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

Friday, May 10, 2019

Historic Downtown Walking Tour May 18

Historic Downtown Walking Tour

During the annual National Historic Preservation Month, Redwood City’s community can all play a part in celebrating our local history by participating in the Downtown History Walk on May 18 at 10:30am. Join us for a walk back in time! An annual Redwood City tradition is the historic downtown walking tour of Redwood City, sponsored by the Historic Resources Advisory Committee (HRAC). Walking tour participants will see where Wyatt Earp occasionally came for a drink, where a Wells Fargo Express Office operated in 1875, Redwood City’s first new car showroom salon and auto repair garage, the finest theater on the peninsula in 1896, the former homes of prominent pioneer citizens and much more. The tour begins at 10:30 a.m. on May 18, in front of the 1863 Lathrop House at 627 Hamilton Street. The tour will last approximately one hour and thirty minutes. Check back next week to learn more about the Union Cemetery. To learn more about the National Historic Preservation Month campaign and ways you can celebrate Redwood City's history all month long, go here:

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Russell R. Brabec 1938-2019

Long time SMCGS volunteer, Russel R Brabec, passed away in late April surrounded by his wife and children. 

Russ worked for the city of Daly City where he noted that most written histories of San Mateo County centered around those who had lived in the central and southern parts.  So he began researching the settlers in the northern areas.  Over the years he put together a series of biographies on some of the early northern settlers.  Those biographies have been generously given to the community.  They are available on the SMCGS website.

Russ first began indexing with SMCGS some twenty years ago.  He had begun an index to the Coroner's records using microfilm in Redwood City to occupy his time while Eunice was upstairs performing marriages.

Subsequently he joined us in the county repository on Tower Road, continuing with the Coroners records, helping with the birth and marriage indexes, and creating a number of other indexes whenever he found a record set of interest. Most recently he arranged for the society to index the Mortuary Records at the Colma Historical Association.

We have missed him at our weekly sessions since his illness finally forced him to stop a few months ago.  Even then he continued to send updates and additions.  We will remember him and miss him as we work for many years to come.

Russell was born on 21 December 1937, at Oak Park, Illinois, to Elsie [Moudry] and Richard Joseph Brabec.  Russell was second-generation American on his mother’s side and third-generation on his dad’s side.  Thus he liked to tell everyone that he was 2.5 generations Bohemian-American and that “Bohemia” was an enlightened kingdom in Europe rather than a North Beach café.  During 1939, his dad’s job was transferred to San Francisco and brought his family with him from Cicero, Illinois.

Russ graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in January 1956.  He worked briefly for Bank of America while attending Heald’s College School of Architecture in San Francisco.  During the fall of 1957, his pen pal, Eunice Genevieve Averill, came to San Francisco from Nebraska, and they married on 15 November 1959, at the Harvard Christian Church, Harvard, Nebraska.

Russ started working for the City of Daly City’s Engineering Department in November 1959, two weeks before his marriage, and retired in October 1999, from the Department of Water and Wastewater.  Work included creation of plans for and inspection of facilities including reservoirs, pump stations, water mains, and various street improvements.  Russ then joined the Daly City Retirees Association, and he composed their newsletter from 2005 to 2019.

He served two years active duty with the Army 1961-1963, and upon separation from active duty, he changed his course of study to Engineering at Heald’s College.  He graduated in July 1971.

During Memorial Day 1971, the family moved to South San Francisco at a location that was four miles to work in Daly City, which he would walk both morning and night for a long time since they only had one car.

Russ joined Broadmoor Presbyterian Church in 1964, where he was a Ruling Elder, Deacon, Skipper of the Mariners Ship and sang in the choir.  He also served 18 years as church treasurer.  He was President and Meet Director for the South San Francisco Aquatics Club during the 1970’s. He also chaperoned various event for Skyline Assembly #208 CA IORG during the 1980’s.

Living without cousins, aunts and uncles, all of whom remained in the Chicago area, he developed a passion for genealogy during his teen years.  Russ renewed his interest in genealogy during the 1990’s, and was able to locate and meet a third cousin of his mother’s line at Drahonice, Czech Republic.  He and Eunice visited there three times since 2000.  Russ connected his wife Eunice to a Descendant of the Mayflower, George Soule, and with seven patriots of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Following that, He researched about 30 early pioneers of northern San Mateo County, 1850-1860’s, for the San Mateo County Genealogy Society and the History Guild of Daly City/Colma.

