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

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Quonset Huts of San Mateo County Part 2

Part 2

Margaret Melaney


Our readers discover more huts!


From Ruth Satterthwaite:

There are still some along El Camino Real in Palo Alto.

…The Old Pro at the intersection of El Camino Real and Page Mill Road, which was shut down in April 2007 and replaced by the AT&T retail store.

…. 4 Less Smog Check of Palo Alto at 3508 El Camino Real and Nine Minute Oil & Lube at 3839 El Camino Real, Palo Alto.  If you can get your hands on a copy of Over Time Palo Alto 1947-1980, by Ben Hatfield with Barry Anderson (ISBN 978-0-7385-4691-9, published in 2008 by Arcadia Publishing), you should find a number of aerial photos of Palo Alto, several of which show Quonset huts, only some of which still exist.  


From Barbara Ebel:

In the Belmont Corporation Yard on Sem Lane (off Shoreway Rd) the sign shop is housed
in a Quonset hut.  (I worked for the City of Belmont for 21 years.)  

Got it!  Thanks for the addition.  I see it's even got curtains in the windows.  Did you ever go in it?  I wonder what it's like in the summer.     Maggie

Yes, I've been in it.  I know the auto shop (building 

opposite)was hot in the summer.  I stored some material for a county-wide storm water program I chaired for a while in the auto shop.  The shop manager added ceiling insulation bit by bit and that helped.   I don't know if Rick (sign guy) did the same; probably.  They were all very good with construction and fixing things.        Barbara

Quonset huts started to appear as surplus after the war.  The earliest ads are from around 1945-6.  Notice that one article reports that a hut was washed up on the beach near Half Moon Bay and taken as salvage!

Articles from                                San Mateo Times,  27 June, 1946

San Mateo Times, 12 Dec. 1952

San Mateo Times, 3 May 1946

San Mateo Times 18 July, 1953

Because so many were located near the old San Carlos Airport, it was thought that they might have functioned as airplane hangars.  Did you know there was an airport on Old County Road?  Right where Home Depot is today!

It appears from the caption that there may have been huts here prior to the War.  I haven't been able to confirm that from maps.  According to the San Carlos Airport Association "In 1940 operations were moved near to Brittan and Industrial Roads. The airport was relocated to its present site on the east side of 101 in 1948"  So the airport would have been gone by the time huts were available as surplus.

Quonsets show up very well on Sanborn Maps.  If you're interested in the history of an area, these maps are invaluable for learning about buildings.

"The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are a valuable resource for genealogists, historians, urban planners, teachers or anyone with a personal connection to a community, street or building.  The maps depict more than 12,000 American towns and cities.  They show the size, shape and construction materials of dwellings, commercial buildings, factories and other structures.  They indicate both the names and width of streets, and show property boundaries and how individual buildings were used.  House and block numbers are identified.  They also show the location of water mains, fire alarm boxes and fire hydrants."

Here are some of the San Carlos huts as shown on 1952 Sanborn maps.
These are the front and rear views of the auto shop at 1527 Old County Road.  The building which used to be to the right is missing. 

Another section shows the two huts on Center Street, front and side views.  You'll notice that they are all colored grey on the map.  The Sanborn map key identifies these structures as "Iron buildings".  This was certainly important from a fire insurance perspective, since it determined the risk involved in insuring, and also let the fire department know what to expect.  The maps also included locations of fire hydrants.

Perhaps you've driven past a few Quonset huts but never really thought about them.  But once you start looking, they'll pop up all over the Bay Area.  Here's another group I'm calling "Quonset Gulch", spotted by sharp-eyed Barbara Ebel.  They're at the corner of Howland and Winslow in RWC.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Federation of Genealogical Societies Part 2

Well, I imagine you are on pins and needles waiting to hear about my second presentation at FGS yesterday....... 

My plan had been to learn more from CeCe Moore and Lisa Louise Cooke. This was not a successful day. My internet connection became unstable, and after struggling with the dratted spinning thing trying to load the content, I gave up. 

Here are my takeaways for a successful virtual conference. 

  • It doesn’t work very well if you don’t have a strong internet connection. At our house, sometimes it works well, and sometimes it doesn’t. Where is the library when I need it?

  • I need frequent breaks. It was easy to quit during CeCe’s presentation because the sessions had been back to back, and I had been sitting too long. 

  • I love having a computer and a second monitor. When Ron Tanner was talking about the new features on FamilySearch, I was able to log on separately and follow the steps he was using. 

  • While I missed CeCe and Lisa Louise, I will get a chance to see them between September 15, 2020 and March 15, 2020. Great planning.

