Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Local Group Focuses on Researching San Francisco Families

I wrote recently about several excellent research locations in San Francisco.  Most of them have material about San Francisco and other areas also.  But what if you are specifically researching your family in San Francisco and need some assistance?  Lucky for you, there's a group that can help you, even if it meets in Oakland.  Today's guest writer, Sandra Britt-Huber, is here to tell us what the group is all about.  Take it away, Sandra!


The San Francisco Special Interest Group (SF-SIG) meets at the California Genealogical Society (CGS) on the third Saturday of every month from 10:00–11:30 a.m.  The group was established to bring together and help fellow San Francisco researchers advance their research by sharing ideas, knowledge of records, research hints, and successes.  Activities are a mix between discussion group, speakers, and field trips.  Participants bring their own expertise and interests to the table so that everyone can share knowledge and learn.  Nancy Peterson’s book Raking the Ashes is being used as the core research tool or "textbook."

The first meeting of the group was held September 15, 2012.  Since then more than 80 people have signed up and attended meetings.  On average seventeen people attend the monthly meetings, not including speakers and presenters.  The attendees are a mix of CGS members and other researchers.

Our meetings foster a spirit of sharing our collective knowledge, such as what records are available and where, how to manage research, and suggestions on how to find information and documentation for difficult research situations. We also share photographs, memorabilia, books, recently found documents, storytelling, and historical knowledge.  Sometimes for fun we have quizzes, with prizes going to the winners.

The group facilitators have collected old maps of San Francisco ranging from 1850–1924 for members to use.  The facilitators also have sought out some San Francisco historical data to share with the group.

We have created a chart for our members to use as a research tool, listing each family in the group we are searching for in San Francisco.  The idea behind the chart is that while we search for our own ancestors, we may run across a name or record that someone else in the group is searching for. This idea enables us to expand our individual search to have multiple persons searching.

Over the past year, group members have become acquainted with each other through sharing our families' histories, and amazingly connections between members have been identified.  Some members have discovered they are distantly related or that their ancestors were business partners.  We have also learned that we’ve lived and grown up in the same neighborhoods, and we share great stories about our experiences in San Francisco.

We sometimes invite speakers to give presentations, such as Ted Miles, the reference librarian at the J. Porter Shaw Library at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.  This was a well received and well attended event.  Mr. Miles discussed maritime history from 1840–1940 and focused his presentation on ships arriving on the West Coast.  Ron Filion and Pam Storm, the team who operate the Web site, have spoken about the site and how to use it, along with informing us about the latest records posted and available, such as the Catholic cemetery records provided by Holy Cross (including Calvary Cemetery transfers).  And the group is particularly excited when Nancy Peterson drops by on occasion to talk about her book and field many questions.  This is especially helpful for newcomers to San Francisco genealogy research.

Our commitment to bring CGS members and other researchers together to learn more about their San Francisco ancestors, to join together and share our knowledge and to learn from each other, seems to be successful.  Come join us and see how we can help you research your San Francisco family.  Also check out the CGS Web site for more information about the SF-SIG and other events and classes.

The SF-SIG meets at:
California Genealogical Society and Library
2201 Broadway Street (corner of 22nd Street)
Oakland, California
(510) 663-1358

The SF-SIG facilitators are:
Sandra Britt-Huber
Nancy Hart Servin
You can contact us at


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you, Janice, for the fabulous post about our group. One minor change since I wrote this: We now meet until 12:00, because our members wanted more time together for research! I look forward to seeing new attendees at our next meeting at 10:00 a.m. on September 21 at CGS.
    Sandra Huber

  3. You are welcome, Sandra! I'm glad to help. - Janice


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