Library Committee Survey Responses – Part 2: California Resources

by Chris Pattillo (6/15/2022)

Members of the Library Committee L-R Tracy Pullar, Arlene Miles, Wendy Polivka, Linda Edwards, Kristi Wessenberg, Shirley Hoye and Gibran Rath. Photo by Chris Pattillo, Chair

This is the second in a series of blog posts that responds to some of the suggestions made in response to the recently conducted Library Committee survey. We heard a lot of good ideas in response to the question “What material would you like added to the library that we don’t have?” This post will focus on the suggestions made for our California room.

Comment: Since I live in Northern California it has been years since I’ve visited the library, but I have found some “key” records from the CGS library in the past. The CGS library is a valuable and unique depository especially for my California relatives that arrived prior to 1860.

Response: Thank you for making this comment. It is always nice to get positive feedback – especially if it shows that we are serving our members’ needs. Our California collections are quite extensive and we continue to add new books all the time. In fact, we just received three bags of books donated by Gena Philbert-Ortega and almost all are for various California counties. Next time you find yourself in the Bay Area please plan to stop by and see what’s new.

Comment: I’d like more books for early California 1700s and even more material for San Francisco County.

Response: This sort of specific feedback is exactly what we’d hope to get in response to this question. It will help guide our new acquisitions. If anyone reading this has a specific title to suggest for either of these categories, please send me your suggestion at [email protected]. The library committee will also look for new sources on these topics.

Comment: I would like the focus to be on every county in the state of California. Second, on the history of California and when each county formed.

Response: If you don’t already know this, all of our California books are housed in a small room in the back corner of the library. It used to be referred to as the Dorman Room and is now the California Room. Our new map of the library, which is available on our website and in the library, shows where this room is located. Fortunately for you all the books are organized by county!

Comment: I am interested in anything in San Francisco, Alameda and Yuba counties especially before 1906.

Response: You probably know this, but just in case you don’t, Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for pre-1906 San Francisco Research was written by our own Nancy Simons Peterson. CGS published the book in 2011 and has it in our library and for sale. It is the definitive book on pre-1906 San Francisco research.

By entering the search term “Alameda” in our online WorldCat catalog you will find sources with information for pre-1906 Alameda, including probate records, death records and more. We have a total of 111 items for Alameda County including fifty-six print books and two ebooks.

There are fewer items for Yuba County–only twenty-four items including thirteen print books–so this might be a place for us to expand our offerings.

Comment: I need help tracing family in Northern California pre-statehood.

Response: Well, now you’ve given me an opening to promote our Research Committee. Providing help to members and non-members is exactly what they love to do, and they are good at it.  On the Research tab of our website you will find a page headed “Research Services” That is where you will find everything you need to order research services tailored to exactly what you define.

Comment: Since I have never been to the library, I don’t feel qualified to answer this question but, of interest to me would be San Diego County and Gold Rush-era Sacramento. Also, the kinds of promotional materials that drew people to California in the Gold Rush and in the early 1920s. Information about the roads across country that people would have taken in the 1920s–gravel? Road signs?

Response: Wow, these are fascinating topics. I hope you are planning to write a book after you find this information. We’ll add it to our collection for sure.

Our resources for San Diego County are comparatively light – only thirty-five items are listed, including twenty print books. One thing to remember about using WorldCat to see what books are available in our library is that you always have the option to also see what other libraries carry books on a topic of interest. After searching for a term, look for the option “Held By Library” to select “Libraries Worldwide.” That will bring up over 35,000 choices.

Our library has 567 items related to the Gold Rush; most are articles but we also have 109 books including The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream published in 2002; a Gold Rush Album from 1949; The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience; and The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War.

I forwarded your question to Linda Darby, Chair of our Manuscripts Committee. Here is her response:

I’m not aware of any gold rush material in the Manuscripts Collection. There is some in the Vertical Files. [Both indexes can be downloaded from the Online Resources link at our website.]

Our indexes for both Manuscripts and Vertical Files are every-word searchable. If a person wants to search for a particular item just search for the subject in the index.  If your focus is too narrow then nothing will show up.  But if you search for “gold” in Vertical Files, you will get some hits (including names with “gold” in them, but not so many that you can’t cull them).

As for promotional materials, routes taken and places, you may be more successful searching at the California Historical Society.  They focus more on places and things, we on people.

In the next post in this series I’ll respond to requests for specific books and specific topics.

Highlights of the NGS Conference

by Chris Pattillo (6/11/2022)

The National Genealogical Society’s 2022 Conference, “Our American Mosaic,” was held in Sacramento May 24-27. CGS served as the local host society. Kudos to NGS and to CGS for all the work they put into making this a great success!

Group of people

Grant Din, Carly Morgan, Marisa Louie Lee, Linda Okazaki, Trish Hackett Nicola, and Cindy Thomson.

Woman in chair

NGS President and CGS member Kathryn Doyle enjoys a rare moment of relaxation

They made it happen! NGS Conference Chair Matt Barry (also a CGS board member and treasurer) with Jane Lindsey, Local Host Committee Chair.

In the Expo Hall, many different genealogical societies and genealogy-related companies shared space. The River City Quilters’ Guild contributed an array of beautiful quilts for a colorful backdrop.

Colorful quilts by members of the River City Quilters’ Guild

CGS President Jim Sorenson, Karen Halfon, and Linda Edwards at the CGS booth in the NGS Expo Hall

Four women at table

Part of the hardworking local host committee: CGS volunteers Linda Darby, Sandy Fryer, and Pat Smith with Local Host Committee Chair Jane Knowles Lindsey

Members of the local host committee were recognized at the NGS plenary session

CGS members Lisa Gorrell and Jacqueline Henderson in the Expo Hall

We celebrated the release of the 1950 U.S. census with a “Back to the Fifties” dinner and costume contest. Many great contenders, but CGS Past President Linda Okazaki took the top prize. She brought the attitude!