  • A registrant can choose how many On-Demand sessions to attend. I picked the lite registration, so I will have access to 10 of about 90. 

  • Most importantly, I want to learn how to manage our society to serve and build our membership. From September to March, I will have access to 16 workshops on building membership, marketing, website and more.

  • The handouts from this conference are outstanding. They list what will be covered, expand on those items somewhat and include resources and references.

  • The software for the conference is very frustrating. I didn’t receive instructions on how to log in to get started. Choosing my 10 on demand sessions has been problematic. The system is very fussy and often there is no way to go back. I have to start over. Sigh. Lesson? Be persistent! You’ll learn something.

  • Has the pandemic arrived just to help us gain new skills??

  • The best part? I can do this any time of day or night in my PJs.

    Kara Rosenberg, President SMCGS

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The President's blog - NEW!

Today I attended my first virtual genealogy conference. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) , is an organization supporting member genealogy societies, disseminating genealogical knowledge and promoting ethical standards in genealogical research and practices. Following the conference, it will merge with the National Genealogical Society, so this is its last conference. I decided to attend to learn more about expanding our own society and maintaining a society that has purposes similar to those of FGS.

Following the introductions and history of FGS I attended two of the live sessions. The first was given by Judy G. Russell called Quarantined! Genealogy, The Law & Public Health. Judy submitted the proposal for this presentation about a year ago. How prescient were both she and FGS? This engaging presentation gave us knowledge about all the unusual places we can research to embellish the stories of our ancestors who were involved in epidemics. Her advice is to “Think As If There Is No Box.” Look at burial permits, death certificates, funeral home records and quarantine station records. Then look for clues in news beyond headlines such as ads and photos. She showed an early 20th century photo in which the mother had just died, and the remaining family members, including the cat, were masked. She asks us to explore what this photo means. Move on to history books of the location your ancestors are from, family papers, legal papers and even land records. She showed us how to find clues in each of these.

Does it work to attend a virtual conference? For me, it is excellent. Once I’ve mastered the online system, I can find what I need easily. I don’t spend time scurrying around to find the correct room, or to get from one presentation to another. I am also able to both see and hear the presentations. The downside? I don’t make connections with people who might help me achieve my goals or just be new friends. The lack of networking must lead me to find other means of making those connections.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about my second presentation.

Kara Rosenberg, President SMCGS

Monday, August 31, 2020

It's a great time to be a genealogist!

Your correspondent has recently heard from John Gleed who's just come back from attending a talk at the Devon Family History Society. I'm sure it was fascinating and he learned a lot. But how did he get there and back so quickly?

You may be aware that genealogical events have changed in the last few months. SMCGS is now holding everything online via Zoom. Even our classes are online - which is why we have students from around the US.

What does this mean for us? For some societies, it means there are no meetings, no classes, and no access to archives. For the rest of us, it means that we can now attend meetings in Reykjavik, Iceland, if we so choose.

Just look at the offerings from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. These are online, many are free, and anyone can register. 

Want to go further abroad?

The National Archives UK has a series of talks from authors with Q&A sessions.


Here are some examples:

Dermot Turing: The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park
9 September | 19:30 to 20:30
In discussion with our Collections Expert, Mark Dunton, Dermot Turing will discuss his latest book which examines the lives of the brilliant and eccentric individuals who cracked the seemingly unbreakable Enigma code.

Trevor Barnes: Dead Doubles
7 October | 19:30 to 20:30 
In conversation with Professor Chris Andrew (author of the official History of MI5, The Defence Realm), Trevor Barnes will discuss his new study on one of the Cold War’s most notorious spy cases – the Portland Spy Ring.

Roger Dalrymple: Crippen
23 November | 19:30 to 20:30
110 years to the day after the execution of Dr Crippen, Roger Dalrymple will talk about how the murder caused a sensation at the time that still resonates today. Roger will draw on official records to examine the case itself and the public’s fascination with the brutal crime.

Since we were talking about Devon:  

They have virtual talks on a regular basis, and you might get to ask questions.

The UK Society of Genealogists also have online talks.

A friend in Gloucestershire just mailed me some information about the History Festival, an annual event of talks and tours.  This will be the first time I'm actually able to go....and I won't need a plane ticket!

What part of the world did your ancestors come from?  Take advantage of the opportunity NOW to attend events around the world, and to interact with experts and ask questions.  

- Margaret Melaney

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Quonset Huts of San Mateo County

 The Quonset huts of San Mateo County

Part 1

 If you know where to look you can see them, hidden behind store-front façades or boldly announcing their presence to the street.

