Monday, September 10, 2007

Cemeteries, lost families, local histories

Lots of genealogy-related news these days! Last time I mentioned my fondness for cemeteries, a sentiment shared by many family historians. The comment was prompted by the PBS program, "Cemetery Special," which aired on KQED last week. It was not a first-time presentation, and may well be shown again, so watch for it. It was just an interesting visit to several cemeteries of various kinds around the country, and some fascinating bits of lore about the cemetery / graveyard / churchyard customs. The city of Colma is featured, among other places. (Here's a non sequitur for you: I have a friend whose polling place is the Columbarium in San Francisco's Richmond District.)

Then the Aug. 25 edition of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat featured a story on the Spring Hill Cemetery, west of Sebastopol. Guy Kovner wrote of the ongoing efforts to restore the old cemetery, and the discovery, so far, of 16 headstones and footstones, beneath layers of leaf mold and omnipresent sprawl of vinca minor. The entire story can be read at the Press-Democrat website by searching back to the August date and the headline "No longer forgotten."

Of course I love libraries even more than cemeteries, so was quite pleased to read in Leah Garchik's Chronicle column last week that San Francisco's Public Library is sponsoring the reading of "Cane River," for its current "One City One Book" selection. The author, Lalita Tademy, "began doing some family genealogy and wound up writing this novel based on the stories of four of her mother's ancestors, beginning with forebear Elisabeth, who was sold as a slave seven generations ago."

A stash of family photos, found by a woman remodelling her Oakland home, is the subject of a front page story in today's Chronicle (Sept 10, 2007). The article, by Kevin Fagan, relates in some detail what is know about these pictures, some dating as far back as the 1880s. It has been determined they are of members of a Lima family, apparently Portuguese immigrants, but so far no present-day relatives have turned up.

The remodeller, Gailen Runge, is still looking, and has had the expert help of Oakland Librarian Steven Lavoie and others. It is fascinating saga, and, I think, one we can all relate to. Anyone with clues or information is invited to contact author Fagan at

In other news, I recently came across this, on the LDS Familysearch website:

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Thousands of published family histories, city and county histories, historic city directories, and related records are coming to the Internet. The Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, and FamilySearch's Family History Library in Salt Lake City announced the joint project today. When complete, it will be the most comprehensive collection of city and county histories on the Web—and access will be free at

Having online access to these volumes will be a boon for all of us. If you would like to read the entire announcement, go to the website, and under News and Events on the opening page, click on "Local histories to go online."

No comments: