Thursday, January 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday Indeed

As I mentioned in my last blog post, one of the historical, yet genealogy rich collections  in the California History and Family Research Room are what we call the “1938 School Board Books”. 

In 1938, a volunteer Committee from the Madera County Office of Education worked with Teachers from each school in Madera County to compile “The History of Madera County”.  Each school made a book that contained not only the school’s history, but the history of the area where the school was located, founding pioneer and family information, etc..Each book has a front and back cover made of wood particle board including a symbol of the school made out of metal which is attached to the front cover.  Each of these books is unique and the majority of them are a family researcher’s gold mine.  While I would love to showcase each individual book and their contents, I hope that through the examples in this post you will understand how special these books are and come by the Library to view them in person.

Dixieland School

In addition to providing the history of the school faculty, this book provides a rich narrative on the colonization of the District by the Fairmead Cooperative Land Company.  What makes this book unique is that it includes information on the settlers, a large majority of them, who were of Mennonite Faith. 


Arcola School

The Arcola School Board Book is the largest of all the Board Books.  T.O. Cavin was one of the founding farmers in the area and included in this book is a handwritten document, written by his wife, on the history of the school and the Alabama Colony settlers that lived in the area.  This book is unique in that it provides information on the Arcola 4-H Club!


Green School

This school is one of the many schools that were located in the foothills that surround Madera County.  This book contains history unique to this region, especially regarding the gold mines and the miners that came to California in 1849.


Fresno Flats

Fresno Flats, now known as Oakhurst, was another area located up in the foothills that was inhabited by early gold miners.  This book is both descriptive and colorful in its narrative, as you will see by the example provided below.

For a list of all the schools that have a book in this collection, as well as other school resources in the California Room, please click on the tab above titled "Resources for Genealogy".

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A New Year To Begin Your Family Research!

One thing I love about my job is the people I meet on a daily basis.   Madera is such an ethnically diverse County, I get to learn something new every day and then include this information for future patrons. Because of this, our California Room has grown to include a Genealogy collection that is quite diverse. With the start of a New Year, I thought the month of January would focus on some of the unique resources we have to help you start your family research!

Land Records

Did you family own land or property in Madera County?   Or maybe you’re a map geek like me and enjoy looking at old maps?  Thanks to the Chowchilla Historical Society, we have the 1920 Madera County Land Plat Maps and they are a family researcher’s gold mine for Madera County.  Not only do they reflect an ancestors name and location of property, but also their neighbors, buildings, rivers, schools, even the Sugar Pine Lumber Company Flume!   Below is a digitized image of Township 8 South, Range 20 East in Madera County.

If you are more tech minded, patrons can come in to the California Room and learn how to navigate the Bureau of Land Management’s website.  According to the BLM website “We provide live access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States, including image access to more than five million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and the present”.  When I have used their website, I’ve been able to search homestead records back to when California became a state, including Native American Land Allotments issued by the Federal Government.  Did your family live in another state?  The BLM website has information on records outside of the State of California as well. For example, I found my Grandfather’s, 3 times removed, Land Patent in Oklahoma dated 1902.  Some original Land Patents haven’t been digitized, but many have and are available to print for your records. 

Madera County has two incorporated cities, the City of Madera and the City of Chowchilla.  Chowchilla was form when the U.S. Farm Land Company, led by O.A. Robertson in the early 1900’s, purchased large amounts of land which were divided into lots and marketed for sale all over the United States. The Bill of Sale records for these lots were kept in great detail and are included in our Chowchilla Historical Society’s collection.   Patrons whose ancestors lived in Chowchilla are welcome to research these historic records as they provide the Buyer’s original home address as well as the Lot Numbers purchased and Description of Property. 

The above mentioned collections can be a valuable resource to those who had ancestors living in Madera County but who have been difficult to research.  Lots of detailed information and not found anywhere else but our California History and Family Research Room here in Madera.  Next post will cover our Early Madera County Schools Collection.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Woman Wednesday..Susan Johnson

Earlier this year, I made my first research trip up to the National Archives (NARA) in San Bruno, California.  Now, anyone who has visited the National Archives knows that the amount of information within a National Archives facility can be overwhelming to say the very least.  Since this was my first trip to the Archives, I set only two goals for the trip; 1) Understand how to research their archival holdings, and 2) Learn more about the Federal Records pertaining to the North Fork Mono and Chukchansi Yokut tribes of Madera County.

Per the NARA website, I e-mailed them one week prior with my research request but even so, (using my best Duck Dynasty voice), " I was as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs".  However, soon after my arrival the Archives Technician had me settled in the research room and pouring through my first group of records.  Throughout the day, new records would be brought in and I soon felt like I knew what I was doing :-)

I reviewed numerous boxes of documents and personal correspondence relating to the Chukchansi and Mono Indians.  I recognized many of the family names except for one, Susan Johnson from North Fork.  The majority of the documents relating to North Fork included the name Susan Johnson and I kept asking myself "who is this Susan Johnson?".  At the end of the day, I came home with 2 file folders of  information that would take me a month to sort through and familiarize myself with.

