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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Railroad

The Pacific and Atlantic Railroad Company was incorporated on September 6, 1851.  The route was surveyed and published by the end of 1851.
William J Lewis - San Francisco 1851
Unable to raise funds locally, they turned to banking houses in New York and New England for funds.  Those institutions turned them down, stating they needed to raise local capital first.

The company tried again.  They reorganized on October 29, 1853, just before the expiration of the original construction permit, $2,000,000 of stock was authorized for sale.  Unfortunately, a downturn in the economy again scared investors away.   There after all notices of the Pacific Atlantic Railroad appear to be focused on just that, a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coasts.

Daily Alta California, Volume 4, Number 333, 22 December 1853 

By 1857, the public sentiment suggested it was time for a railroad along the San Francisco Peninsula.  The  San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company was incorporated in late 1859.  They intended to raise public funds by putting a referendum to the voters of the three counties served (San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara).  The goal was to raise $600,000 by the sale of bonds. A law was passed by the State Legislature and signed by Governor Dewey on 21 Apr 1860 allowing the referendum and allowing for an interest tax to cover the cost of interest on the bonds for a period of twenty years. 

Newpapers reported this as  "an attempted fraud upon the tax-payers of the counties" and the company dissolved in June 1860.
Daily Alta California, Volume 12, Number 167, 16 June 1860 

A new San Francisco and San Jose Railroad incorporated on August 18, 1860 with San Francisco industrialist Peter Donahue stepping in as treasurer, choosing his friends Judge Timothy Dame as president and Henry Newhall, a successful San Francisco auctioneer, as vice-president, and placing the company headquarters in San Francisco. Donahue, Dame and Newhall are thus credited as the three co-founders of the line.

  1.  Daily Alta California, Volume 4, Number 24, 24 January 1853 — San Jose Railroad 
  2. Railroad Law Daily Alta California, Volume 12, Number 118, 28 April 1860
  3. Dissolution of the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company
  4. San Francisco and San Jose Railroad - Wikipedia  

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Menlo Park Family History Center has new hours starting June 1

The following announcement came from Erik Jacobsen, Director of the Menlo Park Family History Center,
Starting in June, the Menlo Park Family History Center is shifting to a new schedule. We will be open all day on Tuesdays, evenings only on Thursdays, and will be open Saturday mornings with Saturday afternoons dedicated to training sessions.

The details:
Tuesdays: 10:00 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. with classes from 1:15 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

New Classes added for July
In addition to five different training sessions in June, we have added three classes in July, including sessions on German EmigrationIrish Emigration, and Jewish Genealogy Research.
You can see details and register for any of our 8 remaining summer classes here: MPFHC Training Session Registration
There is no cost for the training sessions, but space is limited, so please reserve a spot by pre-registering for the sessions that interest you.

New Facebook Page
The Menlo Park Family History Center is now on Facebook. Like us and stay up to date with upcoming events and resources at the Center. Take a look: MPFHC on Facebook

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

SF History at Hyde Street Pier

By Maggie Melaney

Last Monday a few intrepid members of the Menlo Park genealogy class took a train to San Francisco, a streetcar to the wharf, and then walked right off the Hyde Street Pier into the history of San Francisco’s maritime industry.  We didn’t even get our feet wet! 

Our guide, an enthusiastic National Park ranger named Alan, took us aboard the Eureka ferry boat and the schooner C.A. Thayer, which carried fish, and then lumber, along the California coast and as far as the South Pacific.

 For many of us, this was a stroll through our family history.  Several folks recalled family tales of ancestors sailing on such a ship, or buying lumber off the pier.  We tried to imagine what it would be like sleeping in the hold of the ship when it carried cod from Alaska! 
The car ferries when still running when I was a child, and I remember traveling with my grandmother as she drove her car up - or down (the tides) into the bottom of the ferry in Berkeley.  
We were able to get out and go up top to enjoy the trip, then had to rush down as docking was announced in San Francisco.  There was even a restaurant which served what must have been the first truly fast food on the trip across.

After a lunch out on the pier, we went across to the National Park Service visitors center.  A few years ago, when I first visited, it was a small display area and a room for videos.  It’s now much larger with several dioramas, a boardwalk, a crashed ship(!), and displays of store fronts selling goods imported from Asia and Europe.  You can see below your feet some of the objects found during various excavations of the waterfront, the graveyard of gold rush ships.  There are Park Service rangers on hand to answer questions, and several videos and interactive maps.

