A Most Dreadful Earthquake

by Kathryn Doyle (4/18/2008)

One hundred two years ago today, at 5:12 a.m., the earth shook in San Francisco and Sarah E. Phillips was “awaked by a most dreadful earthquake.” Thus began a series of letters Sarah wrote to her fiancé in Schenectady, New York, chronicling the days and weeks of the aftermath.

Almost one hundred years later, a ribbon-bound packet of forty faded letters, still in their original envelopes, was found in a misplaced box at the California Genealogical Society, with little to identify the writers or explain how the letters came there.

Author Dorothy Fowler, a researcher and long-time volunteer at the society, happened to be on hand when the letters turned up. She took on the challenge of researching and editing the letters and was the sole author of a book published by the society to coincide with the earthquake centennial. The vast number of hours required in researching and writing the book were contributed by her to the society.

Dorothy is a gifted writer with long experience in various publications. Much of her work life was spent in research, writing and administrative jobs, mainly for the state of California. She is now retired and lives in San Francisco.

Two years ago when promoting the book, Dorothy was a guest of radio personality John Rothmann on his KGO Radio 810 AM talk show. Dorothy did several readings from A Most Dreadful Earthquake: A First-Hand Account of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire before Rothmann closed with these remarks:

“I’m going to tell you that every April 18th, for as long as I live, I’m going to pick up your book, and I’m going to re-read it. And the reason I’m going to re-read it is because of the vivid, powerful expressions. You’ve given us a great gift… and you’ve preserved history. And for that we are all very grateful, Dorothy.”

We are indeed. Mr. Rothmann, have you done your reading this year?

CGS Library Committee

by Kathryn Doyle (4/16/2008)

What better place for a group of genealogists to spend National Library Week than the Family History Library in Salt Lake City? I’m going to put a little twist on genea-blogger Lori Thornton’s summons and write a tribute to the California Genealogical Society Library Committee and librarian volunteers.

The Library Committee is composed of several volunteers with years of experience in all areas of librarianship. They are experienced genealogists as well, who know how to catalog, locate new publications and out-of-print books, keep good records and, best of all, freely give their time and expertise. Past and present committee members include: Gloria Hanson, Barbara Hill, Arlene Miles and Laura Spurrier.

L to R: Laura Spurrier, Arlene Miles, Gloria Hanson. Not shown: Barbara Hill
Gloria Hanson has experience in libraries from Korea to St. Louis. After obtaining her Masters in Library Science (M.L.S.) from the University of Southern California, Gloria decided to “see the world” and worked as a civilian employee for the U.S. Army in Korea where she ran three libraries. Stateside she has worked as a cataloguer for the St. Louis Public Library system and retired from the San Francisco Public Library as a branch district manager. Now Gloria puts her experience to work for CGS primarily in periodical processing and cataloging and receiving books.

Barbara Hill has a total of thirty-three years of library work experience, including time in public, school, technical and academic libraries. Her favorite jobs involved working in library acquisitions which is her focus for the CGS Library Committee. She often humorously ascribes her interest in genealogy to “prenatal influence” since her mother was pregnant with Barbara while researching the family at the Library of Congress. (It probably influenced her career choice as well.) Barbara and her mother collaborated on the family’s U.S. and Canadian research for many years until her mother’s death.

Arlene Miles is a retired library technician who has acquired an eclectic resume in specialized libraries, including air quality management, law, environmental as well as volunteer work at an electric railway museum. Arlene joined CGS in 2007 intending to do family research but she couldn’t resist keeping her fingers “in the library pie.” She soon set to work on the uncataloged periodicals, setting up a spreadsheet to organize incoming titles, identify missing issues and process subcription renewals.

Laura Spurrier chairs the Library Committee and acts as head librarian. Her credentials include masters degrees in history and East Indian Area Studies from the University of Wisconsin and a M.L.S. from the University of California, Berkeley. Laura worked for fifteen years at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she retired as a technical information specialist. Genealogy was the family hobby in the Spurrier household so Laura caught the bug as a teenager. She is a specialist in Quaker research and has lectured on the topic to the society.

Please join me in honoring the CGS librarians for the valuable work they do.

Photograph by Kathryn M. Doyle, Salt Lake City, Utah, 4/16/2008.

Copyright © 2008 by Kathryn M. Doyle, California Genealogical Society and Library.
Missing Money for You

by Kathryn Doyle (4/14/2008)

CGS has landed in Salt Lake City this week for the 8th annual CGS Salt Lake City Research Tour. Seven of us drove from the airport to the hotel on the shuttle yesterday with Melinda M. Barbish, Auditing-Accounting Manager of the Division of Unclaimed Property, Department of the Treasury of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Melinda is here for a conference of a different sort but she advised us all to take a look at MissingMoney.com. The Web site is billed as “State governments working together to safeguard and return your lost funds” and is a collection of links to the Unclaimed Property divisions of the various state agencies. Click on the small map to bring up a page with a large clickable map of the U.S. which leads to each state’s free search engine.

The Virginia Department of the Treasury defines Unclaimed Property as “All tangible or intangible property that has remained unclaimed by its owner for an extended period of time. This includes but is not limited to savings and checking accounts, wages or commisssions, underlying shares, dividends, customer deposit, credit balances, gift certificates, credit memos, refunds, etc.

What is the connection to genealogy? Melinda advises checking the databases in every state you have ever lived, and also to search your parents’ and grandparents’ names in all the states they lived, or any state in which they were stationed if they were in the military. In Melinda’s home state of Virginia, one in seven residents are owed unclaimed funds.

After taking a look at some of the sites, these are also potential places to find missing relatives since many states give full addresses as well as names. If you don’t find money, you may find cousins. Please leave a comment if you hit the lottery!