volumes, arranged in a more understandable order.  It is a work in progress, so continue to check if you don't find what you are looking for.

A few realities of using the images. First you are required to create a free account on FamilySearch and sign in  if you want to view the images.   Second, when you are searching for a page it is not going to be the same as the image number.  Depending on the volume there might be numerous document images for each page number.  Using the Naturalization Petitions as an example a page might have a Declaration of intention (2 images), a ship record, and other correspondence in addition to the two images of the petition page itself.  All of the sudden you might find that page 88 is in fact image 557.

Taking a few minutes to orient yourself is well worth while.  I usually look at the first page...which might be image 5 considering the image of the book cover, the book spine, etc.  Then I check the last page, and then look at the middle.  Using those three checkpoints you should be able to quickly navigate forward or backward to the record you are looking for.  Be sure also to scroll.  There might be two or more records on an image.  Depending on the zoom factor, you might not see those on the bottom or side. without using the scroll bars or downloading the entire image.

Index to Image Volumes on FamilySearch (with links to each volume)
Images on FamilySearch

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Upcoming SMCGS Events

 Spring Seminar 2018:  
Forensic Genealogy plus California Research: 
Missions to Present
 Info and Registration click here. Early Bird registration deadline in two
 weeks on April 27. See below for more seminar details.

April Meeting: English Probate and Death Duty Records

Speaker: Christine Bell Green, PLCGS
Date: Saturday, April 21, 10:30 am - 12 noon
10:00 am Cookies & coffee
10:30 am - 12 noon 
Sharing Stories: June Baxter will read My Roommate
Location: Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, SM
Entrance in back.

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 

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.

This event is free and all are welcome.
More information on SMCGS classes and events 
can be found on our website here.
Spring Seminar 2018:

Forensic Genealogy 


California Research: Missions to Present


Sheila Benedict

Saturday  ~  
 May 5, 2018  ~  9 am - 3 pm

Early Bird Registration until Friday, April 27:
$45 Members - $50 Non-members - $10 Lunch

After April 27 & Walk-ins $55

Professional genealogist Sheila Benedict brings to life her in-depth forensic, historic, and family genealogical experience through examples and case studies from courthouses to California missions. 

Sheila is the recipient of the National Genealogical Society Award of Merit and is the author of the NGS publication, "Research in California."

Seminar talks (detail below):
    - Forensic Genealogy: What it is and is not; Case Studies
    - California Research: Past and Present
     - California Historic Missions and their Records

For more information and registration, click here.

Also at the seminar:

Book Sale
A good selection of gently used genealogical books. If you have some books you no longer use, please consider donating them to the book sale and bringing to the February and March meetings.
Silent Auction -  Some great donations from the following companies:
            2 semi-annual World Explorer individual memberships to Ancestry
            1 annual subscription
            1 annual Basic subscription
            1 AncestryDNA kit
            1 year subscription to My Heritage or 1 My Heritage DNA kit
From  12 month Ultimate British and Irish subscription (top level!)
From GenealogyBank:   
            1 year subscription to GenealogyBank
            1 year subscription to GenealogyBank
Book: "Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave" by William L. Andrews (Editor), Regina E. Mason (Editor)
Home-baked Cookies - SMCGS bakers will be mixing up their usual hard-to-resist homemade cookies and bars.

To download the seminar flyer, click here

For more information and registration, click here.

We look forward to seeing you for what is going to be a fascinating seminar.

Warm regards,

Christine Green
Seminar Chair

Seminar topic descriptions:
Introduction to Forensic genealogy: What it is and what it is not
What is Forensic Genealogy? This definition is that it is genealogical research done in cases where there is legal implications, such as probates and estates, guardianships, capital mitigations, immigration and citizenships, land issues, and much more. Kinship determination through due diligent research, including DNA, courthouses and their records, and many of records that family historians used regularly, will be discussed in a totally different way.

Case Studies in Forensic Genealogical Research
Discussion will include the education, training, and work experience required to work on forensic cases. Standards and ethics, genealogical proof standard. Further information about forensic genealogy will be discussed using source examples, such as DNA, courthouses, vital records, and case examples, such as adoptions, probates, trademark law, and dual citizenship. Using source materials familiar to genealogists, included will be examples of affidavits, legal briefs, and contracts.

California Research: Past and Present
California is a melting pot of ethnicities, religions, lifestyles, and economics. The history includes thousands of years inhabited by native people, explorers, gold miners, religious expeditions, Spanish and Mexican rule, land grants, taxation, migration patterns, and statehood. The history and records available from the past to the present will show these diversities and offer genealogists, in and out of the state, with insight into what is available in the repositories, usual and unusual, public and private, along with the records that can be found. Highlighted events include explorations, gold rush, earthquakes, land grant system, and much more.

California Historic Missions and Their Records
The historic California Missions and Presidios can be seen as a timeline of history and an invaluable part of California and national history. The records they maintained in the past, and still do, hold vital information for historians, genealogists, Catholic and non-Catholic researchers, and others. Land grants are just one layer of California history that will be explored, along with case examples of the records held, where they are located, and the important benefits to all researchers, in and out of California.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Roads: San Bruno Turnpike Road

In 1858 The San Bruno Turnpike (1) Road Company was established under the provisions of an Act of the Legislature (12th May 1853) for the formation of Corporations to construct Plank and Turnpike Roads and an Act of the Legislature (26th Apr 1858) granting the right of way over certain lands of this state in the counties of San Francisco and San Mateo.  The bylaws state the corporation will exist for twenty years from the 30th of Jun 1858 when it was first formed.

The purpose of the company was to "construct and maintain a turnpike road from the south end or side of the Potrero Nuevo in the city and county of San Francisco over the most favorable ground as near the Bay of San Francisco as practicable to intersect the present stage road from San Francisco to San Jose at a point near fifteen mile house in the county of San Mateo and extending and maintaining the said road Northerly and Easterly from the point first above mentioned as far as the company may deem expedient, the exact termini location, width and mode of construction being determined by the company on proper surveys and reports of its engineer."

Daily Alta California 12 Sep 1858 Vol 10 p 3 c 1

At a meeting on 10 Sep A E Easton was elected President, O Cipriani as Secretary, CB Polhemus as treasurer and A B Forbes, P Dows, P P Heeley, P W Brittoen and DL Cook as directors.  It was reported that the worth of the stock of the company was $40,000.

They also resolved to establish a tollgate within San Mateo County as close to Point San Bruno as was practical.

The Bylaws were filed on the 20 of Sep
In 1858 the Board of Directors for the San Bruno Turnpike Company informed the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors that they had set the tolls as
12 1/2 cents for a single animal
25 cents for a single team
50 cents for a double team.


Guidelines - Visitacion Valley
Near the tollgate stood Six Mile House, both a rooming house and tavern which provided a stopping place for passengers to rest and drivers to change their horses. It was opened in 1876 by Henry (Pop) Blanken. Images of America's San Francisco's Visitacion Valley notes, "Pop Blanken's Six Mile House located on Bayshore Boulevard near today's county line, was for many years a place popular with business men and politicians. addition Six Mile house offered recreational opportunities like trap and rifle shooting, shuffleboard and bowling , and served as the training headquarters for prize boxes, including "Gentleman Jim Corbett.  Pop Blanken died on 30 Dec 1915, Six mile house continued for another couple of decades.  It was eventually razed in 1938 to make way for a garage and gas station.

The road was sold to San Mateo County in 1889.  In the 1890s a Toll House was built for caretaker James Richardson.  It was ranch style with 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room and a small room for taking baths.  It was enclosed by a fence and a vegetable garden filled the land from the fence to the house. (2)  

The toll road evolved into the Bayshore Highway.  Today portions bear the names Bayshore Blvd, Airport Blvd and San Mateo Ave.

(1) a road on which turnpikes, or tollgates, are established by law, in order to collect from the users tolls to defray the cost of building, repairing, 
(2) Clara Boner's recollections of her life as a child in the Toll House 1944

  • Scuffhauer, Joyce, San Bruno Road - Turnpike, SSFHS 1944, SMCHA SM 632
  • DOCS 88-178 Road Construction - First Township SMCHA Collections
  • San Bruno's Toll Road was the Main Thoroughfare
  • Images of America's San Francisco's Visitacion Valley 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

It’s Great to be Alive in Colma!

 As a continuation of the blogs on San Mateo Cemeteries, we feature this reminder from the Colma Historical Association.  Their moto: It’s Great to be Alive in Colma!

To check the veracity of this claim, the Menlo Park genealogy class took a trip up to the museum.  If you’ve never been there, you’re missing a great local history resource.  It’s more than just a museum.  There’s a whole compound with train station (no train anymore), blacksmith shop, and views out over the Italian Cemetery.  The main building contains a reproduction of a turn-of-the century kitchen, and numerous local artifacts.  We claimed to recognize some of the old kitchen equipment - and to have used it.  Also on site is a research library, where some of us found ancestors.  And of course a shop with books – and t-shirts.

Do you know why Colma was the burial place for San Francisco?  Besides the fact that they couldn’t go west, north, or east?  We had a geology expert along to explain this.   It turns out the soil is very sandy in that area, and is good for planting potatoes – and people.

The association was founded in 1993 as a means of preserving some of the history of the area.  Much of their archives centers on the surrounding burial plots.  The research library contains mortuary records, transcriptions, and maps.  There are usually docents on hand to explain the exhibits and help with research. 

And speaking of research, our intrepid record transcribers, Cath Trindle, Jean Ann Carroll, Lauren Perritt, and Russ and Eunice Brabec, are up there frequently working on records from the Valente, Marini,  and Perata Mortuary.   They’re looking for someone good at cameras to help photograph the records.  Contact SMCGS if you’d like to help!

The center is open Tuesdays through Sundays 10-3PM.  Closed on holidays. Their website is

by Maggie Melaney