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

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

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Are you keeping a pandemic journal?

The SMCGS newsletter recently carried some articles on the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak:  memories and journals of people who survived the pandemic.  What was it like and how did they cope?  Now people are being encouraged to do the same in 2020 - to leave a record of this extraordinary time that we are now living through.  What do you want to pass on for history?  Here are some suggestions from our class project:

My Life on Lockdown 

How has your routine changed from previously?

Who do you now see on a daily basis?

How do you communicate with friends and family?  Examples?

What do you miss doing the most?

What’s it like in your neighborhood?  What are people doing to help?

Any particular acts of kindness? 

How do you get your food these days?

If you go out, where do you go?

What do you do for exercise?

What new activities have you started at home?

Did you make a mask?  What’s it like?  Include a photo.  

Do you ever get depressed?  About anything in particular?

What are kids in your neighborhood/your grandchildren doing for fun?

How is home schooling going for them?

How’s it going for you?

What about your garden?  Are you growing your food?

What stores do you miss going to?

When this is over, the first thing you’re going to do is….

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Genealogy during lockdown

Genealogy During Lockdown

Every time I look at a genealogy website these days I see lists of events which are cancelled or postponed.  Some societies have adjusted to this by offering webinars or remote sessions via Zoom.  We are left wondering if we will ever meet in groups, or go to our local Family History Center again. Or is this the end of genealogy as we have known it?
Yes, I think in some ways we are looking at permanent changes to the way we work.  AND IT'S NOT ALL BAD!

Take classes for example.  In the before-Covid days (let's call it BC) attendance could be sporadic, and I'm sure some folks just came for the entertainment value and the cookies.  Now during the pandemic (AD) we have more students attending and they're more involved than ever before.  One benefit is that former students from around the country are able to join us again via video conferencing and share their vast store of knowledge.  Another is that the platform we use allows screen sharing, so that we can look at family trees, sources, web sites and documents and critique them in real time.  And no commute woes or parking problems!

But classes aside, what adjustments have been made in the genealogical community?
I'm pleased to see that some sites have stepped up to the challenge.  Many libraries are offering the library version of Ancestry for free to cardholders.  The National Genealogical Society is offering free access to their newsletter archives. The National Archives in the UK has free downloads of their digitized records for the duration of their closure. Registered users will be able to order and download up to ten items at a time, to a maximum of 50 items over 30 days.  This has already saved me a trip to Kew or shelling out big bucks.  And it has encouraged me to take another look at their files.
Many of our state and local societies are offering free webinars or individual consultations.  The advantage of these platforms is that you can record the event, and submit questions to the presenter during the event.
On the flip side, the restricted documents on Family Search are now not only restricted but inaccessible.  Unless you have special access, you can't view the records and you can't go to a family history center to see them there.  Perhaps it's time to review the copyright limits on access before these records become essentially non-existent to genealogists.

One big change I've seen AD is less reliance on the same old ways of doing things, and more use of creative ways of looking at genealogy.  With time on our hands, we've been able to contact relatives and DNA matches.  Librarians I've emailed seem to be delighted to hear from someone with a real research question for them.  We look at the importance of passing our legacy down to our family.  Some folks have started journaling their experiences during lockdown, and remembering tales of the 1918 flu that was passed down to them.  This is a legacy we need to pass on to the next generation.

In our class, we've been using Thomas McEntee's Do Over Workbook to take a fresh look at our research.  The Toolbox is especially relevant now as we assemble our sources, some of which would be out of reach if we looked for them today.  Just as we stockpile our cans of beans and rolls of TP, we are stockpiling our genealogical notes and put them within reach.  And we are re-discovering hidden treasures! 

Has genealogy changed in some permanent way?  I believe it has.  I’m looking at RootsTech and other large conferences and wondering if we will ever be able to come together the same way.  Perhaps technology will find some new and creative ways for us to meet.  Or we may increase the dissemination of genealogy just by allowing (requiring) global access to previously location-based events and sources.

Eventually, with luck, we will be able to return to the stacks at the Family History Library.  But perhaps we will look back a little fondly at the time when we made new connections and discovered a whole new way of doing genealogy.

- Margaret Melaney

Monday, May 4, 2020

Free Access to NGS Monthly Archives Through 31 JULY 2020

National Genealogical Society
Providing Free Access to
NGS Monthly Archives Through 31July

Dear Friends of NGS:

During this time when so many Americans must stay at home, the National Genealogical Society (NGS) is offering non-members free access to five years of NGS Monthly. Starting immediately through 31 July 2020, everyone interested in family history can read insightful articles in our digital publication archive.

Edited and authored by Aaron Goodwin, an award-winning genealogist, NGS Monthly’s articles help researchers of all levels. The articles offer family historians invaluable insights on methodology and digestible recommendations on genealogical research by considering the techniques of skilled researchers and scholars, and how they solved difficult research problems. Topics often examine valuable lessons in case studies published in the scholarly NGS Quarterly to help readers understand how to apply new concepts to their own work.

