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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

SMC Cemeteries: Western Hills

The Cemetery that never was.

Western Hills Cemetery was designed by Bernard Maybeck in collaboration with Julia Morgan in 1940. "Bernard Ralph Maybeck was an American architect in the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century. He was an instructor at University of California, Berkeley. Most of his major buildings were in the San Francisco Bay Area." Wikipedia   Maybeck Foundation 

UC Berkeley's Environmental Design archives has a collection of Maybeck's designs.  Among them are site plans for the proposed Western Hills Cemetery which was under consideration by Memorial City Corporation.

It has been on my To Do list to visit Berkeley to view the collection since I first discovered their existence.  Well, Berkeley beat me to it. They have posted the drawings online for all to see. You will find the drawings included here and the rest of the collection at the Environment Design Archives Berkeley Exhibitions - A Palace of Fine Deaths.

Julia Morgan, “Western Hills Cemetery,” Environmental Design Archives Exhibitions, accessed April 11, 2019,

Bernard Maybeck & Julia Morgan, “Western Hills Cemetery,” Environmental Design Archives Exhibitions, accessed April 11, 2019,

The drawing of the cemetery gives the cross streets of Junipero Serra Blvd and Collins Way.  There is no Collins Way that I can find on today's map, but it seems likely that Collins Way of 1940 is Collins Avenue of today.  This would put the cemetery in the same area as the other Colma and Daly City cemeteries. Unfortunately, this beautifully designed cemetery was never established.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Sharing Stories 2019 and Upcoming events

Mondays June 3 - June 24 10-12AM 

Are you stuck on your genealogy?  Have you been looking for that elusive family connection?  Are your ancestors in the witness protection program?  This class is an intensive look at the tools and sources we use to uncover those difficult genealogical trails. 
The goal is to resolve your questions and, with luck, break down your brick wall.

Instructor:  Margaret Melaney AKA the Brick Wall Queen has been teaching a genealogy class in the Bay Area for several years.  

Please contact the instructor before class for handouts and questions.

Little House,  800 Middle Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Fee:  $30/$40 members/non-members

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 cafĂ©.  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