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

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Story on Every Page #2

WHAT happened here?

Moving into the 1930s Valente Marini Perata Funeral Home journals, a new information category appears on the page:  Occupation.   Men have occupations, none of which are in the professional class as we know it.  And, in their late 50s and older, they shift to “retired.”   After entering hundreds of female deaths, the only occupation so far has been h.w.  for housewife.  No women get to be retired.

With this woman, Maria Holdner, she not only is not a housewife; she is a milker.  Imagine that.  And where would she be doing the milking in San Francisco in1936?  The other interesting fact about this entry is the cost of the funeral.  Funerals, on average, $250 to $325.   This one is $418; far above the norm.  How does a milker who is single ever save enough money to pay that amount.

Then we have the cause of death: “Specimen to pathologist.”  Not a good sign.  I don’t think the pathologist would be involved if the cow had something to do with her death.

The only clue is who paid for the funeral:  William Crosby of Burlingame (of Crosby-N. Gray & Co Funeral Home).

You are invited to submit possible scenarios for this conundrum.
By Jean Ann Carroll

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Upcoming Events

                       Upcoming Events                         

Sat, Mar 23, 2019 – Lies, Lies & 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

In this case study, a family secret is unveiled through newly discovered documents, the use of genealogical research methodologies, and DNA. Jeff unraveled a story that was taken to the grave behind a paternal surname change. The talk includes a focus on the process of searching for a willing Y-DNA donor.

Jeff Vaillant is the President of the Sonoma County Genealogical Society, has a BA in history, and is working towards certification as a professional genealogist.

Sat, Mar 30, 2019 – Writing Workshop: From Research to Story
12:00-1:30 pm; Grace Lutheran Church, 2825 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo, entrance in back. NOTE DATE & LOCATION!
Free for Cañada College students, faculty, and staff. SMCGS Members $5, Non-members $10.

Presenter: Craig Siulinski
Bring your research and family lore to life through writing compelling stories. You will learn to generate ideas and focus on powerful storylines. Come to have fun and share your creativity.
Craig Siulinski teaches genealogy and life story writing classes, and does presentations on blogging and location research. He is passionate about helping people research, write, and share their family stories.

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, & 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.