The October 2019 issue’s “Land Evidences and Geographic Clues: Mapping As a Research Tool,” was especially popular among members. Goodwin examined an NGS Quarterly article by Rachal Mills Lennon[1]. Lennon’s article showcased how she used mapping activities and associations of eighteenth-century Solomon Harper, whose name appeared in multiple locations in South Carolina, to determine if he was one and the same man.

These articles from Goodwin and many more, as well as dozens from former editors Laura DeGrazia and Melissa Johnson in the NGS Monthly archives, can provide genealogists and family historians hours of fascinating reading and will help them advance their skills as they continue to build their family tree. This free opportunity is available now until 31 July 2020.

You can also access the NGS Monthly archives by going to: > Learning Center > NGS Monthly >Archives.

We wish you all the best during these challenging times.

Stay well!

The National Genealogical Society

[1] Rachal Mills Lennon, “Southern Strategies: Merging Identities by Mapping Activities and Linking Participants—Solomon Harper of South Carolina’s Lowcountry,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 107 (September 2019): 165–184; PDF, NGSQ Archives ( : 14 October 2019).
Thanks to Barry Hinman for passing this on to us.

Friday, April 17, 2020

We're BACK!

...and LIVE on your computer screen via Zoom.

SMCGS will be continuing our Special Interest Groups on Zoom in the comfort of your own home.
We know many of you have home schooling or work from home, so times will be determined from your input.  Here's what's on offer:


Please let us know which group you would like to join, and what are the best days and times for you.
This is your opportunity to ask questions and share tips.  Come be a part of our continuing SMCGS community!


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

We love you, Steve Morse©

The virtual genealogist strikes again...

A friend asked me to find out about her family who immigrated from Mexico to the US in the 1920s.  It required a bit of history, as well as some plain old genealogy.

My correspondent’s mother was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, daughter of an immigrant family from Russia.  The timing was important.  After WWI a wave of Ashkenazi Jews fled Eastern Europe for Mexico, intending it to be a stopover on the way to the US.  In 1921 there were an estimated 12,000 Jews in Mexico. [i] They must have received word of a tightening US immigration policy, because in 1924 immigration to the US was to be severely restricted. [ii

So, in 1923, five of the family members crossed the border at Nogales, Arizona, a 280 km trip from from Hermosillo.  According to the manifest, they crossed on foot, headed for an address in Hartford, Connecticut.

The Union Pacific was running from a spur at Nogales through El Paso to Topeka and Kansas City to St. Louis, where they likely switched lines, continuing on to Connecticut.  It would have taken at least 3 days for this part of the trip.

But that’s not the mystery.  The questions is, why Hartford?  California looks a lot closer.

The manifest at the border showed them going to what looks like Yacob Palatine of 38 Cabot St., Hartford Conn.
Who was this?  I looked in census and street directories for Connecticut but unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone with a similar name.  This is where Steve Morse’s One Step Web Pages came in useful.

If you’ve done any genealogy, you’ve probably seen his extensive passenger lists, as well as the “one step” census finding tools.  What I wanted was a way to convert the address into an election district so that I could find out who lived at 38 Cabot St.  For this I started with the “Unified 1930 Census ED Finder”

After entering the information, the form came up with the ED of 2-69, and it had a link to take me directly to that page in the 1930 census.

I landed right on Cabot Street.  The odd numbers on Cabot St.  Page 1/53. 

Here’s how census takers work.  They visit houses by block, not street.  Usually.  To find my number I had to:
Walk down Cabot, R on Homestead, R on Sterling, R on Albany, R on Edgewood, R again on Homestead (odd numbers), and back to Cabot for the even numbers.
And there at number 38 is Jacob Palatnick, 51, a junk dealer who speaks Yiddish, his wife Bessie, and daughter Pauline.  No sign of the immigrants from Mexico, who by this time have moved on.  
I went through the same process for 1920.  I could try a search on Ancestry, but the transcription of the name has changed again, so it wouldn’t work.  Back to One-Step.

In 1920 the ED is Hartford-76.  The same people are there, plus a lodger.  

We still haven’t answered the question of why they came to this family.  A little more research shows that Bessie’s maiden name was Friedman, and there were two Friedmans who came in the group from Hermosillo.  It’s likely that there is a connection.  The assumption is that they came to join family already in the US.  So there’s more work to be done.

Stephen Morse is best known as the architect of the Intel 8086 (the granddaddy of today’s pentium processor), which sparked the PC revolution 25 years ago. He is also an amateur genealogist who has been researching his Russian-Jewish origins. He has taught at CCNY, Pratt Institute, UC Berkeley, SUNY Albany, Stanford University, and San Francisco State. He has authored numerous technical papers, written four textbooks, and holds four patents.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Spoilt for choice: Free webinars this week

Friday, April 10th 10AM PDT

This FREE online webinar is brought to you by the Doughboy Foundation, building the National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C. which will honor the 4.7 million veterans of WWI for generations to come. Learn more at: Each participant will receive a free copy of the 100-page "WWI Genealogy Research Guide", in digital form, featuring hundreds of references and live links to other resources for your research. Though these are difficult times, with literally tens of millions sheltering in place, it is also an opportunity to get to some of "those" projects you have been too busy to get around to. Here is your chance to get the tools, resources and know-how to get started. You'll receive amazing advice, tips and tricks from Debra Dudek who is expert on finding WWI family heritage. You'll not only enjoy the hour with the very energetic and dynamic Ms. Dudek, but with what you take away, you can create a project that reaches across family units, geography and generations.
To register, go to
Thursday, April 9th, 10AM California Genealogical Society

blog post imageCGS is joining the online learning community with our first class: "Blogging to share family history" with Chris Pattillo on Thursday, April 9. This presentation is free to all.
Chris, who blogs about her family at Pattillo Thornally Ancestors, will talk about using the easy platform and offer tips and tricks for tackling family stories and putting them into words. The presentation starts at 10 am. If you join, please sign in by 9:45 to make sure you are able to see the program. We will send you a link the night before the class, which will get you right into our class.

To register and for more details, go to our EventBrite listing

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society 
From Dick Eastman's blog

Series starting April 3rd.
Vivid-Pix, announced today the Vivid-Pix “Round Tuit!” (Get Around to It!) Online Education Program at that helps people during quarantine with classes priced for free or $1.99 to organize family photos and learn about their family history with the help of the world’s most respected historians, genealogists, and educators. The series is hosted by Daniel Earl and will be broadcast live each Tuesday and Friday evening, starting April 3rd, and available to view on demand at

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Help Needed To Rescue UK’s Old Rainfall Records


Help Needed To Rescue UK’s Old Rainfall Records

Are you sitting around the house, completely isolated from the outside world because of the CoronaVirus’ social isolation requirements? Are you bored? Would you like to help meteorologists, historians, and others with a crowdsourcing effort? There’s a great crowdsourcing project that needs your help.
The UK has rainfall records dating back 200 years or so, but the vast majority of these are in handwritten form and can’t easily be used to analyze past periods of flooding and drought. The Rainfall Rescue Project is seeking volunteers to transfer all the data into online spreadsheets.
You’re not required to rummage through old bound volumes; the Met Office has already scanned the necessary documents — all 65,000 sheets. You simply have to visit a website, read the scribbled rainfall amounts and enter the numbers into a series of boxes.
“If you do just a couple of minutes every now and then — that’s great,” said Prof Ed Hawkins. “If you want to spend an hour doing 30 or 40 columns – then that’ll be amazing. But any amount of time, it will all add up and be a tremendous help.”

from Eastmans Online Genealogy Newsletter

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Ancestry Library Edition available at home!

San Mateo County Libraries Website is at and ProQuest are providing public libraries with temporary remote access to Ancestry Library Edition through April 30, 2020. All you need to do is to click the link on our website and log in with your library card number and PIN.

Please note that Ancestry Library Edition has some differences from the consumer version of Ancestry. The family tree building tool, for example, is not available in Ancestry Library Edition nor are the DNA capabilities. For a full list of differences between the two products, visit this page from ProQuest.

When you get there, the trick is to click on Ancestry Library Edition (from home use)

Enter your card number and pin, and it should take you right there. Similar services are available from the Palo Alto Library System and other library websites.

Check your local library for further information.

Special thanks to Sara Hayden for following up on this with the librarian and getting an answer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Announcing The National Emergency Library

Logo Design Contributed by Yiying Lu
Announcing The National
Emergency Library
During this unprecedented time in history, access to printed books is becoming difficult or impossible. COVID-19 is forcing students, educators, and everyday readers to rely on digital books more than ever before. That’s why the Internet Archive has temporarily suspended all waitlists, allowing you to immediately check out any of the 1.4 million books currently in our lending library. Until June 30th or the end of the US national emergency (whichever comes later), every borrowable book will be immediately accessible by anyone—creating, in effect, a National Emergency Library.
As of March 19th, almost a billion students around the world have been affected by school closures, obstructing their access to educational materials. Thousands of community and academic libraries have been forced to close their physical locations as well, further complicating the lives of readers. We hope that this new policy will provide everybody with the resources to keep reading—whether you need classic literaturescience textbooksgenre fiction, or even just bedtime story material. We have also doubled the number of books you can check out at a time from 5 to 10, so borrow away!
All these materials can also be found on Open Library—our online catalogue of published books. And not only can you find books in Open Library, but you can also curate and share reading lists, browse by genre to find new discoveries, and easily share what you're reading on social media. If we don't have the book in our collection, then the Sponsor A Book feature lets you decide what we digitize next!
If you have questions about the new policy, you can browse our FAQ here. And if you want some tips and tricks for using our interface to read online, you can visit our help center!
Here at the Internet Archive, we believe that access to knowledge is a fundamental human right—and in a time of quarantines and school closures, providing that access is more important than ever. We hope that this change in our lending policy helps you find solutions during this period of uncertainty.

Thanks for being one of our patrons.

-The Internet Archive Team