To see more photos from “Our American Mosaic,” visit Ron Madson’s Flickr album.

Library Survey Feedback – Part 1: Suggestions for Our Website

by Chris Pattillo (6/6/2022)

Members of the Library Committee hard at work during a recent committee meeting. L-R: Linda Edwards, Shirley Hoye, Wendy Polivka and Karen Halfon.

by Chris Pattilo, Library Committee Chair

Recently we sent out a survey to all CGS members from the Library Committee. We wanted to learn more about how you have used the library in the past and plan to use it in the future. We asked about areas of research interest and what our members would like to see more of in the library. The number of responses was greater than we’d hoped for and the feedback we got is very insightful and will help guide what we focus on going forward. Lots of information is available on our website under the “Library” tab.

“What material would you like added to the library that we don’t have?”

We received many good comments to this question. Since the submissions were anonymous, I’ve decided to respond to some of these comments in a series of blog posts. Many of your comments related to what resources are available on our website so I will start by responding to those.

Comment: I visit the library only occasionally. Getting there from the San Jose Area is difficult and time-consuming. Library visits are usually added to a class/seminar I decide to take, making the trip worthwhile.

Response: We understand that getting to the library can be challenging for members who live beyond the immediate Bay Area. That is why much of our focus during COVID has been on getting more information on our website. For an overview, try watching the video “CGS Website & Library” on our YouTube channel or from our home page. You can view this video and more on the “See Videos” tab at the bottom of the home page. This video explains what you can access from home on our website, enabling you to use whatever time you have in the library more efficiently.

Comment: More online materials, and pointers to online sources for the books you have in-library (if possible). Joined during pandemic, do not live close by, and still limiting activities due to Covid. Thanks!

Response: See the response to the question above about the “What’s in the Library” video. As soon as the pandemic began we seized the opportunity to keep our member content while staying safely at home. Those volunteers have invested hundreds of hours indexing books, family trees, material from our manuscripts collection and more. All of this searchable material has been added to our website. Check it out and let us know if you find a treasure you’d not previously known about.

Comment: Not sure how to find anything in the library. Browsed some books only once. Maybe a map of where everything is located could be of help.

Response: A few months ago, CGS member Kathie Jones created a very nice map of the library. I had it printed and posted it in the library by the copy machine. You can also see the map on our website under the “Library” tab. When you visit, don’t hesitate to ask the desk volunteer any questions or request a tour.

Comment: Is your shelf list on a website I can access – so I can deduce which items I can see on a visit?

Response: I am glad you asked this question, and the answer is yes! Some years ago, the CGS board made the decision to list all our books on WorldCat – the world’s largest library catalog. WorldCat was created in 1967 by Ohio College Library Center (OCLC) to keep track of the world’s information in order to best serve researchers and scholars. When you access WorldCat via our website, it is automatically filtered to show only books that are available at the CGS library. To access the catalog from our website, click on the Library tab, then select “Library Catalog.” From there you can watch a video to learn how to use the catalog, or just click on the link to the catalog. It is very easy to use by entering keywords, a book title or an author’s name.

Comment: Sites on the internet for U.K. research: Scotland’s People, etc.

Response: This is a good suggestion. We do not have this currently, but I spoke with CGS member Maureen Hanlon, who has such a list for Irish resources with links to websites. She said she is happy to make the list available on our website. It will take a few days to figure out the best way to make it available but wait a bit and then go look for it. Maybe your comment will inspire another member to create similar lists for the rest of the U.K.

Comment: If we do not have it, it would be great to be able to easily research what and where other resources are located.

Response: You might start on our website on the “Research” tab at the top of the page. A good starting place is to click “Research Links: Start Here.” You will also see links to many sites for California research, to other libraries and societies, and to four sites that focus specifically on Forty-Niners.

Comment: I am a recent member of CGS, and am just getting started on my California “Valentine” line of ancestors, who arrived about 1849 in Santa Clara/Santa Cruz counties.

Response: See the previous comment – those Forty-Niner links might be a good place for you to start.

Comment: More online resources – is anything available with the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Response: The best place to find online resources available from NEHGS is their website. Our library does hold copies of many NEHGS documents. You can search the keyword “NEHGS” in WorldCat and a list of 206 items will be shown.

Comment: I am satisfied with the printed materials and sites available on CGS’s computers. Perhaps it would be helpful to let patrons know what books are available for free online. Then those books may be removed from the CGS library to make room for other books.

Response: First, we are glad to hear that you are satisfied with what CGS offers in printed material. Second, one way to find out what books are available digitally is on WorldCat. When you do a general search – say entering the keyword “Tennessee”, under “Format” you will see that we have 9 downloadable articles and one eBook. A more general keyword search like “genealogical research” will net a list of 23 eBooks. Finally, as to your comment about de-accessioning books from our over-burdened shelves, that is a project that the library committee is about to start. If you’d like to volunteer to help, we’d love to have you. Contact me at [email protected]

Comment: I would like to see you scan more of the earlier (out of copyright) materials so that people in other parts of the state can have access to more of the wonderful materials that you have collected.

Response: See the comment/response above – we’re working on this. We hope to purchase a high-quality scanner for the library soon that will expand our ability to digitize more of our material and will be available to members to scan personal items. Watch our blog for further information.

That is enough for this blog post but watch for more posts with responses to other comments in the future, and thanks to all who took the time to think about the questions and provide us with helpful input.