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A gem on California’s Central Coast

With no small regret, The Legal Genealogist bid adieu yesterday to San Luis Obispo, host of a weekend seminar that drew a large, active and engaged audience of genealogists together for their choice of 12 lectures by three presenters, yours truly included.

SLOCGSOh, I’ll be candid and admit that part of my regret was leaving behind the weather.

The California idea of a “cold winter’s day” and the New Jersey idea of a “cold winter’s day” don’t exactly match up.

But more than that, truly, the regret was that I was leaving behind yet another active, vital, vibrant local genealogical society.

The kind we rarely hear about in the cacophony of lament over the ones that are aging or failing.

The San Luis Obispo County Genealogical Society (SLOCGS) was founded in 1967 “to encourage interest in family history and educate our members and the public in genealogy research techniques” and “to assist both beginning and experienced genealogists to find the evidence and proof they need to solve their family puzzles.”

And boy does it do a good job. This weekend seminar was one example. Covering everything from search techniques to using court records, the lectures had something for everybody from beginner to advanced genealogist.

During the year, there are classes on computer and internet genealogy, research trips to places like the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, monthly meetings where the likes of Linkpendium‘s own Brian Wolf Leverich are regular speakers — and plenty of opportunities to volunteer and to learn and to grow.

SLOCGS has terrific special interest groups, where people with similar concerns get together and work through their research and related questions. There’s a group in genealogical writing, one on implementing professional standards, one on Czech Slovak genealogy, and one on Jewish genealogy.

And the website has an absolutely terrific set of historical and genealogical resources either available online or indexed online ranging from original land plats in the county to church records and more. The web page is an entry portal to those resources.

It’s hard to single out just one thing to highlight about the activities of SLOCGS. But if pushed to the wall on this, I’d probably say it’s the libraries. It operates two genealogical libraries, one at the San Luis Obispo Public Librarywith a catalog of holdings that runs 57 pages in PDF format, and the other at the Arroyo Grande Public Library with a 44-page catalog in PDF format.

Holdings aren’t limited to California — there are large numbers of books, maps and more from throughout the United States and abroad — yet there are simply fabulous resources for the local area: the Great Register of San Luis Obispo for 1867, local histories, pohotographs, cemetery indexes

Both libraries are staffed by volunteers, have regular hours, and are willing to try to open at other times by appointment if a researcher is coming in from a distance. And the SLOCGS librarians can do research for you, and ask for a donation of $15 an hour ($13 an hour for members) — which includes the cost of copies.

Member benefits include:

• An online discussion group on Google to share genealogical and historical resources;

• A service converting slides to JPG images for use online and archiving;

• A newsletter published fine times a year with reminders about upcoming meetings and classes;

• A twice-a-year bulletin of genealogy-related stories and articles;

• Discounts on publications, society seminars and classes, research trips and research assistance;

• Priority seating at classes and activities;

• Free hosting for members’ genealogical family trees.

If I lived anywhere near Central California, it’s a sure bet my name would be on that membership list. If you are lucky enough to live near there, yours should be.

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