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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

SMC Places: Crystal Springs Dam

On Jan 11, a rainbow shone down on the opening of the new section of the Crystal Springs Trail and the reopening of the road across the Dam.  Some five years later than scheduled, the wait was worth it.  No more transmission lines marring the view and a new parking area, overlooking memorials to those who lived in the area.

Constructed across San Mateo Creek,  Crystal Springs Dam was one of the first gravity dams built in the western United States.  Designed by  Hermann Schussler, the chief engineer for the Spring Valley Water Company, it was unique in that none of the horizontal or vertical joints match up. Originally completed in 1888, the block by block cement construction and strict standards set by Schussler withstood the 1906 and the 1989 earthquakes with no damage.  Upon completion it held nearly 60K acre feet of water. 

San Francisco Chronicle 3 Jul 1871

The planning for Crystal Springs began  in the 1870s and  on 5 Sep 1874 The San Francisco Chronicle reported the sale of the possessions of the Crystal Springs Hotel.  On 21 Sep 1883 the San Francisco Bulletin reported on a visit by the SF Board of Supervisors to the Lakes to learn about the Water companies upcoming project.


Crystal Springs Reservoir - Wikipedia
Crystal Springs Dam Bridge Reopened - San Bruno Patch This article provides a good history of the original dam and of the renovation work.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Story on Every Page

Jean Ann Carroll
2 Jan 2019

SMCGS members are transcribing the mortuary records of Valente, Marini, Perata and Co; a (by my estimate) 95% Italian Mortuary in North Beach, San Francisco.  Every entry tells a story:  about origin, cause of death, relatives.  As we move into the 1930s, we get compelling stories of the Great Depression.  Every death has costs; some more elaborate than others.  Some simple, as for infants and young children. 

Valente, Marini and Perata management seems to have had a compassionate policy for young children.  The costs were minimal, far below a normal charge for service.  For example, here is a record for an adult, Consolvo Arvedi, age 50, funeral cost $328.10, paid in full within the month.

Now look at the bottom of the page at the entry for Joseph Bedini:

Full service, costs $38.  Date:  April 7, 1931.  Look at the payment record.  For 1931, the parents paid $19.  For 1932, $30.  For 1933, $8.  Lower costs, yet the payment is spread out over three years.

After transcribing dozens of entries when the payment was weekly and/or monthly in very small amounts, I wondered how traumatic it would be for a parent to walk into the mortuary office and hand over $1 week after week; month after month; year after year.  How can you ever process the loss of a child when you have this financial burden you can’t pay.

I called the Valente, Marini and Perata  4th generation person who had turned the records over to the Colma Museum.  I asked him about the payments.  He said, you have it wrong.  People didn’t come in to make the payments. It was up to the newest person on the staff (all relatives of the owners) to take the 3x5 index card file and walk the neighborhood; knock on doors; collect the money.  Week after week; month after month; year after year.


As the database grows we continue to update the file available online.  This month we also have begun digitizing the oldest books, those buried in Washington Park to save them from the fires following the earthquake of 1906.

If you have some free time and would like to help index or film these records email 
Publications @ 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Barry's Bits and Upcoming Events

Auto Troubles?

San Francisco Examiner - 1914

                       Upcoming Events                         
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.  

January 2019 Meeting
Blogging for Sharing Family History Stories
Speaker: Craig Siulinski
Saturday, January 26, 2019   10:30am - 12:00 pm
Cookies & Coffee 10-10:30 am

Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo, entrance in back
Blogging, or writing a regular online letter/column, is an easy and fun way to share your compelling family history stories. Learn about genealogy blogs in general, the inner workings of blogs, and how to start your own genealogy blog. The effort will be well worth the legacy you leave behind as every life story is a treasure to preserve for generations to come.
Craig Siulinski teaches genealogy and life story writing classes, has a business called Sharing Legacies, and does presentations on blogging, location research, and other family history topics. Craig has been researching and writing his family history for over 10 years and is passionate about helping people research, write and share their life stories.

This event is free and all are welcome.


Thu, Feb 14, 2018 – Workshop, Hispanic Genealogy: Spanish Records
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: Lucy Jennings Sweeney  

Discover how to search for your Hispanic ancestors, how to verify your family stories using records such as baptism and marriage, where to find records for your country and town, and learn about the Spanish naming system. Plus receive a resource list of online/print materials.

Lucy is a San Francisco native who graduated from UC Berkeley. When she retired from teaching, she began investigating her heritage which spans roots in both Mexico and Ireland.

Sat, Feb 23, 2019 – City Directories
10:30 am–12:00 pm; Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo, entrance in back
Presenter: Pamela Brigham

Sat, Mar 23, 2019 – Lies, Lies and More Lies:  Can DNA Solve My Parental Lineage
10:30 am–12:00 pm; Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo, entrance in back
 Presenter: Jeff Vaillant


Save the date for the SMCGS Spring Seminar
               with Michael John Neill
National Lecturer on Genealogical Research
Practical, Down to Earth, with Just the Right Amount of Humor

Saturday, May 4, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Menlo Park LDS Hall, 1105 Valparaiso, Menlo Park
Ticket sales open on February 15, 2019


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

SMC Newspapers: Half Moon Bay Review

SF Call 13 Jan 1907

The Half Moon Bay Review was established in 1898 by Harry Griffith. It has been serving coastside readers ever since.

The paper was purchased by Wick Communications in 1886 and they in turn announced plans to sell it in September 2017.  At that time a group of community members formed the Coastside News Group and entered into an agreement to buy the paper. 

The sale was completed in 2018. 

The paper is published each Wednesday, with over 7500 paid copies being distributed to homes from Montara to Pescadero.
The new owners come from a variety of backgrounds: Lenny Mendonca owns the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.; Rich Klein is the former chief technology officer of a tech company; Susy Castoria serves on some San Mateo County commissions; Roy Salume is a former school board member in Half Moon Bay; and Kelly Hoffman-Davis is a business owner.
Half Moon Bay Review  (Facebook)  The newspaper office has hard copies of newspapers from about 1960 on and everything from 1998 on is available in their online archive

Half Moon Bay Review 19?-19? CALib 1916-1924 (sc) ; SMCLib original 1916-1928, microfilm 1916-1924 (sc) 1925-1928 (s) - Online SMCLib 1997-present.  The San Mateo County Library in Half Moon Bay has microfilm of early copies.  Most likely even earlier than the 1916 listed here, but unfortunately they are currently in storage.  Efforts are being made to get the papers digitized. 

If you are looking for copies, contact both the library and the newspaper office for updates on their availability.

Half Moon Bay Review - Wikipedia
Article by Chris Lampert
(w) weekly (d) daily (n) daily except Sunday and holidays
(p) partial run  (s) scattered missing issues (sc) scattered copies
CA Lib - California State Library
UCR - University of California Riverside - Newspaper Master Files
RCL - Redwood City Public Library
SM Lib - San Mateo City Library
SMCLib - San Mateo County Library

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Sharing Stories Returns

.....with two writing workshops

After a tremendous response in 2017, SMCGS is bringing back our Sharing Stories event. Once again, we invite SMCGS members and non-members to write a family history story – or one about or that takes place in San Mateo County, there are prizes for both, and everyone! Please see the flyer in this issue for more information.

To support your writing efforts, this year we are offering TWO writing workshops, one on a Saturday and another on a Thursday in order to fit everyone’s busy schedules.

From Research to Story – A Writing Workshop

Saturday, March 30, 12:00-1:30 pm

Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo

Bring your research and family lore to life through writing compelling stories. This workshop will help you generate ideas and focus on powerful storylines to create family history stories for future generations. Come to have fun and share creative ideas with your writing peers.

Craig Siulinski teaches genealogy and life story writing classes, and does presentations on blogging, location research, and other family history topics. Craig is passionate about helping people research, write and share their life stories.

Finding Power in Your Family's Story - A Writing Workshop 

Thursday, April 11, 2019, 2:30-4:00 pm

Cañada College Library Computer Lab, 4200 Farm Hill Blvd, San Mateo

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 how to develop your authentic voice and to create a compelling story worthy of publication that may change your life and the lives of others.
Regina Mason is an international speaker, an award winning author, and Executive Producer of the docudrama, Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes.

Workshops are $5 for SMCGS Members, $10 for Non-Members
Workshops are FREE to Cañada College Faculty, Staff & Students 
RSVP required.  Send email to: