The discovery of gold in 1848 by James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma resulted in an influx of about three hundred thousand eager young men into California seeking their fortune. Most went bust and returned home; a tiny few discovered their fortunes and became rich; and then there were those, like my great, great, great uncle Abner Vanderwalker, who were able to find a way to carve out a satisfactory life for themselves. At least for a while…Continue reading
Conducting research online can be productive and certainly is convenient. But there is nothing more satisfying than visiting an out-of-town repository and discovering something new about your ancestors. Traveling to the places that were important to our family can provide context and add texture to our understanding of their lives. Immersing yourself in the area where they lived and walking on the streets where they walked can really bring your ancestors to life. Of course it is always a bonus when they were thoughtful enough to choose a scenic place to live!
Here are just a few of my favorite places to visit to search for my California ancestors.
One very basic building block of family research is to catalog your family’s movements via census records. These reliable documents provide us not only with evidence of where our people lived across time but also indications of family relationships, countries of origin, occupations, etc., etc. However, every family historian soon learns that the information contain is not always 100% accurate nor is it always complete. I suspect we all have that branch of the tree consisting of people who, by all appearances, were intent on hiding from census takers.
Aden C. Congleton was born around 1809 in New York State. Details about his early life are as yet undiscovered, but it is known that in 1849 he heard the siren call of the California Gold Rush.