The pier is now part of the National Park Service.  Entry is free with your National Park pass.

“Located in the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers visitors the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Pacific Coast maritime history. The Park includes a magnificent fleet of historic ships, a Visitor Center, Maritime Museum, Maritime Research Center, and Aquatic Park Historic District.”

Guided tours can be arranged through their website at

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Barry's Bits and Upcoming Events


SMCGS Meeting-   Saturday, May 19, 10:30 am - 12 noon
 Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo Entrance in back.

 The Streets of Menlo Park
 Bo Crane
         10:00 am Cookies and coffee 

The Streets of Menlo Park delves into the genealogical backgrounds of the manyspecial people behind the street names of Menlo Park, especially those from the Gold Rush Era. Wealthy San Francisco city dwellers purchased land in the area of Menlo Park Ranch after the railroad depot was completed. A street grid was developed and populated with names from numerous sources.

Bo Crane grew up in North Palo Alto in an area now in Menlo Park. He was an English major at Stanford, and is the author of two books: The Streets of Menlo Park, and The Life and Times of Dennis Martin.
Sharing Stories: Sarah Coston will read Thoughts on My Ellis Island Trip

The Public is welcome to this FREE event.

Upcoming Meetings

June 23 10:30-12:00  Ireland Online - Cath Trindle
July 28 10:30-12:00  Round Table Discussions 

NO August Meeting

All SMCGS Meetings are free and open the public.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

SMCGS Databases Online: Jury Lists

One of the privileges of being able to vote is also being able to serve on a jury.  Well, I suppose, some believe that is one of the disadvantages.  Whatever way your thinking leans, if you are looking for information on your ancestors, finding them on a jury list gives another peek into their lives.

The jury lists found in Drawer RC5B1-31 in the San Mateo County Record Repository are a combination of Certified Lists created by the Board of Supervisor at the request of various court judges and lists that were created to show that a summons to jury duty had been delivered. When both existed for the same court and time, double entries were eliminated from the index.  Unfortunately, there are many gaps in the lists which cover the years 1908-1932.  Some of the lists name the court and judge that requested the jurors, others do not.  Some lists give the address of the potential jurors, others do not.

As the index was created it was noted that in 1912 county courts took month of July off and in 1922 Woodside and Portloa were part of Redwood City R FD.

When women gained the right to vote, the juror lists swelled with women’s names.  On some lists including that for the Grand Jury in 1930 the majority of those on the lists were women. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Eternal Home

Eternal Home Cemetery was established in 1901 on 2 acres acquired by Congregation Ohabi Shalome.

"The cemetery is but the gate to the Eternal Home. The name we have chosen for this spot symbolized the supernal destiny of man, symbolizes the change from the transient and mortal to the everlasting and the undying." Rabbi Isador Meyers

Between 1903 and 1926, there were two cemeteries on the site, Eternal Home and Chevra Kadisha. 
A monument to those moved from the cemetery of The Stockton Street Congregation (Congregation Shaair Zedek f.1890) after it was dissolved in 1910 is located in the section that was originally Chevra Kadisha.

In 1926, the cemetery was sold to Sinai Memorial Chapel which had been established in 1902 with the mission to provide a dignified burial for all Jews (Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed) regardless of their ability to pay. Over the years it has expanded to it's current 25 acres.

Among the highlights is the Court of the Twelve Tribes of Israel located near the road and separated from the rest of the cemetery by twelve pillars along the walk. All of the tombstones in this section are of uniform size and color.

The Holocaust Monument was erected in 1983 by Bikur Cholim of San Franciscodedicated to the memory of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust which was erected by several organizations including Bikur Cholim of San Francisco, the San Francisco Zionists and the American Jewish Congregations of Northern California.  The memorial was restored and moved to a new location in 2012.

There are over 15,000 burials in the cemetery as well as cremains.

Eternal Home Cemetery - Find A Grave Over 5000 burials listed with 93% photographed.

Eternal Home Cemetery
1051 El Camino Real, Colma
Phone: 650-755-5236
Sinai Memorial Chapel