Thursday, September 22, 2011

Museum Day - Saturday, September 24, 2011

Smithsonian Building, Washington, D.C.
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
On Museum Day, hosted annually by Smithsonian magazine, participating museums across the United States offer free admission to one person and a guest. (Smithsonian Museums offer free admission every day.) Visit the Smithsonian website for more information about Museum Day tickets.

Below is a list of participating museums in Southern California counties with links to their websites. Whether you are interested in music, art, science, living history, or something else entirely, you will surely find a museum in Southern California that appeals to you.

Remember that in order to get free admission on Museum Day, you must have an official ticket available at the Smithsonian website!

Kern County:
Kern County Museum, Bakersfield
Maturango Museum, Ridgecrest

Los Angeles County:
Autry National Center, Los Angeles
Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Palos Verdes Art Center, Rolling Hills Estates

Orange County:
International Surfing Museum, Huntington Beach
Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach
Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano

Riverside County:

San Diego County:
Lux Art Institute, Encinitas

San Luis Obispo County:
Charles Paddock Zoo, Atascadero

San Bernardino County:

Santa Barbara County:
Casa de la Guerra, Santa Barbara
Wildling Art Museum, Los Olivos

Ventura County:

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Get the Scoop on Professional Genealogy

Thinking about hiring a professional genealogist and have questions about what one can do for you? And what it will cost? Maybe you're wondering whether professional genealogy is worth consideration as a career?

This weekend a panel of members of the Southern California Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists will discuss "The Role of Professional Genealogy" at the Escondido Genealogical Society's regular month meeting. Panelists will include Jean Wilcox Hibben, CG; Debby Horton; Everett Ireland, CG; Gena Philibert-Ortega; Linda Serna; and Robbin Smith.

The meeting will be held on Saturday, September 24, at 10:15 a.m. in the Turrentine Room of the Escondido Public Library located at 239 S. Kalmia Street.

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Saturday, September 10, 2011

WPA 1939 Los Angeles Household Census Records Online

In 1939, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) conducted a household census in the city of Los Angeles. Almost 1/2 million record cards, most of which are household census cards, are held by the University of Southern California. Approximately 25% of the collection has been digitized and is online at the USC Digital Library.

The household census cards contain information regarding the dwelling including:

  • Type of dwelling
  • Amount of monthly rent or mortgage
  • Information about the dwelling, including number of room, whether there were flush toilets and running water, how the dwelling was heated, etc.
  • Length of time the occupant had resided there
  • Number of household members and their ages
  • Race of the household
  • Whether there were roomers or other families in residence

But NOT the name of the occupants! Click here to see a sample household census card.

Another small, but genealogically interesting, part of the collection are the 248 employee records. These are hiring documents for individuals who worked for the WPA whether as enumerators, supervisors or clerical staff. The cards include information such as name, age, residence, education, experience, number of dependents, and even whether the applicant owned a car! Click here to see a sample employee record.

Because of the naming protocol used for the images, the best method for searching the household census card is by street address; for employees, use a surname search.

If you had ancestors who lived in Los Angeles in 1939, you will want to check whether they were employed by the WPA; if not, perhaps you can locate a card that will give information about their home.

Wishing you many successes in your genealogy research,

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Friday, September 9, 2011

California Statehood - September 9, 1850

Today marks the 161st anniversary of California's admission to the Union, as part of the Compromise of 1850. The Compromise of 1850 was an attempt to deal with our Nation's attempts to deal with the issue of slavery. More information can be found on the National Archive's page: Struggles over Slavery: The Compromise of 1850.

A transcription of the 1849 Constitution of the State of California can be found on the California Secretary of State's website. The opening paragraph reads:
We, the people of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, do establish this Constitution.
The original Bear Flag was destroyed in 1906, but here is a photo of it which dates from 1890:

Photo of Original Bear Flag, public domain image,
Wikimedia Commons, accessed 9 Sep 2011
And a final tribute to California:

Source:  George Wharton James, editor, The California birthday book, prose and poetical selections from the 
writings of living California authors, with a brief biographical sketch of each
(Los Angeles, California: Arroyo Guild Press, 1909); 
accessed 9 September 2011), Front Cover, page xiv. 