Quanset huts were manufactured starting in 1941 to provide the US Navy with lightweight prefabricated buildings.  The original buildings were 16 X 36ft., with the later models 20 X 48 ft.  After the war the surplus were sold to the public for use as storage, businesses, or even homes. (1)

The remaining huts in San Mateo County tend to be clustered in industrial areas east of Old County Road in San Carlos, and just west of Bay Road in Menlo Park. There are no doubt others you know of.


Huts can sometimes be identified by the presence of a false front facing the road and a glimpse of rusted metal behind.  Another way to spot them is on Google Maps Satellite view.  The curvature and color is a giveaway.  

Here’s an aerial shot of 2645 Fair Oaks Ave. compared to the street view.  Who would guess?




Here’s a side view of the property at 701 Hurlingame.  It’s been cleverly divided to provide an auto repair shop in the back, with a cut-out entrance for cars.  A large can opener??


Where have the Quonset huts gone and why were they put here in the first place?

Lost huts include:

Redwood Trading Post:  Redwood Trading Post began in a Quonset hut down at Five Points, near El Camino and Woodside Road, in 1952. (2)

Quonset on East Bayshore Road - Redwood City - gone

Old Cargill Site, Seaport Rd  Architectural review board says "nothing of interest here".


Were they possibly used as airplane hangers?

See Part 2 next week for the Old San Carlos Airport theory and "Sanborn Maps tell a story".

 -  Margaret Melaney

Do you know of a hut we've missed?  Email me at and I'll include it.

1.  Michael Lamm (Winter 1998), "The Instant Building"Invention & Technology, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp. 68–72.   From


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What can I do in September?


September 2020 Meeting - The Mystery Aussie - via Zoom

The Mystery Aussie
Presenter: Pam Wong
Saturday, September 26, 2020   10:30am - 12:00 pm, via Zoom
Social hour 10-10:30 am, via Zoom

This book is much more than a typical immigrant story. Admiration, anger, fear, and amazement accompany the reader through this tale of rags to riches, whites-only politics, and assassination set in Australia and China.

Pamela Wong writes about Chinese immigrant experiences against the backdrop of historical events. Passionate about preserving oral stories about experiences of the elders, a UCB alumna, Pam writes about future generations in mind to help them understand that they stand on the shoulders of their predecessors.

AND you can now register for our Fall seminar with Lisa Louise Cooke

Fall Seminar 2020:  Lisa Louise Cooke, Gems for Genealogical Research

Saturday, November 7, 2020   9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Via Zoom -- the link will be sent via email to registered participants several days before the seminar.

REGISTRATION, open August 15 - November 6.
    $50 Members, $60 Non-members.

Click on this link for registration information

The Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society presents:

April Halberstadt
The Early German Heritage of Silicon Valley

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 6:30-8:30 p.m.

A Zoom Presentation

Can't make it to the Family History Center just now??

New: Online Genealogy Consultations with Family History Library Experts  - FREE

Family History Library—A Wealth of Genealogical Information

The Family History Library is the world’s largest repository of genealogical records, and it is staffed with experts in area-specific genealogical research. The library is extending access to that expertise and their resources so people throughout the world can succeed in their family history research regardless of their ability to travel to the library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Book your Online Consultation

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Genealogical Resources for Angel Island - CGS Online

Genealogical Resources for Angel Island


Aug 13 4 - 5 pm PDT

Presented by Grant Din

Immigrants from Eighty Countries who passed through Angel Island and the Genealogical Resources They Left Behind
While people who have heard about Angel Island might know about the Chinese poetry carved on its walls, what is less known is that over half a million immigrants from eighty countries were processed by officials on the island, and genealogical resources are still available to researchers. Learn from examples of case studies of Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Russian, and South Asian immigrants, as well as the island's use to house "enemy aliens" from Hawaii and the West Coast during World War II, and find out about the National Archives and other resources that might be available for your own research.
Topics that will be covered:
  • History of the immigration station and why it was built.
  • Examples of stories of Angel Island immigrants from several different countries.
  • Resources for Angel Island and West Coast immigrant research, including online and at the National Archives in San Bruno.
The event will take place via Zoom. If you join, please sign in early to make sure you are able to see the program.  We will send you instructions the night before, and a reminder shortly before the event, which will give you access. Please note all times are Pacific Daylight Time
You do not have to have a Zoom account to attend a Zoom meeting. You will be prompted to download the software, once you have clicked on the link that you have been provided. You may also wish to create an account, but that is not required to participate in a Zoom meeting.
If you have any problems ahead of time or when you're logging on, send email to

