Writing Your Family History Series


The California Genealogical Society will present an encore of our popular series Writing Your Family History online via Zoom. By the end of the course, you will be ready to start writing, or will be already writing, a family history with confidence and style!

Eight Sessions on Tuesday Evenings (Fee)

August 4 & 11 (two parts), August 18, August 25, September 1, September 8, September 15, September 22

7 pm – 8:30 pm PDT (some sessions may end early depending on content)

Who Should Take This Course?

This course series is for genealogists and family historians who are ready to transform their research into a quality family history.

The course will be lead by a team of dedicated volunteers – Matthew B. Berry,CG, Jennifer Dix, Lois Elling, Lisa Gorrell,CG, and Stewart Traiman – who have different and complementary skills.

The sessions will take place via Zoom. If you join, please sign in early to make sure you are able to see the program. We will send you instructions the night before, and a reminder shortly before the event, which will give you access. All times are Pacific Daylight Time.


4 Aug & 11 Aug 2020

Writing Stories

presented by Lisa Gorrell, CG

This two-part online class will cover defining your writing project and how to create time to write and avoid distractions. Also discussed will be what makes a compelling story, and adding historical and social context to your story. This online course will include in-class discussions and writing prompts, as well as a between-class writing exercise. Enrollment includes both sessions of this class.


18 Aug 2020

Writing and Editing with Style

presented by Jennifer Dix

This class will discuss style: why writers need style sheets, and what style decisions need to be made. Also discussed will be how to edit your writing: who should do it, when to do it, and what to look for. ________________________________________________________________________________

25 Aug 2020

Genealogical Numbering Systems

presented by Matt Berry, CG

This class will address the preferred approaches for organizing genealogical information in written form. Topics will include Register and NGSQ formats, the Sosa-Stradonitz (or Ahnentafel) System, and Multi-Surname approaches. ________________________________________________________________________________

1 Sep 2020

Citation: Easier Than You Think

presented by Stewart Traiman

This class will be based on Tom Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Documentation. We’ll break down all 17 chapters to make them more easily understandable, and provide exercises for each. Attendees will leave with much more confidence in how to craft their own citations for any source.


8 Sep 2020

Making Your Book Look Good I: Type & Graphics

presented by Lois Elling

This class will cover how to add visual interest to your narratives and present a professional-looking book. Topics will include: typefaces, graphic elements, and photographs. Parts I and II of this course are designed to be taken together, but may be taken separately if desired. ________________________________________________________________________________

15 Sep 2020

Making Your Book Look Good II: Page Layout and Software

presented by Lois Elling

This class will continue to cover how to add visual interest to your narratives and present a professional-looking book. Topics will include: design basics, construction considerations, software, and going to print.


22 Sep 2020

Creating an Effective Index to your Family History Book

presented by Matt Berry, CG

This class will teach how to create an effective index for your family history book. Most people don’t read genealogies from cover to cover, the first thing a potential reader wants to know is whether their family is covered in the book, so they turn to the index first. Help your readers out by creating a useful index to your book.



 Pre-registration is required. Class size is limited so register early to confirm your spot.

 CGS members enjoy reduced admission, $10.00* per session.

 Non-member admission fee is $30.00* per session

You can purchase a $45 one-year CGS Basic membership when you check out. To sign up for other membership options go to our web page: CGS Membership application


Credit card payments will be processed by Eventbrite.

Preserving Family Photos, Stories and Documents

San Mateo County Genealogical Society

Saturday, Nov. 21 , 2020 – Zoom 10:30 am-12:00 pm. Free.

Sign up here to get on mail list to register

The link to each Zoom meeting, along with the handout, will be sent to everyone on the mailing list several days prior to the session.

Presenter: Carolyn Williams

This presentation provides organizational tips and procedures for capturing the story behind a photo or document, scanning the image, and then preserving both the physical and digital photos and documents for the next generation.

Carolyn Williams is a family genealogist and recent SMCGS board member. She holds a certificate from the Boston University Genealogical Research program and is a former Silicon Valley technology marketing professional.

The Mystery Aussie

San Mateo County Genealogical Society

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 – Zoom 10:30 am-12:00 pm. Free.