Russ was a member of Sons In Retirement, Branch No. 1 and led their genealogy group from 2013 to 2019.  

He and Eunice loved to travel, especially by ship including 14 ocean voyages and 4 river cruises. They visited 45 countries and all 50 states.

Russ is survived by his wonderful wife of 60 years, Eunice; their son, Charles, and his wife, Susanne, of Sacramento, CA; their daughter, Katrina, and her husband, Elwyn Ellithorpe, of Rocklin, CA; grandchildren Chanler and Ryba Cormiae, and Charles and his wife Kaylee, Malcolm, and Miriam; great-grandchildren, Charlie and Eleanor.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at Broadmoor Presbyterian Church, 377-87th Street, Daly City.  Cremation by Duggans and inurnment at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Broadmoor Presbyterian Church.

(Obituary provided by Russ's wife Eunice)
Barry and Russ at Tower Road

Monday, April 29, 2019

Remembering Joyce Morey

Past President, San Mateo County Genealogical Society 3 July 1960 - 17 March 2019

Joyce Carol Nelson Morey of Belmont, California, passed away March 17, 2019 from ovarian cancer in Redwood City surrounded by her loving family.

We remember and love Joyce for her energy and enthusiasm, her inspiration and leadership, and the many projects and procedures that she spearheaded at SMCGS. She became a member in 2000, joined the board in 2014 as the newsletter editor, and then served as president from 2016-2017 until she was diagnosed with cancer.  

Joyce made it easy for members, non-members, and other societies to connect with SMCGS. 

She was inspired in her vision for SMCGS and tackled project after project making overall structural enhancements and opening new opportunities. For the record, here are some of the things that Joyce did at SMCGS:

  New, powerful website with online calendar
  Online portal for membership, seminar registrations, donations
  Social media with Facebook and Pinterest accounts
  Digitization of all past SMCGS proceedings, including newsletters, board minutes, scrapbooks
  Email news, webinars, member interest surveys
  Connections with local genealogical societies and events
  SMCGS table at seminars, new membership letters, seminar registration order tracking

Joyce was born in San Mateo and grew up in Belmont. She graduated from Carlmont High School in 1978, and received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from UCLA in 1982. She married Ed Morey in 1988 and is survived by him, their three children Eddie, Jessica, and Joshua, her mother Patricia Nelson, sister Janet Weaver, and brother James Nelson.

Joyce was fun. She had a great sense of humor and a passion for family history. She had her own accounting business, was an avid genealogist, and brought people together. She belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution, was president of the San Mateo County Genealogical Society, and attended Peninsula Covenant Church for 29 years.

A celebration of Joyce’s life will be held on May 4, 2019, 2:00 pm at Peninsula Covenant Church, 3560 Farm Hill Blvd, Redwood City. Anyone and everyone who loved Joyce is welcome – wear purple, it was her favorite color. In lieu of flowers, donations in Joyce’s name to SMCGS, DAR, or the Ovarian Cancer Society are welcome.

Cards of sympathy can be sent to: The Morey Family, 2206 Ewell Road, Belmont, CA 94002

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Story of Every Page #3

from the Journals of Valente, Marini, Perata & Co Mourtary, San Francisco
Jean Ann Carol with research by Kathleen Forneson

An Unusual Entry

Here we have a most unusual journal entry.  It speaks for itself.

It appears that body part reunification is available. Giuseppina died in 1942, and there is no mention of her leg in the entry for her death.

Research on this unusual event leads us to: “Disposal of Amputated Members; Catholic Physicians’ Guild,” July 1948. (After the fact for our case; interesting nevertheless.)

