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

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 fa├žades 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: