Indexing Champions Expand our California Surname Index (9/10/2021)

Are you searching for publications that may have your ancestors’ surnames and information about the family?  Well, the CGS California Surname Index may help in your search. Even if you’ve used the Index in the past, we greatly expanded this database in the past year, thanks to our generous volunteers. During the Covid closures, our current group of volunteers more than doubled the number of entries in the database – we’ve added so many new entries that printing out the list would require about 2,000 pages! That’s a lot of Californians. So give it a try and see what you find.

How Do I Search the Index?

The Surname Index search box can be accessed on our website from the pulldown menu on Research. Look for Names Search (Look Ups), read the introductory information and scroll down till you find the SEARCH box. Enter a name and see what pops up.If you find someone you are looking for you then send a request to our Research Committee and they will find, print and mail the information to you for a modest fee.

I did this last night hoping to discover something new I could impress you with but unfortunately the only entry for Pattillo is a probate record for my grandfather’s brother which includes the records from the time Elmer was a guest at San Quentin State Prison. Nothing on my other family names but I’ll keep trying because this is an ongoing project.

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There’s Great-Uncle Elmer in the Surnames Index

What’s in the Index?

The index is a database of biographical information on California residents – both natives and those who migrated to California from other states – found in 83 books in our library.   The database generally includes first and last names with birth date and place – enough for a researcher to identify specific ancestors. The index provides the name and call number of the book and page number where the entry appears.

Many of these books include high-quality photographs. Some entries provide basic facts only while others offer pages of narrative on their lives. Currently we are focusing mostly on city and county histories where we hope to add names of persons who may not have been included in state level references. The team has also indexed several specialty categories like:

  •  Artists in California 1786-1940 Vol.1 and 2, 
  • Shadowcatchers: A Directory of Women in California Photography Vol. 1 and 2, 
  • Eccentrics, Heroes, and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley,
  • History of the Bench and Bar of California.

Who Created the Index?

The California Surname Index was started by CGS member Barbara Close and published in 2000. Barbara identified 46 books that included biographical information on California residents, which could be searched online via our website.  

When COVID-19 forced the closure of our library, members of the Website Content Committee kicked into gear and identified several indexing projects that our fabulous volunteers could do at home while waiting for the library to re-open. Most of these volunteers appreciated having something to do to fill the excess leisure time. Who would have guessed that a year and half later those same volunteers would still be going strong on indexing for CGS?

Several CGS members have contributed to this effort including Jean Alderson, Liz Summerhayes, Kristi Wessenberg, Cindy Thomas, Barbara Kridl, Janet Anderson, Evan Wilson and Laura Jones. This team has added 37 more books to the tally and they are still going strong. 

Books For Sale: Bargains & Treasures (9/9/2021)

One of several books for sale in the CGS Library

Have you ever wondered what happens to books donated to CGS? We welcome donations, which can enhance our collections or be sold to raise money for the society. A few months ago we received book donations from the estates of two members. The family of John Moore shipped us two boxes of books and I collected sixteen boxes of books left to the society by past librarian Laura Spurrier. John’s books were mostly about New England, while Laura’s collection included several books on Quakers, some New England books, and several classic source and reference books. All are in excellent condition.

Members of the Library Committee have been processing the books ever since and are nearly finished. About half of what was donated has been added to our shelves. Each book is cataloged, listed on WorldCat, given a label and added to the database of what we own. Most of the remaining half have been listed on eBay for sale. A few books have been sitting in the library on the “for sale” shelf where members can peruse and purchase selections at whatever they consider a fair price.

Unfortunately, due to COVID and the library closure, few of our books on the sale shelf have found new homes, despite there being some real treasures. One good example is Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry. If you don’t already own a copy of this very helpful book, it can be yours. For a reasonable offer, our Library Committee volunteers will ship the book to you, or, since the library is now open by appointment, you can come into the library to pick it up and do some research while you’re there. 

Sperry’s book provides techniques to teach you how to decipher early American documents. The book provides examples of handwriting styles, letter forms, commonly used abbreviations, and tips about terminology typically used during different periods.

Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archive

Guide to Genealogical Research In the National Archives is another very useful reference book published by the National Archives Trust Fund Board. 

A similar prize is Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, first edition, by Timothy Salls. This is a massive book originally published in 2002 that will undoubtedly be useful to anyone with New England ancestors.

Timothy Salls’ guide to NEHGS collections

Are you curious about what it takes to become a certified genealogist? If so, you might want to grab our copy of The BCC Genealogical Standards Manual by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, Millennium Edition. A quote on the back cover says, “We often start out as hobbyists, learning as we go. As our interest swells we attend lectures, buy books, and perhaps even consider turning professional. But do we understand the many changes in the field? What are the present-day standards? This manual will remove the guesswork!” Originally priced at $19.95, it can be yours for a bargain.

After finishing the Standards Manual you’ll be ready for Becoming an Accredited Genealogist Plus 100 Tips to Ensure your success, revised edition, by Karen Clifford, AG.

I will blog about some of the other books that are for sale in the library but if you just can’t wait, go ahead and plan a trip to the library and see for yourself what is available.

Becoming an Accredited Genealogist

Gearing up for the NGS 2022 conference! (9/1/2021)

Our American Mosaic Banner

by Chris Pattillo

The NGS 2022 Volunteer Committee chairs – Chris Pattillo and Maureen Hanlon – met outdoors with the Local Host Committee Chair, Jane Lindsey, this week. The conference is still eight months away but we are gearing up and there is lots to do.

Anyone can volunteer to help even if you don’t plan to register for the conference; while volunteering does not include free access to official conference events, it does entitle you to visit the exhibit hall, attend the planned evening social events, go on one of the four tours, or meet with friends for lunch! The conference takes place on May 25-28 in Sacramento, so Save The Date and plan to help us make this one of the best NGS conferences ever.

We will send out a Volunteer Sign Up Form in January or February. Till then watch this blog for periodic updates on the conference planning efforts.

Questions? Email [email protected].

For conference links and more details, see our website: