Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sutro Library with CGS

Last Wednesday, January 23, 2013, I went on a field trip with the California Genealogical Society and Library to visit the Sutro Library in San Francisco. CGS has posted some pictures here.  Our day started at 10:30 a.m. and didn’t end until 5:00 p.m. There were some tricks I learned about getting to and using the Sutro Library that I thought I’d share.

I decided to take BART to Sutro. This meant leaving extra early to find parking at the Pleasanton/Dublin BART station and leaving extra time in case there wasn’t parking to drive to the West Pleasanton/Dublin BART station. I lucked out and actually found parking spot, even though it was about a mile from the station! The Sutro Library is closest to the Daly City BART station. In fact, on school days there’s a free shuttle that takes you from the station to San Francisco State University where the Sutro Library is now housed.

The Sutro Library hasn’t really had a nice home from the day it began.  Adolph Sutro died in 1898 and it is his collection that the library is built on.  It sat in warehousing in will-disputing hell during the 1906 earthquake where 60% of it burned.  The heirs then donated it to the California State Library in 1913, but stipulated that it had to remain in San Francisco.  This has caused some angst through the following century, trying to find a nice home for a great collection without much budget at all in a VERY expensive city.  For its first ten years, it was stored in the basement for the Stanford Lane Medical Library.  It then moved to a basement at the San Francisco Public Library.  In 1960, it was moved to the University of San Francisco.  In 1983,it moved to its own structure on leased land from San Francisco State University.  When the University needed that space, it then moved to the 5th and 6th floors of the new J. Paul Leonard Library.

While on BART, I got in some good reading and napping time. The costs for BART was $12.10 round-trip and $1 for parking. Since this wasn’t a school day, once in Daly City, I had to take a MUNI bus.  The bus was door-to-door and cost two dollars each way. It must be exact change.

Once I got off the bus, I had to figure out where the library was. It was not in the same place that it was in when I attended San Francisco State University many hundreds of years ago. I walked the main path and it was glowing in front of me—very easy to find.

I got there about 9:30 a.m.  and the library doesn’t open until 10:00 a.m. I grabbed a cup of coffee, did some work for my real job, and checked my emails. I saw some of my fellow field trip companions arrive and I introduced myself to those I didn’t already know. We traveled up the elevator together to the fifth floor. I should note that until Sutro opens the fifth floor button does not work on the elevator. I found this out when I stepped in the elevator, pushed the button, and stood there. For many minutes.(This was before grabbing the cup of coffee).

We then put our belongings in lockers. The only bags allowed inside are clear bags, so my bags went into a locker and I carried around a pile of notebooks. And a pencil—no pens allowed.  I didn’t bring a lunch, but next time I will and it will stay in the locker with my other items.  To use the locker you need a quarter which you get back at the end of the day. You also have to carry around the key so make sure you have a pocket. I did not.

You then sign in on the sign-up sheet and visit the librarian to get a map, the wireless password, and if you don’t already have one, a library card. And then it’s time to start.

Since this was a field trip, we got special treatment. Gary Kurutz, Director of the Special Collections Branch of the California State Library,  gave a short presentation of the history of both Adolph Sutro and the Sutro Library. It was fascinating to learn about Adolph Sutro, who had so much impact on San Francisco. Robert “Larry” Wynne was also present.  He is a genealogist and volunteer at the library, as well as an officer with the Sons of the American Revolution.

Once the presentation was over, we were taught how to use the computers, catalogs, and given a short tour.

I would suggest that you go through the catalog from home, picking out what books you like to look at. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and easy to spend too much time there looking through the catalog. I didn’t have an agenda for the day that was okay that I randomly ran around the library grabbing different things from here and there, but if you have a purpose you definitely want to do this.

The shelves are set up much with the states lined up in bookshelves.  The end caps were not labeled, which made this a bit difficult to navigate without a map, but I ended up getting a lay of the land relatively quickly and found myself directing people to the states they were meandering around for. They had a lot of information, but my personal favorite were all the county histories that I’d only be foreseen on Google Books.  Touching these was much more meaningful than scrolling them…

They also had standing files, housing the indexes made in the 1980s or 1990s by library staff.  They went through and indexed surnames of every volume in the library.  These old-fashioned library catalog cards feature this surname index.  They also have a good selection of microfilmed newspapers and other items.

I spent much of my day camped out at a table with my notepad, iPad, and many many books.

       5 one dollar bills
       One quarter
       Computer or iPad (if necessary)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Thanks for the Stickers!" (what the heck was she thinking?!?)

For Christmas gifts, a number of people in my family got an envelope with stickers in them that didn’t make sense at all. 

Yes, they likely would have had the same expression you do right now.  

That’s why I included a note that explained what they were and how to use them (pasted below).  I left room at the bottom of the sheet to make a pocket for the stickers.  I ran out of time and didn't make the pocket- just used a paperclip.  You could totally make a pocket, though, if you weren't as lazy as I am.  

I truly love these stickers from Heirloom Registry and hope that my family uses them to tell the stories of their heirlooms.   When you aren't sure what to get relatives and friends, these are the best.  And even if you do know what to get them, these are the best.  

Note: Heirloom Registry did not give me free stickers, candy or bedazzled jeans for this post.  I did get one sticker at a convention, but I think everyone did.  Just because I think this is a product that is wonderful, I bought my own stickers to give away and to use.  You should, too.  Right here:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Who Was Your Ancestral Doctor?
Link courtesy of:

I have a cousin in Scotland, who contacted me because of this blog.  When she first contacted me, we weren’t cousins, but we quickly became friends looking to be cousins.  She still lives in the town that our ancestors came from in Scotland and, due to her research, now we are cousins, too.  When my dad passed away, she sent me sweet notes and links and pictures of the town in Scotland almost every day.  It helped tremendously- more than she will know.  A couple of weeks ago she sent me the link below.  It’s a website dedicated to the town of Carluke, Scotland.  This link in particular is about the town doctor, who also was a geologist and paleontologist.

Since our Connor family lived in Carluke during the time of the doctor, it’s rather likely that he called on them.  While there are no records of our direct coal mining family’s daily doings, it sure is fun to read about the time and the town from which they came.  In reading about Dr. Daniel Reid Rankin (born 1805, died 1882), I enjoyed thinking that our Connors knew him and wondering what their opinions were of the wonderfully strange old fellow.

Dr. Rankin was described as humble, honest, brilliant and unfashionable.  He didn’t like to be the center of attention, never even bothering to pick up awards or have his name on a book he authored.  One time, he had a “hemorrhage” over being asked to instruct a class.  He lived in a small run-down thatched cottage at the corner of Market Place that is now the health center of Carluke.  He began his carrier intending to be a lawyer, but quickly changed to the study of medicine, obtaining his degree in 1829.

Handsome with long red hair, big bright blue eyes and an athletic frame, he was tall and wore tight-fitting coat with a flowing skirt, tight knee pants and riding boots.  Often, he wore a silk hat.  Dr. Rankin wasn’t religious- in fact, he was openly not religious. He loved to dance and loved to (yes, you are reading this right) stand on his head.  While it’s said that he lacked ambition, from reading about him, I think it’s more correct to say that he longed for learning, but not necessarily documenting that learning.  He didn’t care for formalities and, when faced with something he disagreed with, (here it comes…) he’d stand on his head.

Did our ancestors ever witness his head-standing?  Were they shocked and tsssking or did they applaud and laugh, egging him on?  When Dr. Rankin came for a house call, he would soar his horse right over the wall into your garden and soar back out the same way.   He would walk right into your house- no knocking.  If you weren’t home, he’d move all your chairs to the middle of the room and tell you later that you weren’t home so he left his calling card.  Did our Connors every have their furniture “Rankin-ized”?  

He had a great sense of humor, teasing those praying, headed to church, or gossiping about their neighbors.  In addition to a sense of humor, he also apparently had a live crocodile as a pet.  A pet that would escape and terrorize the neighborhood.  Did the crocodile ever bug our ancestors?  Did they shoo it with a broomstick?  Did he ever tease our ancestors about their gossip or anything at all?

As a doctor, he had the foresight to hate smoking and excess drinking.  He also didn’t care about money, often not billing at all even for the wealthy in town.  If they remembered and insisted, he’d ask for some produce and have it delivered to a poor patient of his. Did our really great grandparents ever get a basket of fruit?  Did they ever give one?

His collection of fossils sounds like it was better than any others of the time.  It truly sounds like the famous geologists of the time, including Charles Darwin, were literally drooling over his collection.  Darwin’s friend Dr. Huxley (“I’d rather be descendent from an ape than a bishop!”) actually came to Carluke to see the fossils, but arrived too late and then got food poisoning and never did see them.  Did our great great great greatgrandparents ever see those fossils?

Doctor Daniel Reid Rankin died in March 21, 1882 and had strict instructions that it was to have no ceremony and no headstone (although no one listened to that part and they did erect a headstone).    There is a granite plaque in Rankin Square with fossils carved into it in his honor.  I hope to see it one day.  Maybe stand on my head next to it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Comment Spamming- Driving Me to Drink

Now that the 31 Days of Decorations is over, I can make a book of Christmas.  I’m going to use the Advent Calendar posts I did last year and the year before and merge them with these posts and make a cute picture book.  In my head it’s cute anyway.  I’ll share the results.  If they are cute.

In other news, what the he double hockey sticks is up with the comment spammers?  I totally don’t understand so much about it.  They write it like it’s a real comment, but put in a foreign language and then back in English and then post randomly.  Is that what they really do?  It’s ridiculous.  I get about 2 a day (not a lot) so I have time to “read” them and I am amazed.  Here is my favorite (without the link to their site):

These therapies are great for people who tend to overanalyze their situations and will be of great use to them.  Indeed, the best schools produce the best physical therapists in the country, so it is every aspiring therapist. Also, be sure to have both the training and experience, which are needed before you even think of applying.

This was posted on my Dad’s funeral card blog post.  “These therapies”???  “Great use to them”???  Really?  This was my father’s funeral card, dude or dudette.  Show some freaking respect.  (Although, perhaps it is true that both training and experience would be needed before you even think of applying to wherever Dad is now…)  Good luck to you, spammer.  May my dad have the honor one day of explaining to you what he thinks of physical therapy and the best schools.  You are in for hours of entertaining lecture.  Just remember that you asked for it...

And Happy New Year to the rest of you!  May 2013 bring you lost cousins, found ancestors and all the information you can shake a stick at!