NEHGS Comes West

by Kathryn Doyle (12/3/2007)

Oakland’s Scottish Rite Center was the scene of this year’s joint conference with the New England Historic Genealogical Society “NEHGS Comes West” held on Wednesday, September 26, 2007. 127 guests enjoyed the all-day program featuring 5 presentations, lunch and a silent auction. Two lectures were presented by Online Genealogist David Allen Lambert of NEHGS who started the day with Researching Your New England Ancestors Prior to 1850.

CGS Research Director, Nancy Simons Peterson, presented New England Holdings at the California Genealogical Society and distributed a two-page summary of the major Northeastern holdings at our library.

The silent auction raised over $1600 for CGS.

Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland Regional Family History Center, Debbie Smith and CGS board member and “look-up” maven Lavinia Grace Schwarz were among the attendees.

The NEHGS book sale was a total success – they sold out.

Former CGS president, Rick Sherman and 2 guests.

David Allen Lambert, CGS President Jane Lindsey and NEHGS President and CEO D. Brenton Simons were the featured speakers.

Most of the waving crowd are members of both societies.

NEHGS President and CEO D. Brenton Simons made a luncheon presentation What’s New at NEHGS. CGS President, Jane Lindsey, spoke about What’s Happening at CGS.

David Allen Lambert, author of the David Lambert Blog, closed the program with Online Resources for Locating Your New England Ancestors.

Photographs courtesy of Jane Knowles Lindsey.

Steve Harris – Collector of City Directories & Phone Books

by Kathryn Doyle (12/2/2007)

Sometimes the best reason to belong to your local genealogical society is the help you can get from fellow members. It can be as simple as the clarity achieved just by speaking a research problem out loud to a willing listener or being able to informally consult with members who have the expertise you lack and are willing to share their resources. But Dr. Stephen Harris took sharing to a whole new level when he made his collection of city directories and telephone books available to CGS members.

Steve, who has a doctorate in psychology from U.C. Berkeley, worked for the Contra Costa County health department and is now semi-retired. He is also a CGS member and professional genealogist whose interest in family history dates back to the Oakland hills fire of October 1991. When Steve lost his home he also lost all of the family documents that he inherited from his parents. He admits he hadn’t paid much attention to them before but after they were destroyed he began to wonder if it was possible to replace them and to reconstruct the history of his family. Things just took off from there.

Steve started his collection when he rescued some old phone books that were being discarded by an archive. He has found that most libraries don’t like them because they are so fragile and that while city directories have been extensively microfilmed, telephone books seldom are. His collection, which now numbers over 5000 volumes, dating from the mid 1850’s to the 1960s, is housed in a space down the hall from CGS in the lower level of 2201 Broadway, Oakland.

Dr. Harris has generously granted CGS members access to his collection two days every month: the second Saturday and the third Friday. Members are to check in at the CGS desk first. From there they will be directed to Steve’s library. Dr. Stephen Harris can be reached at [email protected].

Photographs by Kathryn M. Doyle, 27 Apr 2007.

Fort Wayne in August

by Kathryn Doyle (11/30/2007)

President Jane Lindsey led a third CGS sponsored research trip to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, August 19-26, 2007. This year’s trip was especially well timed to follow the FGS Conference which was held August 15-18. And while many attendees (Dick Eastman estimated the total to be about 1500) raced to the library to try and cram in some research time before, between and after conference sessions, we from CGS were smugly relaxed with the knowledge that we would be there for a whole week after the crowds had left. (Okay, so actually we did sneak in occasionally – the temptation was just too great and they opened the library at 6:00 am!)

The conference was my first and was as fun, informative and exhausting as I had expected. One of the high points was hearing Christopher Haley, nephew of “Roots” author Alex Haley and Research Administrator of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland at the Maryland State Archives.

Even better was Chris’s interview of our prez for Roots Television in the Exhibit Hall. Jane used the forum to tell viewers about some of the exciting changes we have made this year, including our long-anticipated online catalog.

Hmmm – it’s daylight and we’re not in the library. It must be Sunday – the library was closed but it was not a day of rest for us. Here we are in the dining room of the LaSalle Bed & Breakfast gearing up for our week of research.

This was the first CGS trip to the Allen County Public Library since the renovation project was completed. The library is a gem from its space-age pods where the littlest readers can curl up with a picture book to the state-of-the-art televison studio available to Allen County residents at no charge. Of course we only saw these things on the tour since we would go straight to the 2nd floor to the genealogy department and stay til closing with only a short break for lunch.

Jim Robinson is a CGS member and serves as 1st Vice-President of the Marin County Genealogical Society. His parents and grandparents were Indiana natives so his roots are deep there and he was able have Sunday dinner with ten ROBINSON third cousins.

One very special treat was a private lecture by Curt Witcher on “Fingerprinting Our Families: Using Ancestral Origins/Ethnicity As a Genealogical Research Key.” Curt is the Manager of the ACPL Genealogy Department and author of the GenealogyGems Mailing List. He provided a comprehensive hand-out with reference suggestions for context which can be just the thing to help us over our brick walls. Jane arranged the talk for us which is typical of the kind of scrupulous attention she pays to the details on these research trips.

Here we all are on the last night – Jane always organizes a closing dinner so we can celebrate our finds. Starting at front left (around the table) are Sandy, Carol, Jane, Kathryn, Lorna, Lavinia, Gail, Jim and Pat. Thank you, Jane for another successful research trip.

Photographs courtesy of Jane Lindsey.