Sign up here to get on mail list to register

The link to each Zoom meeting, along with the handout, will be sent to everyone on the mailing list several days prior to the session.
Presenter: Pam Wong

At a time when most Chinese villagers never strayed far from their birthplaces, Jan See Chin joined other sojourners seeking a way to make a living overseas.  In 1884, at barely fifteen years old, he emigrated from Guangdong, China, to Queensland, Australia, by sea, at the time of British colonialism. Battling his way in a hostile white man’s society, he received meagre earnings working at odd jobs while he struggled to adapt to local culture.  He saved enough to buy a small farm, and then married a young half-Chinese, half-British woman named Maud Young. Together they raised thirteen children.  

Pamela Wong writes about Chinese immigrant experiences against the backdrop of historical events.  Passionate about preserving oral stories about experiences of the elders, a UCB alumna, Pam writes about future generations in mind to help them understand that they stand on the shoulders of their predecessors.

Awesome Theater Hour: Fighting History of San Francisco Chinatown

8PM, Thursday, July 9, https://awesometheatre.org

Ongoing sessions every 2nd and 4th Thursdays at 8PM

EPISODE 7- THE FIGHTING HISTORY OF SF CHINATOWN: Stunning Stories of Audacious Resilience.

Our next episode takes one of the most popular and notorious tours in San Francisco and brings it into your home. “The Fighting History of San Francisco’s Chinatown- Stunning Stories of Audacious Resilience” starring local writer and lecturer, Marc Pomerleau is a fascinating virtual tour of Chinatown like you’ve never seen. Based on his award-winning Airbnb experience, The Fighting History of SF Chinatown takes you back to the birth of the first and largest Chinatown in the United States and tours you through stories of brutality, beauty, resilience, and sheer audacity and creativity that have enabled the Chinese to survive and thrive against the odds. From the Tong Wars of the 1800s, The Chinese Exclusion Act and relentless racism, to Bruce Lee’s battles in the bay area, and the gang wars and Triad presence of modern-day, this tour promises to transform the way you see San Francisco and the Chinese immigrant experience forever.

 The Awesome Theatre Hour

Hosted by Colin Johnson
Featuring “The Fighting History of SF Chinatown: Stunning Stories of Audacious Resilience” Written and performed by Marc Pomerleau
Thursday, July 9, 8 PM PST
Facebook Live and YouTube


  • Japanese American Museum of San Jose / Chinese Historical & Cultural Project
  • Saturday, July 25, 2020
  • 1:00 PM  2:00 PM

To watch the stream, please “like” and bookmark the page to watch the stream: https://www.facebook.com/JAMsjOfficial

The hour long segment with questions and answers focuses on the last Chinatown in San Jose, Heinlenville.

Before the Japanese. Before the Filipinos. Before any other Asian community in San Jose, there were the Chinese. Did you know that five Chinatowns existed in San Jose? And did you know that the fifth Chinatown, Heinlenville, provided the nurturing environment that gave birth to San Jose Japantown? 

Join us in an ongoing series to discover the historic and cultural treasures of the San Jose Japantown community through the Hidden Histories of San Jose Japantown Augmented Reality Art Project.

In episode 2, Curt Fukuda, documentarian for the project, explores the little known history of Japantown’s Chinese American roots. Historian Connie Young Yu and Brenda Hee Wong of the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project will discuss “Heinlenville” Chinatown, the Ng Shing Gung Temple, and the interconnected histories of Chinese and Japanese in San Jose.

Beyond the Military Record: A Case Study


Sat, Dec 5, 2020 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM PST

Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library

As with many veterans, George Randall downplayed his military service. His military record gave rank, awards, dates and places of service. But, what was his service experience really like? The journey uses WWII history, and many research sources to develop the experience of his military service.

Cousin Baiting and Cousin Stalking


Sat, Aug 1, 2020 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM PDT

We will discuss the many ways to reach out to distant living cousins to help you expand your pedigree chart forward in time. You may find family treasures, photos, DNA test takers and information that will break down a brick wall. We will explore online trees, lineage societies, online cemetery indexes, obituaries in newspapers, living people finder websites and social media.

