Genealogy for Beginners

by Kathryn Doyle (4/2/2008)

The California Genealogical Society is offering an ongoing, free, introductory class in genealogy, the first Saturday of every month, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the CGS Library at 2201 Broadway, Suite LL2, Oakland, California, in the historic Breuner Building. This Saturday’s class will be taught by Dick Rees.

The course is part of the “First Saturdays Free” policy that allows open access to the library and resources to non-members and the general public on the first Saturday of every month. The dates for the remainer of 2008 are: April 5, May 3, June 7, August 2, September 6, October 4, November 1 and December 6. The library is a benefit of membership and is available to non-members for a $5.00 day fee during the rest of the month.

For the remainder of 2008, CGS is opening its doors to the tenants of the Breuner Building for use during the lunch hour, at no charge. President Jane Lindsey notified the society’s neighbors that CGS will offer this benefit on Thursdays and Fridays, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the remainder of 2008. CGS recently marked the one-year anniversary of the society’s move to the Breuner Building.

Please note that the CGS Library will be closed on the first Saturday of July for the Independence Day holiday. Further information is available at the CGS Google calendar.

Chronicling Events in a Horseless Carriage

by Kathryn Doyle (4/1/2008)

One of the photographs from the CGS 110th anniversary bookmark, was this one taken on the wedding day of Clare and Alta McAllister THOMSON, parents of Thomas Thomson, who is the husband of Shirley Pugh Thomson, CGS board member and recording secretary.


The young bride and groom (she only 18, he age 19) were photographed 4 June 1916, in Sullivan County, Indiana. In the back seat are their best friends and witnesses, Paul and Lena Sharpe. The Buick was owned by the groom’s father, as was the camera, and it was dad who took the picture.

The blog description prompted this response from CGS News Editor, Jane Hufft: “The copy you have with the photographs is so informative and interesting. The picture sparked a connection for me: I have a photo of my grandparents c. 1916 that could be a twin to Shirley’s; everyone is dressed up, looking out of an open car, event unknown, and it NEVER occurred to me that it possibly is a wedding photo — and we don’t have any others for them. Perhaps that was a photographic style then. Thank you so much for the clue.”

I checked with Maureen A. Taylor, the Photo Detective, who has written about old automotive photographs, most recently in an article entitled “Motor Trends” in the July 2007 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

She agrees that there may be other photographs that appear at first glance to be just folks in old cars, but which in fact are chronicling weddings or other significant events.

Maureen notes: “You see a lot more people in front of cars once they are more enclosed. Men drove, women generally didn’t. How interesting that the woman is behind the wheel!”

The cover of Katherine Scott Sturdevant’s book, Bringing Your Family History to Life Through Social History, depicts a family dressed in their Sunday best in a circa 1910 automobile.

The photograph, identified as “William H. McKernan, Brooklyn” was supplied to the publisher as a research experiment. Ms. Sturdevant analyzes the photograph on page 89 and presents a case study which includes dating the vehicle and city directory and census research on the family. She makes a strong case that it is the family of William H. McKiernan and notes that the children in the photograph match the “genders and ages of the census children… if the oldest child, Mary, was elsewhere when the photograph was taken. She would have been about twenty.”

Knowing what we know now from Shirley’s and Jane’s photographs, I wonder if the family was off to attend Mary’s wedding?

Written for the 45th Carnival of Genealogy, Cars as stars!

Book Donations Build the Library

by Kathryn Doyle (3/31/2008)

The donation of books accounts significantly for the growth in holdings of the California Genealogical Society Library over the past 100 years. The reliance on the generosity of members and others dates back to 1906 when the society, founded in 1898, lost everything in the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. In order to rebuild, CGS actively sought and received book contributions from many individuals and organizations from around the country. The CGS archives hold a formal, printed announcement dated 20 June 1908:

Donations of books, histories and other genealogical matter, are solicited for the new library of the CALIFORNIA GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY to assist in a measure to replace those destroyed in the great fire of April 18-20, 1906, when the library of over three hundred volumes, charts of members and archives of the Society were lost.

According to early records, in 1913, the Newberry Library in Chicago gifted several cartons of its duplicate books which were from the library of the late Lieutenant Governor Murphy of Pennsylvania.

The History of the California Genealogical Society, written in 1998 by long-time member, Dorothy Fowler, lists several of the larger donations to the library:

Henry Byron Phillips, CGS president 1912-1920, left his comprehensive research on the New England Phillipses to the CGS archival collection following his death in 1924.

Dr. Charles Francis Griffin, CGS president 1923-1931, left his genealogical library to CGS upon his death in 1950.

Margaret Griffith, who served as the Society’s first woman president, 1945-1947, donated books and a great deal of manuscript material when she died in 1965.

Mrs. Wm. J. Lindenberger, an active member of CGS and the California Historical Society for over 30 years, provided literally hundreds of books to the genealogical collection, many of them especially rare and valuable. Her name is prominent on bookplates throughout the collection and in old records of the Society.

The largest single gift to the library was the collection of George R. Dorman, added in 1984. Mr. Dorman, a CGS member for 47 years, served in various capacities on the Society’s Board. A dedicated genealogist, his research on the signers of the California Constitutional Convention was published as a long-running series in the Society’s newsletter and later in The Nugget. The Dorman Collection is housed in a separate room in the library.

Throughout his membership with CGS from 1972 until his death in 1995, Stanley Ross steadily and without fanfare provided books to strengthen specific parts of the collection. For example, he donated a total of almost 200 books to the New York and New Jersey sections alone and also contributed the microfilms of the Kentucky vital records.

The offering of materials to the library continues today. In fall, 2007, five boxes of books were gifted from member Joan Soo. Electra Kimble Price donated some of her African-American and Native-American collection. Theresa Smith sought out the society seeking a good home for her late mother’s books. Theresa’s not interested in genealogy herself so we are grateful that the four boxes of books on early California during the Spanish era, especially southern California, have found their way to the CGS bookshelves.

The most recent gift comes from long-time member, Dorothy A. Koenig, an expert on early Dutch settlers in “New Netherland” in the 17th century and editor of the quarterly journal, New Netherland Connections. Dorothy has donated volumes 1-14 of the set Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Procured in Holland, England, and France by John R. Brodhead and others. They were published in Albany, New York, 1853-1883.

CGS Librarian, Laura Spurrier, notes: “The reason they’re important is they contain the authorized transcriptions of original documents about the founding of New Amsterdam and later English-controlled New York. And, they’re indexed, making the volumes accessible for genealogists.”