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

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

SMCGS Remote Workday


Do you have criminal tendencies?  Want to get your hands on the County jail records?  

We've had several requests lately for jail records, so Cath Trindle has "liberated" the books from Cañada library and brought them home to photograph the pages.  

She would like some help with photographing the pages and could deliver books for you to work on at home.  The books are about 250 to 360 pages, so volunteers could do part and then pass it on.  

Cath tells me she did one book in 2 hours.  

That's if you don't stop to read the entries.  

If you're interested in helping out, please contact Cath at


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Seattle Genealogical Society Spring Seminar 2021

We're not having a Spring Seminar, but that doesn't mean you can't go to a Spring Seminar.  This will be of particular interest to those of us doing English research.

If you're seeking ancestors in England and throughout the United Kingdom, this event is aimed at bolstering your knowledge of how and where to research across the pond. Join us for A Day of English Research with Paul Milner.

Date And Time
Sat, May 15, 2021
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM PDT

For more information, see

Saturday, April 10, 2021

History of the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley


I can't attach the link here, or any of their text.  Their website is WAY over formatted.  Go here for the link:

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Our webpage has a new look!

We're redoing our webpage!  Here's a preview of the front page.  Some of the new features will be a member's profile with optional inclusion of interest and contact information.  You'll also be able to check your membership status and see any events you're signed up to attend.
Our webmaster, Mike Davis, is looking for people who could help with setting up the pages, transferring data, and keeping content current.  He tells me you don't need to be a tech wiz, but should know how to type.
If you're interested, please contact him at Webmaster



Sunday, March 7, 2021

We go to Conferences!


Plus a special track:

Jamboree's 51st Virtual Conference is excited to offer a full conference track tailored for researching the British Isles and Ireland Genealogy. 


      Welcome to the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC)! We’re excited to announce that our first-ever virtual conference will take place from 1 April through 31 May 2021! The genealogical societies listed here have come together to make this conference a reality.

Our traditional conference is a three-day event. Our virtual event will have three Gathering Days with scheduled presentations and a live chat with our featured speakers. On these three days we will encourage social interaction between all attendees.

SIG’s, Ancestor Road Show, Society Fair, and Library & Archive are all traditional activities that will be carried into our Virtual Environment for 2021.

And the NGS of course!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Were you at Rootstech?

Rootstech was a bit different this year.  I missed the vast exhibition hall and vendor talks.  I didn't miss the rushing from room to room, and not seeing everything I had hoped to.

As you imagine, it was all virtual, which had many advantages, not the least of which is that most of the talks are still online!

There were some live talks, and many live Zoom rooms, where you could ask questions of the moderator and other attendees.  Unfortunately, many of these were hidden in the calendar (off in the "more" section in the upper R corner of the main page), or buried several layers under the vendors, as were the Family Search help rooms.  And unlike previous years, the talks were not listed by topic (country, methodology, etc) or by skill level, so were a bit hard to find.  I did appreciate being able to generate a Playlist, which is still available when you sign in.  Six hundred and sixty five sessions!

Here are some of the comments and favorite talks.  Go take a look at

From Nancy Martin: I have always wondered about the Homestead Act and if my Great Grandfather was involved. The following presentation answered all my questions.  The video was done by Park Recreation Rangers and was very informative.  

Immigration and the Homestead Act: Finding Your Ancestors

I also thought the following session was informative as a new way to view the research process:

The Genealogy research process: The WANDER Method by Amy Johnson Crow

John Gleed mentioned - Finding Elusive Records in FamilySearch by Robert Kehrer

Working with unindexed record sets.  Very informative!!   It is an hour in length, so be prepared.

It has been an overwhelming, but interesting and informative experience to attend RootsTech.

From Linda Longley: Diahan Southard provides three outstanding presentations. Her graphics are clear and her explanations refreshing. They are: “DNA questions answered”;  “4 next steps for your DNA”; “Using the Shared Centimorgan Project.”

Shannon Combs-Bennett presents “DNA Basics Made Easy,” covers all three of the DNA tests available to us: Y-DNA, mitochondrial, and Autosomal, and the benefits of each.

Leah Larkin, “When Your Tree is a Banyan”  Excellent presentation for those with endogamy in your family: Early Colonial, Jewish, small communities in, say, Ireland, as examples. Leah gives us a clear understanding of what it is and what you can, or can’t, do about it. She explains why the Leeds Method may not work for those with endogamous family lines. Leah’s presentation was clearly one of my favorites. She writes The DNA Geek blog. 

Roberta Estes presents “DNA Triangulation: What, Why and How.” She presents an extensive overview of Triangulation. She covers the what, why, and how for the more advanced genetic genealogist. Roberta Estes also constructed a list of all the RootsTech DNA classes with links.

Kimberly Brown presents “Why Don’t I Match My Match’s Matches.” Kimberly breaks down the process of triangulation making it easy to understand.

Beth Taylor presents “Using DNA to Find Unknown Relatives.” She focuses on finding unknown parents, and her technique seems geared to finding missing adoptive parents, but her method can also be applied to finding unknown relatives. Her streamlined DNA search method is one I plan to adapt to the search for my unknown great grandfather.

Amy Williams in her presentation “Introduction to Ancestor DNA Reconstruction,” takes a more academic approach to DNA research, which she defines as “Determining as much of the DNA (i.e., raw data) of an ancestor as possible from descendants’ DNA.” A very interesting video. 

Olivia Fordiani presents “Understanding Basic Genetic Genealogy and My DNA Results.” She is a senior at BYU, studying genetic genealogy. She gives a good presentation on understand the basics. I recommend it to those who want a refresher class on DNA fundamentals, including recombination. She’s very good.

Diana Elder, of, presents “Using DNA in a Client Research Project to Solve a Family Mystery. She presents a method of researching and documentation that the NEHGS would be proud of. Very thorough, combining carefully documented DNA and Genealogical data. 

From John Gleed: Roots Tech Reflections
Thursday- overwhelmed by huge number of presentations, heard ten of them and then switched to "England" and concentrated there.
On Thursday, good talk by Robert Kehrer on Family Search. He started from the fact that 70% of "Image Databases " on Family Search are NOT Indexed, then proceeded to the method for looking for other entry approaches using "Waypoints". Well worth studying.
Also Thursday: "Elusive Distant African Cousins" by Jerome V. Spears. At first, I was put off by his delivery which is as fast as Steve Morse. Then became more and more impressed. He tested himself and four siblings using Ancestry DNA and the other testing companies. Analyzed everything from their results. In great detail which he explained very well. Contacted female who were 5th to 8th cousins. Found a Nigerian woman who matched his sister on the 16th chromosome. Eventually pinpointed the sub-tribe of origin.
More Thursday: Hawaii State Archives by Adam Jensen. Oral Genealogies may include acquaintances of my family. Possibility also to find them in Maui Tax Records.

Friday and Saturday continuing on English Research. There were 27 presentations of which 7 were basic beginner talks. Tackling all the others which ranged from 3-20 minutes. Caroline Gurney is a superior speaker, perfect diction and pacing. She covered English Church Records and Probate Records before 1858. She spent time on Dr. Williams Library of Non-Conformist Baptisms. Fifty Thousands records dating back to 1742. Excellent display of probate courts hierarchy with special emphasis on the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Sole probate during Cromwell 1640-1660 and 40% of ALL probates leading up to 1858.
Five Talks by Else Churchill, principal genealogist of the Society of Genealogists in London. Parish Registers and Parish Chest Records. Freemen of a Borough getting the right to vote. Settlement Act of 1662 determining each persons right to parish assistance. Trinity House records for Merchant Seamen.
Church Courts- Sin, Sex and Probate. Forms of 17th century Taxation. Compton Census of 1676 measuring the growth of Non-Conformity. School Records. 
Finally, as approach to breaking down brick walls. Else is very positive about "The Genealogist" web-site. Check it out.
The 1939 Register by Linda Hammond. Reasoning behind taking the Register. Updated as events occurred into the 1970s. Explanation of abbreviations. Using Area Codes to locate places of Marriage.
There are also 4 talks on Ireland 3 on Scotland and one on Welsh surnames.    

From Andrea Lajoie:  Talks I’ve liked:
Tracing the Poor and Destitute Irish (3 sessions) [very, very good]
Navigating Patronymics in Scandinavian Research (3)
An Introduction to Scandinavian Church Records (3)
Getting Started with 19th Century British Research (3)
Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors by Myko Clelland (3) But NO handout unfortunately
The Riches of the Scottish Kirk Session Records
The Stones Speak (3) 1. Gravestones. 2. Researching the Associated Records of the Burial 3. Online resources
The First Settlers of the Island of Orleans (in Quebec)
Using Find My Past to unlock your Irish Family History

From Kara Rosenberg: Did anybody look at Goldie May in the Expo Hall? I’m finding it intriguing. It helps you organize your research and does a lot of automatic entry that you can then put in a cvs file if you are concerned about keeping it. I use evernote now, but it doesn’t automatically tell me what I have looked at.

From Evie Rice:
These are my favorites so far, although I’m sure I’ll find more.  - Evie

The Hidden Secrets of the 1939 England and Wales National Register - Linda Hammond
How to Map Creeks, Roads, and more with Google MyMaps - Nicole Dyer
Google Tools for Genealogy - Thomas MacEntee
The Alps in Digital:  Swiss Records Online: Daniel R Jones 
Swiss Court Records - Daniel R Jones
Insights in Archives and Computer-Assisted Indexing - Ian James & Ty Davies
Free Research Help from The Family History Library:  Research Strategy Sessions - Kori Robbins (short)

Maggie's favorites: 
  1. Locality research.
  2. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
  3. Maggie's family, probably:
And a hint from Evie Rice:  The playback speeds can be adjusted in the settings menu in the lower R corner.

- Margaret Melaney

Sunday, February 21, 2021

What can I do in March?

🍀  It's March, and that means St. Patrick's Day and the wearin' o the green.  Everyone becomes Irish on March 17th, and to get you in spirit, here's some music for you:   Traditional Irish Music - Brogan's Bar - Ennis, Ireland

March 27 is our program on Angel Island with Grant Din.  
You remember his talk and the field trip he led for us a few years ago. Bet he remembers us!

Angel Island     Presenter: Grant Din
Saturday, March 27, 2021   10:30am - 12:00 pm
Social hour 10-10:30 am                                                   
More information is on our website at

Have you been doing genealogy for forty years?  Perhaps you'd like a refresher course to learn what's new (the internet!) or to compare notes with other researchers.  Palo Alto Adult School intermediate genealogy class will be registering in March.  For more information, see

Other classes are listed on the SMCGS website at

Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society has some great speakers coming up.  Our friends Susan Goss Johnston, Gena Philibert-Ortega, and Thomas MacEntee will all be there. 
Check out the lineup at

And if you can't go to the Family History Library, they will come to you.  Here's a basic overview of Irish research.  I'll bet he has some good tips!
It's time to (finally) learn how to use Reunion!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

A Potpourri of Local Events

Winter has finally arrived here in San Mateo, so you are probably looking for some indoor activities.  Here's a selection from our correspondents

25–27 FEBRUARY, 2021
Introducing RootsTech Connect: A Free Online Conference Experience
RootsTech Connect 2021 will offer a combination of both livestream and on-demand content to accommodate differences in time zones for participants. In addition, sessions will be available to view on-demand after the event concludes.

19th Century Irish Records Series
 March 2.  Presented by the California Genealogical Society  These five individual sessions will cover Irish research, focusing on records for Irish ancestors who were born in the 19th century and were part of the great migration in its latter half. Each talk will cover where to find particular archives and databases, how to search them, what land designations need to be known and examples of what can be gleaned. The classes will be most useful for those who know at least the Irish county of origin.
Topics in order are: Irish Records in the United States, Irish Censuses, Irish Civil Registration, Griffith's Valuation, and Irish Roman Catholic Church registers. Non-member admission fee is $30.00* per session

African Americans of San Francisco
WhenSat, February 20, 11am – 12pm
Jan Batiste Adkins will discuss her research documenting African Americans in the Bay Area with a focus on her work done for the Arcadia Publishing title African Americans of San Francisco.

Please join the SMCCCD Alumni Book Club for our first meeting Wednesday, February 24, 5 to 6 p.m. We’re kicking things off by reading Three Hours in Paris by Cañada College alumna and best-selling author of the Aimee LeDuc series, Cara Black.

The SMCCCD Alumni Association, campus bookstores, and college libraries invite all interested readers to join us for a discussion. Register here for the zoom link: . 

Go line dancing! All on Zoom!
Country Quicksteppers holds regular dances on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th  Saturdays of every month. All dancers are invited to join our country western "family."

DNA: Finding My Grandfather

Presenter: David Brunzel
Saturday, February 20, 2021   10:30am - 12:00 pm, via Zoom
Social hour 10-10:30 am, via Zoom

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Do you have New England ancestors?

Our three SMCGS special interest groups  (German, British/Irish, and DNA) have been meeting successfully for several years now.  Are you feeling left out?  Several folks have suggested we start a new group for New England research.  If this is your area, and you would be interested in participating, please contact me  If there's enough interest we'll look into forming another group.

Meeting place? Your home! We're all on Zoom right now, so this is a great opportunity to connect with other researchers without worrying about parking or travel.  Or perhaps there's another group you'd like. Please send me your suggestions. 


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Virtual Research Strategy Sessions!

Can't wait to get back to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City?  Now the Family History Library will come to you!
The FHL volunteers are still on duty and ready to answer your questions.

Genealogical research strategy sessions are free, virtual meetings designed to provide you with research guidance, methodology, and next steps.
These are bookable sessions of 20 or 40 minutes with an expert in a variety of regions and topics.  Take a look at some of the choices:


For information and to sign up, go to

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

January is (apparently) Orphan Month in the Bay Area

I got a note this week from the genealogy librarian at Sutro, Dvorah Lewis. She noticed that there is "a bit of a theme this month" about orphans, with the SMCGS talk, her talk at Sutro, and Judy Russell's talk on "widows and orphans" for the Sonoma County Genealogical Society.

Must be the cold weather which makes us think about orphans:

Saturday, January 16th Sonoma County Genealogical Society. Judy Russell on "Dowered or Bound Out: Records of Widows and Orphans" Do you know who was considered an orphan in early years? You'd be surprised. Register at

Thursday, January 21st at 3PM "Finding your Orphan Ancestors" with the Sutro Genealogy Librarian Dvorah Lewis where she will talk about her own journey and provide tips for researching orphan ancestors. Sponsored by the Sonoma County Library.
See all the Sutro Library listings at:

AND see a link to Dvorah's own case study on the Sutro site at

Saturday, January 23 10:30 San Mateo County Genealogical Society
Children Left Behind    Presenter: Judy Fambrough Billingsley
Judy was born in Friedberg, Germany, shortly after WWII and 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 book 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.

Check out the Bay Area Genealogy Calendar for more events at Sutro and beyond.