  1. The ecclesiastical law commanding burial and forbidding cremation applies only to the bodies and amputated members of Catholics.  However, the general tenor of ecclesiastical documents indicates that even in the case of non-Catholics the burial of amputated members (in unblessed ground) is preferable to cremation when the latter is not necessary.                                                    
  2. Even with regard to the amputated members of Catholics, the law applies only to such portions of the body as are reasonable considered notable or major. Perhaps the question---does the amputated member retain its “human quality”?—may be of service in determining what is a major part.                                                                                                                                         
  3. The duty of seeing to the decent burial of major amputated parts falls primarily on the patient or his family; when these are willing and able to fulfill this duty the hospital authorities have no further obligations in the matter.  It does not seem necessary, however, or even advisable to urge this duty on patients or their families when it is known that the prescribed legal formalities or the expense would be a source of great inconvenience to the person involved.  And certainly, hospital authorities are excused from even suggesting this procedure when there is a well-founded fear that it would prejudice people against Catholic hospitals.                                              
  4. When the patient or their families are unwilling or unable to see to the decent burial of the amputated members, the hospital authorities should provide for the disposal of the members according to the principles already explained.  If arrangements can be made for burial without much inconvenience, this should be done.   Cremation of such members is permissible when health or sanitation demands it; also, when burial is not feasible because of expense, inability to observe prescribed formalities, inability to provide a suitable place, and so forth.
One thing leads to another, and so now we have the tale of Santa Anna. You may recall, he was the Mexican politician and general who fought to defend New Spain and then for Mexican independence. He lost at the Alamo in 1936 and retreated to Mexico.  Several years later, in 1838, he was hit in the leg by canon fire. He ordered the leg to be buried with full military honors. He had many “legs” over time; one was reportedly used by soldiers of the 4th Illinois battalion as a baseball bat.  Santa Anna had a replacement leg made which is displayed in the National History Museum in Mexico City. Wikipedia

Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.



Your Genealogy: Research,
Organize, and Solve
with   Michael John Neill

  Problem Solving Applied to Genealogy
  Organizing Online Research
  Researching the Entire Family and Beyond
  Finding Barbara’s Beaus and Gesche’s Girls
The focus is YOUR genealogical work.
-      Methodologies and examples of discovery.
-      Ideas to move your research forward.
-      Approaches to interpretation of results.
Join us for Michael’s practical and down-to-earth presentation with just the right amount of humor.

He is a National Lecturer on Genealogical Research.

Saturday, May 4, 2019
9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Silent Auction items:  (2) 6-month World Explorer Memberships  (1) Annual Subscription (1) Annual Subscription
MyHeritage (1) 1-year complete plan ($334 value)
MyHeritage (1) DNA Kit
Genealogy Bank (2) 1-year subscriptions (1) 12-month Ultimate British and Irish subscription
Please go to for more information.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Sharing Stories 2019

Submissions are open for your stories!
Join the fun and write a family history or local San Mateo County story.

Submit your story to SMCGS to be entered into a drawing for prizes, publication,
and/or reading aloud at a monthly meeting. Each entry receives a small gift.

For more info on guidelines & formatting, and to submit a story, click here.
Submissions close on May 31, so it's time 
to start writing!

At our monthly meeting on June 22, we will have drawings for prizes for all stories submitted, an extra drawing for those stories taking place in San Mateo County, and a small gift for all entries. We will round out the meeting with story readings and sharing a pot luck meal together.
We hope you get a story down on paper to share with your fellow genealogists, not to mention your own family!

Sharing Stories Readings and Pot Luck
June 22
Bring a main dish, side dish, or salad to share
More information: SharingStories             

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Barry's Bits and Upcoming Events

Tax Time!!

                       Upcoming Events                         

Thu, Apr 11, 2019 – Writing Workshop: Finding Power in Your Family’s Story
2:30 am–4:00 pm; Cañada College Library Computer Lab, 4200 Farm Hill Blvd, San Mateo.
Free for Cañada College students, faculty, and staff. SMCGS Members $5, Non-members $10.

Presenter: Regina Mason  Tell your family story in a way that engages, inspires, and changes perspectives. Find transformational gems in plain sight. Using a 7-step process, you will learn to develop your authentic voice and to create a compelling story worthy of publication. Regina Mason is an international speaker, award-winning author, and Executive Producer of Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes.

Sat, Apr 27, 2019 – The Power of Digital Photography and Family History
10:30 am–12:00 pm, Free. Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo, entrance in back.

Presenter: Ron Madson
Most everyone has a shoebox of photos and documents plus a growing list of digital photos. But, how do we collect, organize, enhance, and archive this family history? Learn a method for image editing, labeling, and organization to preserve and easily find your photos again.
Ron Madson is a photographer and IT/image processing/technical education professional. He teaches classes and facilitates the Family Tree Maker SIG for the California Genealogical Society.