CGS Members and Non-Members enjoy free access.
You can purchase a $45 one-year CGS Basic membership when you check out. To sign up for other membership options go to our web page: CGS Membership application

Check out the rest of the CGS offerings at:

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Children Left Behind In World War II
Born Ute Schaab in Friedberg, Germany, shortly after World War II, Judy was the daughter of a white German woman and a black American soldier, whose mixed race led to her becoming one of many unwanted “Brown Babies” abandoned by their mother. Her powerful and riveting memoir describes the transformation she experienced in her quest to find both birth parents. From childhood in Germany shortly after the war to adulthood in America, her published work Too Brown to Keep: A Search for Love, Forgiveness, and Healing recounts the inspirational odyssey, as the search for her birth parents leads to discovery of the good, the bad, and the ugly family secrets that she had struggled to unearth for decades. Her journey of self-discovery results in a thought-provoking chapter on forgiveness and healing and concludes with a guide to researching your own ancestry or finding a family member or friend who has been missing from your life. 
To join our meeting at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, July 21st:
  • The meeting will be conducted via Zoom Meeting.
  • A link to the meeting will be sent to all members via email.
  • Simply click the link to join the meeting. It may ask for your name. On a phone you may have to install the Zoom app.
  • To request the link, please email President

Monday, July 13, 2020

Another quiz from the Virtual Genealogist

There IS an answer to this puzzle.  Can you figure it out?  There's one fact here which doesn't seem to fit. Take a look at that.  You will need to go onto Ancestry to do a bit of research.  Just one record and you'll have it.

John Mathias and his two sons were a prosperous, well-educated family. They were all born in Glamorgan and lived in Cumberland, UK.  None of them ever lived in Devon.  We don’t know too much about Henry, but here’s some information on William.  
Can you tell us where Mrs. Dorsey’s mother keeps her pub?

Send answers to  
The winner will have their answer posted on the smcgs blog

Monday, July 6, 2020

Online SMCGS book stall!

We've had some books donated to SMCGS.  Some will go to our library.  The rest are available for a small donation to the society.  Think of it as a seminar bookstall online.  If you've interested in any of them, please contact  Available for pickup in Menlo Park.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Review of Gena Philibert-Ortega's talk

SMCGS had it's first Zoom meeting on May 30th, with Gena Philibert-Ortega as our featured speaker.
All went well, we had plenty of room for everyone, and our host kept the connection up and running.  
Gena spoke on 10 Reasons Why You Can’t Find Your Ancestor.  Among these was "You Haven’t Considered History, Time, and Place".  How often do we forget to do that when making our lists?  Not only does it affect what records we can find, but history helps us understand why and what kinds of decisions they made.  Have ancestors in Mayo, Ireland in 1850?  Why might they have left?  Think all the records have been burnt/destroyed/pulped?  Where might they be stored?

Gena provided a handout with lots of useful links.  That, as well as a copy of the video, is available on the smcgs website on the members' page under handouts/recordings.  The video's only up until July 15th, so if you missed her talk check it out soon.

- Maggie

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Travel to England for only £5.50 and never leave home!

Pack your bags - then unpack them and sign up online.
Here's your chance to talk to the experts at the Family History Show in the UK.  I look forward to visiting the various societies as well as viewing the talks.  

Online  Sat 20th June 2020, 10:00-16:30

The Family History Show has announced that it will be coming to you as an online event on the 20th of June featuring a wide range of virtual stalls from family history societies to archives and genealogical suppliers.

Early Bird Ticket Offer

Buy your tickets in advance and save - Only £5.50 when you pre-book your tickets today! You will also get a FREE virtual goody bag on entry worth over £8!
All lectures and live streams will be available for 24 hours, plus you can submit your questions to our experts in advance!
Some examples of talks.
  • Breaking Down Brick Walls in Your Family History Research
  • The Genetic Genealogy Revolution: how DNA testing is transforming family history research
  • Tracing Your House History
The Family History Show – Online will, mirroring the format of the very successful live shows, feature an online lecture theatre, the popular ‘Ask the expert’ area – where you can put questions forward to their specialists – as well as a whole host of stalls where you can ask for advice as well as buy genealogical products.

Some exhibitors from last year.  Check current listings for this year.

For more information and to sign up, click here:

Thanks to Dick Eastman for the heads up on this!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? An labhraíonn tú gaelic?

