S.F. Mortuary Records Rise From the Dead

by Kathryn Doyle (7/21/2008)

Family Search Indexing LogoIn a cooperative effort with SFgenealogy.com, the San Francisco Public Library, the Genealogical Society of Utah and FamilySearch Indexing, the California Genealogical Society is pleased to announce the start of the San Francisco Mortuary Records Indexing Project. The project is the culmination of two years’ work by the entities involved, to bring the digital images of thousands of mortuary records, stored by the Halsted Gray Mortuary in San Francisco, to researchers all over the world. The records are a significant genealogical find because of the richness of their detail and the miraculous way they survived the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

The records include the complete holdings of the first mortuary in San Francisco, undertakers N. Gray & Co., from the day it opened – July 1, 1850. In all, the project includes the surviving records, up to 1920, of several mortuaries that merged with either Halsted or Gray, over the years. The records include notations from financial ledgers, cemetery records, removal records and headstone notations. Many have obituary clippings.

Rose Pierson of Family Search Indexing has been working diligently to ready the project for volunteers. The CGS project is now listed on the Current Projects page (scroll down to the bottom and look for the CGS logo.)

The Project Home Page gives three digital examples of how the records look and has a link to project-specific indexing instructions. Please take advantage of the training tutorials located under the “Help” tab.

I’ll have more to say about the project in the coming days and I will report on my own indexing experience. (I did some beta testing and I guarantee you will be thrilled with the kind of information you will find.) I encourage everyone to use the comments section at the bottom of this post to let us know about your experience in the project.

Report On the First 24 Hours – July 22, 2008

Update – Friday, August 1, 2008

Update – February 11, 2011. Watch the YouTube video about our project!

Lorna’s Report From the Alameda County Fair

by Kathryn Doyle (7/19/2008)

CGS member Lorna Wallace helped staff the Alameda County Fair Genealogy Booth again this year and sent this report:

The Livermore-Amador Valley Genealogical Society (L-AGS) has sponsored a genealogy booth at the Alameda County Fair for the last few years. It is located in the large, air-conditioned (very important on hot summer days) “Technology Building”, where other computer-related attractions are going on. The booth features three computer stations with connections to several subscription databases (Ancestry, VitalRecords-CA and Footnote) for demonstrating the powerful search products that are now available. There is also a helpful handout listing many of the big, free sites, like Cyndislist.

There are two types of volunteers staffing the booth: “greeters” encourage visitors to mark their places of birth on large mounted maps of the U.S. and the world, and to fill out pedigree charts. “Researchers” then try to find an ancestors using the computer resources. Some visitors sit down at the computer and think their family history is just sitting in there, waiting to pop up on the screen. Some have been trying to use the Internet, but have not discovered basic sites such as Rootsweb or FamilySearch. Then there were those who actually brought notes so they could use their time well. Several used their cell phones to call relatives, right on the spot, to get a piece of missing information.

I think the biggest challenge for us, the volunteers, is the fact that we are presented with a whole segment of our community that are not well represented in the usual population of genealogical society membership. We come face-to-face with people from all over the world, especially Latin America and Asia, who want to know how to research their ancestry in their home county. The L-AGS is doing a good job of trying to find and provide resources.

Genealogists have so much to share. I encourage all of the members of the California Genealogical Society to volunteer next year when the Fair returns in late June of 2009.

Lorna Wallace is an active volunteer on the CGS Book Repair and Desk Duty Committees. She also handles book mailings for the society. Thanks for the report, Lorna, and for representing the society so well.

Photographs courtesy of Duncan Tanner.

Steve’s Report on Breaking Down Brick Walls at CGS

by Kathryn Doyle (7/18/2008)

If you missed the “Breaking Down Brick Walls” panel discussion last Saturday, July 12, 2008, be sure to read Steve Danko’s report at Steve’s Genealogy Blog.

Steve posted a great photo of panelists Jane Hufft, Nancy Peterson and Lavinia Schwarz who presented their three techniques for dissolving research barriers: Review, Reach Out, and Reframe.

Be sure to leave a comment and tell Steve how much you appreciate his accounts of the CGS meetings and events he attends – bloggers love feedback.

If you haven’t attended a membership meeting in awhile, plan to attend the next meeting on Saturday, September 13, 2008, when genealogist and author Ron Arons will present Best Bet Web Sites for Genealogical Research.