Susan Johnson, as I would find out, was one fierce woman.  By fierce, I mean she was like a Mother Bear and the land she lived on was her Bear Cub.  Susan was a North Fork Mono woman who was born about 1876 and along with her husband Mike, raised their family in North Fork. Correspondence between Susan and the Sacramento Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs reveal that by 1955, while other families had moved on to land that had modern homes, public road access and adequate water supply, Susan chose to remain on the land she lived on for almost 40 years, land that she called home. I was so disapointed that I didn't have a picture of her or her family, she sounded like a woman I wish I could have known.

Susan Johnson and her Children, 1918

It wasn't until I was scanning a scrapbook of a North Fork Mono Elder that this small picture was carefully glued to the corner of a page. I remember tears rolling down my face because I could finally put a face to this fierce woman and mother of whom through historical documents, I had come to admire.  Since then, I learned that Susan wasn't only passionate about her land, but about her culture as well.  She is documented as a Consultant in Sydney Lamb's 1953 Western Numic Field Notes recordings that are located today in various libraries throughout California.  Now a voice with a picture..


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Our County's School Board (not the Trustee type) Books!

When I began working in the California Room, I came across some early school books that were created in 1938. The Books (30 in total), were created in collaboration with the Madera County Office of Education, and each one was created by school students and staff during 1938.

In general, the School Board Books (as we call them) provide a considerable amount of detail regarding the area and population where the schools were located .  Several of the schools were located in the Eastern part of Madera County where a number of Native American families lived and where their children received their education.  The Books from Manzanita and Picayune are just a few examples that provide both written and photographic information about the native people and their culture during this time period. 

Picayune School Board Book 1938
Manzanita School Board Book 1938

The Chenot Family, Inez, Josie, Julia, Louisa and Viola
Picayune School Board Book, 1938.

Picayune School was located at Picayune, near Coarsegold, California.  Picayune is also the name of the Rancheria for the Chukchansi Band of Yokut Indians.  Many of the Chukchansi children, along with white children,  attended school at Picayune until it closed in the mid-1950's.

"Closing Day Ceremonies" Picayune School May 27, 1938

Isn't this picture a classic? Complete with handmade hats and flags-a-wavin'!  Love it!

Manzanita School Board Book 1938

Many of Madera's early residents worked for the Sugar Pine Lumber Company.  "In the early days, when the mills were running, nearly everyone was dependent on the lumber companies in some way or another.  Whether you were a logger, railroad engineer, Doctor, whatever...everyone, in some way, was dependent on the lumber companies" Lou Davis, North Fork Mono Indian. (1)

Manzanita School included these and other  pictures that reflected the importance of the lumber industry in their school's area.

Poor Old Betsie got melted down to make bullets.

Our School Board Book Collection is one that is appreciated by viewing in person. Whether you descend from one of our local Native American families, or are a Family Historian whose family member settled in Madera County during the Gold Rush, these Books provide a wealth of historical information and photos. For those patrons who are unable to personally come into the Library, I am working on an index for the School Board Books that I hope to have finished by the end of 2013.

(1) Oral History Interview with Lou Davis, Madera County Native American History Project, 2013, Madera County Library.

Monday, October 21, 2013

It’s Now or Never…

Welcome to my first blog post!  I’m hoping that by the end of typing this that the palms of my hands will quit sweating, but I’m not counting on it at this point. 

Many people have asked me why I still live in Madera and, more importantly, how did I become interested in History and Genealogy?  Well, the answer is pretty simple…20 years ago, I was at my parents home and my mom gave me a scrapbook and a box (actually it was a spotless Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket) of old photos and said “Here..these are taking up space, do you want them?” How could I say no?  There were old postcard photographs and tin types..even my parents wedding album!  I didn't recognize any of the photographs and the only information I could get out of her at the time, was that my 2nd Great-Grandfather, Charles Bludworth, was the first Sheriff of Merced County and he shot the bandit, Joaquin Murrieta.  End of story.
Charles Bludworth, my 2nd Great-Grandfather
Over the last 20 years, researching my family has led me in to a number of California's museums, archives, and libraries.  One library in particular was here in Madera when I discovered the library had a Genealogy Book Collection (imagine that!).  Soon after, I met our County Librarian, Ellen Mester, who asked if I would be interested in creating a Local History/Genealogy Room out of an existing space in the Library.  She didn't have to ask me twice and ever since that day, I can’t imagine working anywhere else. 

Through The Family Room, I hope to share genealogy resources, as well as discovering interesting facts and stories about Madera County and our golden State!