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Los Angeles County Archives and Records Center

If you are looking for probate, divorce, or civil court cases more than five years old, you'll need to do some research at the Los Angeles County Archives and Records Center, located at 211 N. Hill Street, in downtown Los Angeles. For specific information about hours, records availability, copy charges, etc., see their website.

Here are some tips if you plan to visit:

  1. Unless you love crazy traffic and exorbitant parking charges, take public transportation. The archives are just a short walk from the Metro Red Line Civic Center station.
  2. I also recommend dressing in layers; it can be quite warm in the microfilm library, especially at the film readers.
  3. It's easy to miss the entrance; see the image from Google Earth below. Although construction is going on right now, you can access the elevator down to the Archives from outside the building, which will save walking through a maze of corridors. The red arrow on the photo shows the location.
  4. The archives are located on the 2nd lower level; the microfilm library is on the 1st lower level. 
  5. Visit the archives on the 2nd lower level first to get the case number(s); then you will go to the microfilm library on the 1st lower level.
  6. You will take a number and sign in at the microfilm library. Allow yourself plenty of time. My experience has been there is usually a two-hour wait to view microfilm or speak with a clerk about the documents you want.
  7. There is a 30-minute time limit on the use of microfilm readers, and there are only 4 readers. If you want something specific, such as the final judgment on a divorce or just the will from a probate file, I recommend asking the clerk to copy it for you, rather than using a reader.
  8. Once you have your documents, a clerk will write up a work invoice which you take the cashier on the 2nd lower level. Then you go back to the microfilm library to pick up your documents!

Elevator to Archives is located to the left of where the red arrow is pointing.
Good luck in your genealogy search!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day: Los Angeles

On this Labor Day, you might enjoy looking at the Los Angeles Public Library virtual photograph collection: Los Angeles At Work: 1920-1939.

Included among the collection of about 25 photos are

  • A young girl's vegetable stand in Pomona
  • An Arrowhead Water delivery truck
  • Women making tortillas
  • The owner of a magic shop
  • Hupmobiles
  • Oranges being loaded for shipment
  • The Cotton Club
  • A railroad conductor on his way to work

Here's to the hard-working men and women in Los Angeles and all of Southern California!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Los Angeles Celebrates 230th Birthday!

On September 4, 1781, a small village in California was christened El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles (The Town of the Queen of Angels). Although it is likely the village was founded several months earlier, today is the day chosen for celebration. More history of the founding of Los Angeles can be read at the LA as Subject post of September 1, 2011.

Los Angeles Plaza 1869.
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Over two centuries later, Los Angeles has grown from that tiny pueblo to become the 2nd largest city in the United States, home to over 4 million people. Many Angelenos are from families who have been here from the beginning, others have only just arrived. Some have ancestors who came during the Gold Rush, others had family migrate here during the Great Depression.

Los Angeles as seen from Grand Central Market, 2004.
Photo released into the public domain by
author and copyright holder Jon Sullivan.

Do you have ancestors who came to California? Tell us about them and join in celebrating the history of Los Angeles.

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research


I am a first-generation Californian. Except for a few years in Alaska as a child, I have lived and worked here all my life. It is home. But my ancestors came from places like Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Minnesota, and from France, Germany, England, and Wales.

On this blog, I plan to share information for those who

  • live in Southern California and are researching ancestors who, like mine, lived somewhere else.
  • live someplace else and are researching family who lived in Southern California.

Defining the boundaries of Southern California can be controversial - everyone has their own ideas about what areas should be included! I have chosen to include the ten counties shown on the map on the right sidebar: Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo (not listed in any particular order).

Posts will feature repositories, special collections, museums, libraries, and archives. I'll post about events, both current and historical, and how they may add to our knowledge of our ancestors' lives. There will likely be a few posts about California history.

I hope you'll join me on this journey of discovery!

© 2011 Denise Spurlock, Ancestral Trees Research