Your Genealogy: Research,
Organize, and Solve
with   Michael John Neill

  Problem Solving Applied to Genealogy
  Organizing Online Research
  Researching the Entire Family and Beyond
  Finding Barbara’s Beaus and Gesche’s Girls
The focus is YOUR genealogical work.
-      Methodologies and examples of discovery.
-      Ideas to move your research forward.
-      Approaches to interpretation of results.
Join us for Michael’s practical and down-to-earth presentation with just the right amount of humor.

He is a National Lecturer on Genealogical Research.

Saturday, May 4, 2019
9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Please go to for more information.

Sat, May 18, 2019 – Finding Mayflower Families
10:30 am–12:00 pm, Free. Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo, entrance in back.

Presenter: Bob Trapp
Is it possible that you are descended from a family who came to America on the ship Mayflower in 1620? Follow the story of discovering Bob’s Mayflower family roots, plus learn what is needed to join the Mayflower Society. Bob Trapp is the Deputy Governor of the Mayflower California Alameda County Colony, works at the California Society of Mayflower Descendants library,  has been on the staff of the Oakland Family History Library since 1990, and speaks regularly in the Bay Area.

SMCGS meetings are free. Everyone is welcome.


Barry Hinman and Mary Lou Grunigen volunteer at the San Mateo County Genealogical Society library located at Canada College in Redwood City. They welcome members of the Society and visitors who would like a tour of the library and an introduction to its holdings. They are also available, of course, to consult about genealogical problems or research strategies. They are there from 1:00-4:00 on the second Tuesday of every month if the Canada library is open to the public on that day.   

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

SMCGS Databases: Index to Mechanic's Liens

mechanic's lien is a security interest in the title to property for the benefit of those who have supplied labor or materials that improve the property. The lien exists for both real property and personal property. 

This index was created using Indexes 1 and 2 to Mechanic's Liens and cross checking the entries with the Mechanics Liens Volumes 1-7. 

The liens offer clues to financial problems.  You will often see several liens filed against an individual or company in a short time period.  Some are released quickly, others take years to be released.  Some of the filings include materials lists with costs. There are also liens filed by laborers against both owners and contractors. 


  •       The earliest Liens were filed rather than entered in ledger books, those files have not been located in the Record Repository. 
  •       Some Liens and some releases were recorded in the Miscellaneous books or Official Records rather than the specialized Mechanics Liens volumes.  There is a column to indicate the book set.
  •       Liens recorded in other book sets were not cross checked from index. 
  •       Copies of records should be ordered from the County Recorders Office.  Give them the book set and the page numbers.
Index to San Mateo County Mechanic's Liens

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Redwood City's Maritime Past Rediscovered

A short stroll along a long-forgotten waterway in Redwood City will reveal a plaque with the information that Diller’s Island once stood here, overlooking the port of Redwood City, where ships loaded lumber from the many sawmills in the area.  

Diller’s Island was once the site of Redwood City’s first schoolhouse, which was reached via a bridge from the port area.  The school is long gone, along with the old Indian burial ground which was still visible nearby.  However, remnants of the inhabitants still remain.

The island was probably named after J.V.Diller, owner of a general store which stood at 726 Main St.[1]

On a high point of the island, a railway track cuts through the weeds, running parallel to the shoreline.  The track was constructed about 1860 and remains today.  Near the tracks are two old houses, the earliest buildings in Redwood City.  The John Offerman House was built in 1857, and the John Dielmann house in 1874.[2]

During wet weather, unless one possesses a stout pair of boots, the island is inaccessible to the casual walker.  However, it may be viewed through binoculars from a high point at the end of Main Street.  In dry weather, when the tide is out, a crossing may be made on an elevated section near the train tracks. 

On arrival, you first come across an old white picket fence which may date back to the days of the schools.  A rusty gate still hangs from the hinges.  The houses are surrounded by lush vegetation, including several palms, indication of a once large garden here.

Although the area was at one time crowded with sea-going ships, it would be impossible to bring any large-draft ships in now.  In fact it would be unusual even to see anyone fishing for sculpin or croakers[3] along the creek, which is mostly filled in.  It is still a popular place to stroll, however, and well worth a visit to view some of Redwood City’s hidden history.

Margaret Melaney 3/27/2019

[1] Redwood City Voice, Aug. 8, 2016
[2] National Register of Historic Places