...or are you just looking for a nice genealogy group to join over the summer?
SMCGS is running three special interests groups via Zoom this summer.  It's easy, it's fun, and all you  need is a computer with sound (video is nice too).  And it's FREE to members of SMCGS!
Here's what's happening in the groups:

The German Interest Group (GIG) held its first meeting via Zoom on Thursday, May 14.  Approximately 7 members participated and shared recent discoveries in their German research. The consensus of the group was that the online format worked well and was more convenient for members with long commutes to the Family History Center in Menlo Park.
The next Zoom meeting will be on Thursday, June 11. SMCGS members who would like to join the GIG should contact

- Gayle Likens

The British Irish Group (BIG) has had a couple of meetings.  As people are joining us we introduce ourselves and our interests.  Some of our areas of interest are: Cork, Yorkshire x3, Wales, Co. Cavan,  Co. Laois,  Malahide, Co. Mayo, Lancashire x2, Gloucestershire, Limerick x3, Somerset, Lanarkshire, Cheshire, Devon, Wiltshire and "somewhere in Ireland" (very popular).  John Gleed has joined us again from the wilds of Michigan, and has a wealth of knowledge on British research.  
- Margaret Melaney

Here's the schedule and contacts:
Please see for any updates or changes.  

Someone needs to update the SIG listings on our webpage. -M.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Ambrosius' parents: The answer

From Mike Davis:
The listing in question is Ambrosius Jane Male F Nothous.  There are several other listings on this page and nearby pages that end in F NothusFilius Nothus, or Filia Nothus, with Nothus sometimes spelled Nothous.  In all these listings, the name in the second position (normally the position of the father’s name) is a woman’s name, for example, Marie and Jane.
The given names are often written in their Latin forms, for example, Henricus, Ambrosius, and Johannes.  This gives a clue that some of the other notations may also be in Latin.  Indeed, Google Translate shows that nothus in Latin means “bastard”, filius nothus means “illegitimate son”, and filia nothus means “illegitimate daughter.”
So, the correct interpretation of the listing is that Ambrosius is the illegitimate son of Jane Male and an unspecified father, and therefore Ambrosius’s last name is Male.  This interpretation is confirmed on FindMyPast, which has a record for Ambrosius Male, born in Somerset on 15 November 1741, whose mother’s name is Jane Male and whose father’s name is not specified.

t took me a while to figure it out.  It was strange that so many last names seemed to be a variation of F Nothus.  And I couldn't understand why FindMyPast didn't have a record for Ambrosius Nothous.  Once I decided that F Nothus was Latin, everything fell into place.  I eventually searched FindMyPast for anyone named Ambrosius who was baptised in 1471, and he came up with a last name of Male.
Now we know why Nothus is such a common surname!!

And something we didn't see, from Adrienne Smith
Mother: Jana Male (guessing that the name is Jana and not Jane because the “e” in Male looks quite different.
Yes, it does, Adrienne.  Good pickup!

We wondered how you could find this listing in the first place, since it's mis-transcribed.

Here's a trick:  Search with the child's first name, date of birth, and location.  NO surname.  It should pop up.

The original question:
What's wrong with this transcription on

Here's the original document:  

Source: Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Somerset Parish Records, 1538-1914; Reference Number: D\P\pet.s/2/1/3;, Viewed: 2 May 2020.

We know from reading parish records that the format usually is:

Child's first name, father's first name, mother's first name, and surname.  For example, the last entry here is Gulielmus Johannis & Maria Comins. (Child, father, and mother).

The transcriber has attempted to follow this convention, leading to:

Child: Ambrosias
Father: Jane Nothus
Mother:  Male F Nothus
Surname: Nothus

There seem to be several Nothus families in this parish.  (!)

Ancestry shows 302 entries with this as a surname.  Many of them are in Germany and Finland.  But the odd thing is, frequently the parents have a different surname. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A quiz from the Virtual Genealogist.

What's wrong with this transcription on

Here's the original document:  

Source: Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Somerset Parish Records, 1538-1914; Reference Number: D\P\pet.s/2/1/3;, Viewed: 2 May 2020.

We know from reading parish records that the format usually is:

Child's first name, father's first name, mother's first name, and surname.  For example, the last entry here is Gulielmus Johannis & Maria Comins. (Child, father, and mother).

The transcriber has attempted to follow this convention, leading to:

Child: Ambrosias
Father: Jane Nothus
Mother:  Male F Nothus
Surname: Nothus

There seem to be several Nothus families in this parish.  (!)

Ancestry shows 302 entries with this as a surname.  Many of them are in Germany and Finland.  But the odd thing is, frequently the parents have a different surname. 

Can someone please tell us who Ambrosius' parents are?

Send your answers to the VG at