Library Committee Survey Responses – Part 2: California Resources

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Members of the Library Committee L-R Tracy Pullar, Arlene Miles, Wendy Polivka, Linda Edwards, Kristi Wessenberg, Shirley Hoye and Gibran Rath. Photo by Chris Pattillo, Chair

This is the second in a series of blog posts that responds to some of the suggestions made in response to the recently conducted Library Committee survey. We heard a lot of good ideas in response to the question “What material would you like added to the library that we don’t have?” This post will focus on the suggestions made for our California room.

Comment: Since I live in Northern California it has been years since I’ve visited the library, but I have found some “key” records from the CGS library in the past. The CGS library is a valuable and unique depository especially for my California relatives that arrived prior to 1860.

Response: Thank you for making this comment. It is always nice to get positive feedback – especially if it shows that we are serving our members’ needs. Our California collections are quite extensive and we continue to add new books all the time. In fact, we just received three bags of books donated by Gena Philbert-Ortega and almost all are for various California counties. Next time you find yourself in the Bay Area please plan to stop by and see what’s new.

Comment: I’d like more books for early California 1700s and even more material for San Francisco County.

Response: This sort of specific feedback is exactly what we’d hope to get in response to this question. It will help guide our new acquisitions. If anyone reading this has a specific title to suggest for either of these categories, please send me your suggestion at [email protected]. The library committee will also look for new sources on these topics.

Comment: I would like the focus to be on every county in the state of California. Second, on the history of California and when each county formed.

Response: If you don’t already know this, all of our California books are housed in a small room in the back corner of the library. It used to be referred to as the Dorman Room and is now the California Room. Our new map of the library, which is available on our website and in the library, shows where this room is located. Fortunately for you all the books are organized by county!

Comment: I am interested in anything in San Francisco, Alameda and Yuba counties especially before 1906.

Response: You probably know this, but just in case you don’t, Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for pre-1906 San Francisco Research was written by our own Nancy Simons Peterson. CGS published the book in 2011 and has it in our library and for sale. It is the definitive book on pre-1906 San Francisco research.

By entering the search term “Alameda” in our online WorldCat catalog you will find sources with information for pre-1906 Alameda, including probate records, death records and more. We have a total of 111 items for Alameda County including fifty-six print books and two ebooks.

There are fewer items for Yuba County–only twenty-four items including thirteen print books–so this might be a place for us to expand our offerings.

Comment: I need help tracing family in Northern California pre-statehood.

Response: Well, now you’ve given me an opening to promote our Research Committee. Providing help to members and non-members is exactly what they love to do, and they are good at it.  On the Research tab of our website you will find a page headed “Research Services” That is where you will find everything you need to order research services tailored to exactly what you define.

Comment: Since I have never been to the library, I don’t feel qualified to answer this question but, of interest to me would be San Diego County and Gold Rush-era Sacramento. Also, the kinds of promotional materials that drew people to California in the Gold Rush and in the early 1920s. Information about the roads across country that people would have taken in the 1920s–gravel? Road signs?

Response: Wow, these are fascinating topics. I hope you are planning to write a book after you find this information. We’ll add it to our collection for sure.

Our resources for San Diego County are comparatively light – only thirty-five items are listed, including twenty print books. One thing to remember about using WorldCat to see what books are available in our library is that you always have the option to also see what other libraries carry books on a topic of interest. After searching for a term, look for the option “Held By Library” to select “Libraries Worldwide.” That will bring up over 35,000 choices.

Our library has 567 items related to the Gold Rush; most are articles but we also have 109 books including The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream published in 2002; a Gold Rush Album from 1949; The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience; and The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War.

I forwarded your question to Linda Darby, Chair of our Manuscripts Committee. Here is her response:

I’m not aware of any gold rush material in the Manuscripts Collection. There is some in the Vertical Files. [Both indexes can be downloaded from the Online Resources link at our website.]

Our indexes for both Manuscripts and Vertical Files are every-word searchable. If a person wants to search for a particular item just search for the subject in the index.  If your focus is too narrow then nothing will show up.  But if you search for “gold” in Vertical Files, you will get some hits (including names with “gold” in them, but not so many that you can’t cull them).

As for promotional materials, routes taken and places, you may be more successful searching at the California Historical Society.  They focus more on places and things, we on people.

In the next post in this series I’ll respond to requests for specific books and specific topics.


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