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.”