By Carolyn Sherfy, Registered Genealogist
I was interested in genealogy and had been doing my own research for a few years. I had
joined the California Genealogical Society and attended several of their monthly
Saturday meetings in San Francisco. These meetings were held in the basement of the California Historical Society Mansion on Pacific Avenue. I was also a member of the Alameda Women’s Club and put on a one day Genealogical Seminar in Alameda with
speakers from the staff of the Genealogical Helper published by Everton Publishers. The
seminar was a great success. A signup sheet for those interested in starting a
genealogical society in the East Bay generated a great deal of interest. I set a meeting at
my home, sent out invitations, and The East Bay Genealogical Society was formed. That
first meeting was organizational. We selected a name, set down some rules, and decided
on regular meetings at 10:00 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month.
The society which I nursed along for a few years took off and has grown into a mature
organization. The group should be about 30 years old by now. You have helped each
other and others to extend their family trees. You have formed lasting friendships. I am
so proud to have been a part of your friendly company. I read the newsletter from cover
to cover as soon as it arrives. I have moved out of the area, but I do plan to attend a
meeting some day in the future.
...Carolyn Sherfy, Charter President
HOW EAST BAY GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY GOT ITS START
By Carolyn Storm, Past President, EBGS
The Charter Meeting was held in Alameda on May 9, 1979 with 14 charter members.
Carolyn Sherfy was elected president, guidelines were established and dues were set at $6
The new president and secretary established a bank account with the total treasury of $36.
The following month they were hit with a $3.50 service charge by the bank because non-profit accounts were required to maintain a balance of at least $200. It was decided that the account would be closed and the treasurer would handle the money until there were
sufficient funds to establish a non-profit bank account sans monthly service charges. By
October, 1980 we boasted 36 members and a total $125.61 in the treasury.
In April, 1981 dues were raised to $10 a year, by-laws were adopted, a non-profit no-fee
bank account was established in June and our Christmas Cookie Exchange began. In
December, 1982 a relatively new member raised her hand and offered to take over the
responsibility of our library in her home.
By 1983 we had established a post office box and were actively pursuing incorporation
status. We were still meeting in Alameda and were seeking a permanent meeting place.
Late in 1983 we were able to make arrangements with the Oakland Family History
Center to hold our meetings at their facility.
In early 1985 we became a tax-exempt corporation and established a safe deposit box at
the bank. We began negotiating with the Society of Mayflower Descendant to share
space in their library and this was accomplished by the end of the year. We volunteered at
their library for a six-month probation period and were able to move our collection into
their facility in June, 1986. Also during 1985/86 several of our members volunteered
their efforts to the RIM Project organized throughout the state by the newly formed
California State Genealogical Alliance. Many months were spent inventorying vital
records in the county, i.e.; church, cemetery, mortuary etc. We amassed quite an
inventory and several months later the Family History Center in Salt Lake City approved
most of this material, and with the consent of the respective repositories, much of this
material was microfilmed and we were given copies for our library.
By 1988 we must have been quite solvent, as it is mentioned in old minutes that we
loaned the Oakland Library $550 so that they could copy old photographs for their
archives. The loan was soon repaid.
In March, 1989, with the help of Hayward Area Genealogical Society, we organized an
all day seminar featuring Angus Baxter. This was quite successful and well attended and
we even made a little profit. That May we celebrated our tenth anniversary with a
luncheon at Spenger’s in Berkeley. The president was late in arriving because of a traffic
snarl and then absent-mindedly locked her keys in her car. By the time she arrived
formally, we were having dessert. There was a short program where our founder,
Carolyn Sherfy, was introduced and past-presidents in attendance were presented with
small gavels as keepsakes. Everyone, including the Treasurer, had departed when the
president and one lone member were approached and presented with the bill! Oops! Our
member was able to write a check for the amount and was promptly reimbursed by the
Treasurer the following week!
Several diligent volunteers and many, many months of gathering, sorting, and editing
material finally brought the publishing of our Alameda County, California Research
Guide to fruition in 1993. The book was well received and the first printing sold out
rapidly. Though it is now in need of some revisions, it remains a “bible” for research in
Alameda County. Another group of members volunteered to index the 1890 Great
Register of Alameda County, and this was completed and published in 1998.
We celebrated our twentieth anniversary in 1999 with a well attended luncheon at Mac’s
Bar & Grill in Jack London Square in Oakland – no mishaps this time!
Sometime in 2004/05 we realized our newspaper obituary file was consuming too much
space in our small area at the library. It was decided to see if Salt Lake City would
consider filming these. Volunteers spent countless hours over a period of many months
clipping, gluing and filing our huge collection. The Oakland FHC offered space to store
the bulk of this collection. In 2006 these records, along with our biographical files, were
digitized by the Family History Center, Salt Lake City and we received copies of these
DVDs for our library.
We have decided to make the May luncheon an annual event and this May we will
celebrate thirty years at a luncheon at Pier 29 Waterfront Restaurant in Alameda – home
of our humble beginnings.
Over the years, members have taken advantage of several research trips to Salt Lake City,
some organized by our members. For a short interim in the 1990’s our meetings were
held at the Dimond Branch of the Oakland Library, but we are once again meeting at the
Oakland Family History Center Library on the second Wednesday of each month Our
annual dues have been increased to $15 a year and we remain solvent. We have
established and maintain a web site and a Blog. We continue to exchange cookies at our
December meeting. We are still clipping, gluing and filing newspaper obituaries and
maintaining our library with the help of members who faithfully volunteer.
Without helpful volunteers in our midst all these years, we could not have survived. We
are ever so grateful to our many members, past and present, who have given their time
and effort to our society and its projects over the past thirty years. Thank you all for
being so generous and a special thank you to Carolyn Sherfy for her inspiration and
getting "EeBeGeBes" organized way back in 1979.