Tribute to Chinese Railroad Workers

Chinese Historical Society of America’s Tribute to the Chinese Railroad

On July 1st, 1862, the Pacific Railway Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, providing federal support for the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Almost seven years later, the transcontinental railroad was completed, in large part due to the contributions of Chinese railroad workers. Long overlooked by this country, the U.S. Labor department finally recognized the work and sacrifice of the Chinese railroad workers who help build the Transcontinental Railroad in 2014 by adding these workers into the Labor department’s Hall of Honor. Watch CHSA’s tribute to Chinese workers today to honor their legacy.

“I’m Not Who You Think I Am: An Asian American Woman’s Political Journey”

Thursday, July 9, 202012:00pm to 12:45pmOnline Via Zoom

Maeley Tom released her memoir entitled “I’m Not Who You Think I Am.”  Her story describes her journey to becoming the first woman and first ethnic minority to serve at the highest level of California Legislature. Her book also serves as political history in discovering how she went from political neophyte to seasoned insider to be the first to reach the top of an all-male, nearly all-white power elite in the California capitol. In “I’m Not Who You Think I Am,” we learn how Maeley helped create and advance the Asian American presence in California politics, along with a core group of close friends and colleagues.  

The book is a glimpse into how Maeley dedicated herself to giving voice to an under-represented community, led by example, and how her actions and accomplishments became inseparable from the rise of the Asian American political community. She has seen great success, as well as setbacks, hardship, and scandal. Her experience includes enduring prejudice and discrimination, and her story includes how her perseverance and integrity helped her and the Asian community emerge as a strong and influential community.  Her journey is documented in her memoir of a life well-led, with hard-fought gains and deeply-felt sacrifices; a story of painful struggles for professional recognition, self-knowledge, and personal fulfillment; a story of the rewarding, but often harsh, intersection of the personal and the political.

Vanishing Chinatown: The World of The May’s Photo Studio


For over 40 years, Isabella May and Leo Chan Lee’s photographs documented life for Chinese Americans in the racially isolated community of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Vanishing Chinatown explores the history of the May’s Photo Studio and how their photographs captured the community’s socio-political, economic, and cultural identity, as well as the changing environment.

Vanishing Chinatown: The World of The May’s Photo Studio brings families together: in the past by splicing together family portraits in spite of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and in the present by reconnecting May’s granddaughter with her family’s legacy. These stunning photographs show San Francisco Chinatown in the early to mid-20th century, a vanishing “old Chinatown” vibrant with culture; an immigrant community becoming Americanized.

The photographs were almost lost, but art student Wylie Wong rescued 700 photographs trashed in a dumpster. Corinne Chan Takayama, granddaughter of the photographers Leo and Isabella May Chan Lee didn’t know what had happened to the photographs, but forty years later found that Wylie had saved some of the photographs. We interweave Corinne and Wylie as Corinne tells personal stories sparked by the photographs and Wylie, along with other historians and Cantonese opera performers, explain the historical background and artistic value of the images.

The importance of family, preserving memories and dreams of earlier generations, identity, and a creative resistance to racist laws and societal constraints are the main themes in Vanishing Chinatown. During these Trumpian times of immigrant family separations, detention, and deportations, Vanishing Chinatown is an urgent reminder of hardships Chinese immigrants endured during the 60 years of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and resonates with other immigrants today.

The fusion of Eastern/Western, and traditional/modern are illustrated in the May’s Studio portraits with hand-painted backdrops, and in the photographs of Cantonese opera which were influenced by Western cinema.

Through Corinne’s memories and stories of her family we are able to visualize how her grandparents fulfilled the American Dream, particularly Leo, who arrived as a Paper Son and became a prosperous businessman, creative photographer, and civic activist.

The May’s Studio Chinatown photographs parallel James Van Der Zee’s Harlem photographs, and should be recognized for their artistry, and their historical and anthropological importance. We hope Vanishing Chinatown will spark more questions about other Chinese American photographers, the Cantonese opera, and the legacy of family histories.

27 minutes.