Our History

San Mateo County Genealogical Society

History of the Society

The San Mateo County Genealogical Society traces its roots to a 1982 Genealogy Class taught by Carol Harless through the San Mateo Department of Recreation.  As members of the class acquired the skills to search for their ancestors, Ms. Harless encouraged them to form a genealogical society in San Mateo County.   Eighteen people gathered for the first meeting where Janet Morrison, was elected President.  In order to help people interested in tracing their roots, the Society decided to offer monthly meetings on various topics related to genealogy and family history.  The newly formed Society identified establishment of a genealogical library in San Mateo County as their main goal. 

The first public meeting of the Society was held on October 13, 1982, at the Ampex Cafeteria in Redwood City.  Over 100 people were in attendance.  Mr. Herb Garcia, of the San Mateo County Historical Association was the guest speaker.  His topic was “Genealogy Comes Alive Through History”.  The Society was incorporated as a non-profit organization in July 1982.  Past Presidents of the Society include Janet Morrison, Dana Leslie, Jean Cloud, Mona Beddow, Doris Newbury, Irene Gough, Helen Crisman, Richard Laughlin, Diane Smelker, Chris Bell Green and Joyce Morey.  The Society’s current President is Mike Davis.

Under the leadership of Anna Scott, retired San Mateo County Reference Librarian, the Society began to form the nucleus of a library by acquiring books and magazines related to the topic of genealogy.  In the early days, the library materials were stored in boxes and brought to each meeting.  In 1989 the Society opened its library at 900 Main St., Redwood City, in a storefront provided free of charge by the city.  When that space was no longer available, Redwood City gave the Society space in the basement of the Redwood City Library.  When that library was torn down, the Society moved to a space within the San Mateo County Library Administration Building at 25 Lessengia Road in San Mateo.  Since 2010 the SMCGS Library has been located within the Cañada College Library in Redwood City. 

Today the San Mateo County Genealogical Society has over 200 members and continues to provide guidance and mentoring to citizens of San Mateo County who are interested in tracing their family history.  We offer ten monthly meetings a year, publish a newsletter every other month, present two all day seminars a year on family history topics and offer workshops throughout the year.

The Society is a member of the California State Genealogical Alliance working with them to identify and preserve records of genealogical and historical significance.  Other affiliations include the San Francisco Bay Area Genealogical Consortium, and the Federation of Genealogical Societies.