One of the oldest genealogical societies in the US is the California Genealogical Society, established in 1898, 115 years ago!
CGS is located at 2201 Broadway, LL2, Oakland, California 94612, close to San Francisco. Jeffrey Vaillant, current CGS president, responded to MyHeritage's questions via email.
With some 1,150 members – including those well living beyond California, and those who do not have California ancestors – this is a very active society.The library is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am-5pm, as well as other times for classes and training. The program includes on-site visits to various repositories and historic sites. For more information, see the CGS website http://www.californiaancestors.org.
Members stay in touch via a monthly email/eNews. Although they don’t have an email discussion group, CGS is planning to offer Google Hangouts in the near future.
One-day seminars are held several times each year, as well as additional training and educational opportunities. Depending on the event and location, the events attract between 75-900 people. Speakers are selected based on the collective knowledge of people within the society.
As befits a more than century-old society, their research library is extensive, with some 8,000 volumes and 95 vertical feet in its Manuscript Collection, including photographs, family papers and cemetery records donated over its history. Some files contain information dating to the 1500s and 1600s.
Additionally, other resources include a City Directory Library, microfilm including state counties and cities, as well as other states and naturalizations. For a low fee, visitors can take use the CGS Lookup Service, the California Names Index to obtain copies from original records. Computers, copier and scanner are available for patron use, and we offer access to subscription databases on site. For more catalog information, click here.
CGS also works cooperatively on indexing and recording local resources. Resources include four volumes of San Francisco Deaths, two volumes of SF Probates, the award-winning Raking the Ashes which guides researchers through pre-1906 earthquake San Francisco records, among others. Most of these completed projects have been published-- see the publications list here.
While much of CGS’s research involves people in Northern California, it does cover a multitude of locales, and offers classes on different ethnic ancestries and geographical areas. For more information, click here.
This society also looks to the future and the first Saturday of each month offers Genealogy 101, which is open to both members and others. CGS is constantly on the lookout for the younger generation, as they are the future of the society. There’s also a special membership rate for students.
There are special interest groups that meet monthly, the San Francisco SIG and the RootsMagic SIG.
The California Nugget is the CGS journal, and almost every issue contains stories of interesting discoveries made by the group’s members. Recently, Linda Okazaki traced her husband’s ancestry from late 19th-century Japan to California and through Japanese Internment Camps in several states, to the present. Lavinia Grace Schwarz wrote about her great-grandmother’s ancestry, tied to St. Dominique (today Haiti) and England.
CGS President Jeffrey Vaillant offers these tips for beginners:
- Beginners need to start with themselves, and work backwards in time.
- Talking to elders in the family can provide a bigger picture of the family over time, and provide hints for where to search next.
- Be sure to keep track of where you obtain your information and documentation. Gradually the tree will grow—and if you need help, don’t hesitate to contact your local genealogical society.
- CGS has a wonderful Research Committee that offers lookups and genealogical research at very reasonable rates. Become a CGS member today!
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