Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kid In Candy Shoppe, Take Two

If it weren’t for time, expense and distance, I could really get into this research-on-the-road thing. Yesterday marked another return to the Bay Area, where I’ve been pursuing the various wisps of the Samuel Bean family which settled in San Francisco—and then Redwood City—from somewhere in Maine.

There is only one problem with these productive forays into genealogical collections in other counties’ libraries: I find so many other interesting details to capture my attention.

My mission yesterday was to complete the index on all the Bean entries in the Richard Schellens collection housed at the Cañada College library in San Mateo County. During a recent trip there with my husband, our crack research team had not quite conquered the extensive list of mentions culled from historic local newspapers. To go back and recoup those leads, I piggybacked on an all-day business meeting my husband had in the vicinity and hitched a ride to the library, thinking six more hours of work would get me through my wish list.

Surprise. It didn’t.

It more than got me through all those Bean entries.

So, what’s a pumped researcher to do? Look for collateral information!

Sometimes, those of us who exist on a steady diet of family surname links and lines of relationship carry all that stuff around in our heads. We can’t possibly expect our handy family assistants—no matter how willing they might be—to keep up with all those connections. Parsing out assignments to such library assistants usually follows a simplified format, like: “Look up all the entries for Samuel Bean.”

We need to spare those poor, drafted, good-natured research assistants the agony of confusing stuff, like “Samuel Bean’s widow married a guy named Costello, only in the original document, it was actually spelled Costellow—so try to find something on her.”

Guess what I ended up doing with my extra time yesterday, back at that same reference section? You guessed it: play clean-up batter.

That was not all. There was still some time left to check out even more resources than the Schellens Collection listings. I found an obituary index for the Redwood City area which, while admittedly much more recent than the Schellens entries on the nineteenth century Bean family, allowed me to work my way forward in Leon Bean’s sister’s line. Remember my difficulty with searches on a name like Blanche Bean? And my veritable fit over the middle initial for the right Harry Watrous? Grand Slam.

While I have yet to meet any of the members of the genealogical society hosting this reference section of the Cañada College library, I’ve found their collection to be well organized and stocked with intuitive index aids and other tools researchers get really excited about. The San Mateo County Genealogical Society—much like many such societies—has initiated projects that feature the people of their local history, and some of these resources contain elements that aren’t found in any online databases at this point. To have this material well organized and within grasp through well-thought-out finding aids is a treat.

Having found all the research “candy” that I had my heart set on finding, I guess this will be my last trip to the Redwood City area for family history research.

Let me amend that: until I discover what I don’t know that I don’t know, it seems this will be my last trip to check out San Mateo County’s Genealogical Society library holdings.

But you know how addictive such candy can be to those of us with a research sweet tooth.

Photograph from the collection of Bill Bean--unlabeled, as so many of his photographs were. The name of the railroad company was probably "- - - Pacific Lines" and the engine displays the number "5." However this vignette from the photograph memories of the Bean family may fit into their story, I'm just glad I didn't have to rely on that same mode of transportation yesterday to get me to my research destination. 


  1. Oh, choo-choo trains! This locomotive belonged to the Southern Pacific Lines - of the first transcontinental railroad fame. The center of the Southern Pacific Railroad universe - the its first mile of rail was Oakland.

    A minor connection exists between me and that locomotive - it was likely built 1885-ish(?) [note they were often rebuilt so the its hard to date them] by Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, PA and likely had brass parts manufactured by my great-grand father and his "ilk". I believe the Engineers name (or initials) are under the number 5.

    You can see a full side view of one of her "sisters" here:

    1. Iggy, that is fascinating. I knew you know a lot about railroad history, but I didn't know you'd have as close a tie to these trains as that! What a fascinating connection!

      Southern Pacific Lines would make sense around here. Actually, I believe one of Bill Bean's relatives--on the Watrous side--actually worked for Southern Pacific. I wonder if this might have been a picture of him.

      Don't you wish the engineer's initials were visible on this photo?!

  2. Sounds like you have had a wonderful adventure Jacqi--I am so jealous! There's nothing better than that type of candy and you are right---it's sooo addictive. Thanks for sharing your bounty!

    1. Michelle, as I know you can imagine, it was a wonderful trip! I'm looking forward to getting the chance to go back. So much more to it that there is an abundance of material on this part of the line.

  3. I am imagining you in a beautiful research library with everything all organized..what a fun day for you! I love that train photo!:)

    1. ...and I love it that Iggy knows so much about railroad history. I remember him finding details on one of the train photos you posted on your blog...amazing.

      Yes, it was a wonderful library. One where "shh" is still part of the librarian's lexicon :)

      As they say, "So many books, so little time."


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