History of the GSOR


by Jo Warner

"GENEALOGY MORE THAN HUNT FOR LOST CABOTS, LOWELLS" read the Press-Enterprise headline of July 25, 1965. Today, 30 years later, Cabot and Lowell names leave a bland look on many faces unless, of course, they are seeing Cabots and Lowells. Because of that article, 40 strangers came together one hot August evening to pursue the formation of a Society and, in turn, learn more about researching their own Ancestry.

Within two weeks, a constitution with by-laws was written, passed and an election of officers was held. Mary Tiffany, subject of the article became GSOR's first President. Daniel Harris, a La Sierra Student was elected Vice President.

The energy of these founding members was electric. Monthly meetings and workshops at the Riverside Library were scheduled. Life-Line began with eight or ten pages and became the Society's official publication. As the pages increased, so did its readership. Somewhere along the line, another "Life-Line" came into view. Our Editor apologized, "we had not intended infringing on another publication's name" so LIFELINER now became the new name for our official publication. The cover featured Riverside's Mission Bell Light Standard, the official emblem of the city of Riverside.

We began exchanging publications with other societies. GSOR members began writing about our community. One of the first was a wonderful chronology of the "History of Banking in Riverside from 1870 to 1965" by Roy Haglund. Col. Maurice O. Nordstrom wrote an article on "The Temescal Tin Mine."

In 1968, The Genealogical Society helped Riverside County celebrate its diamond (75) anniversary. Members were encouraged to send a shower of cards to the Board of Supervisors -- and to the Riverside Mayor, too.

Not only were members recording their own history but they were copying community records. Notable were the records of Agua Mansa Cemetery, an index of Riverside County deaths from 1893-1905; the 1880 Federal Census of the Riverside Precinct, County of San Bernardino; and the marriage records of St. Francis de Salas Catholic Church from 1893 to 1900.

Meantime, the society was generating more materials of its own. The library first loaned us one hall locker, then another. Our Library holdings were growing at a fast pace. Our membership was around 100.

As membership increased and GSOR's need grew, we needed better access to our materials. A decision was made to move to the Riverside Museum. We now had a closet! Plus, a large meeting room was available for meetings and workshops. We met on the second and fourth Saturdays from 10:00 a. m. to 3:00 p. m. (Lifeliner, Volume 30, #1, Page 4)

The GSOR library consisted of three double door metal cabinets, one containing hard bound books, one with periodicals, and a third contained the overflow of periodicals and the necessary library supplies. In the Spring of 1979, GSOR moved from the Museum to the Riverside Public Library, where we had much more space for our library materials, but which space we soon outgrew. The fourth Saturday them became a workshop for binding periodicals. (Lifeliner, Volume 30, #1, Page 4)


Our second decade began with the celebration of our country's Bicentennial and GSOR's 10th Anniversary. Members who had maintained a continuous membership were: Col. And Mrs. Maurice Nordstrom; Myrtle Williamson; Jo Warner; Fay Davis; Mr. and Mrs. Harry Winsemius; and Col. Ralph W. Ilmanen.

GSOR published cemetery Records; newspaper extracts, the 1880 Census of Riverside with historical and appropriate biographical sketches and an index to the birth, marriages and deaths of Riverside County residents from 1893-1905 during this period.

The LIFELINER was now 50 pages long. Members of the committee met at Editor, Jerry Mercer's house to collate each issue by walking around his dining room table. It worked. He stapled and it was soon in the mail.

Betty Radewald and Reuben Perley taught genealogy classes and Jo Warner facilitated a class in writing personal stories which were printed in succeeding issues of the LIFELINER.

Mid-decade, GSOR proceeded on an uncharted course. It was 1979-1980 and we had no President. This could have panicked lesser persons but genealogists are well known for dealing with uncertainty and frustration. The Board of Directors took up the gauntlet and took turns moderating the monthly board and regular meetings. It was a successful year. Genealogy was the nation's number two hobby.

Once again, GSOR needed more space. After a considerable, we gravitated back to the Riverside Public Library where we were offered a larger area located in the far corner of the lower floor. Eventually, we moved to the present location which is near the local history section.

A new understanding with library was finalized with a written agreement in which GSOR donated certain genealogical books to the library's permanent genealogy collection. In turn, the library agreed to house on open shelves, approximately 700 periodicals, pamphlets, and other related materials which would remain the property of GSOR. Now all library patrons had access to GSOR material as many hours as the library was open.

In this agreement, we promised to volunteer three hours an afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to assist researchers. This proved to be the most satisfying aspect of this new relationship. We were not modest in our belief that, sharing material, and time, had made Riverside Library's genealogy section one of the finest in Southern California.

In 1983, George Ryskamp [currently an Honorary Lifetime Member] an attorney and member of GSOR, rewrote our Articles of Incorporation and By-laws to conform to the corporations Code for Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporations.

Our LIFELINER continued to be our link with genealogists throughout the country. For eight years, Jerry mercer had been the Editor. Resigning for health reasons, he became GSOR's "Man of the Decade."

1985 to 1995

1985, the beginning of GSOR's third decade, began with a new library resource -- 3,350 sheets of microfiche. The LDS Stake libraries were in the process of updating their versions so our society was able to rescue what they had planned to discard. Now the IGI (International Genealogical Index) was available to all library patrons and the library gave us our very own microfiche reader.

The library also raised the shelves so that our larger books and periodicals could be shelved. Perhaps it was about this time when the library bolted the racks to the floor for earth quake protection, a sign of the times. Unfortunately, another sign of the times was the need to rebind our periodicals with a special security strip.

Meanwhile, at an Everton workshop, new methods of research were promised -- a computerized "Roots Cellar" and Family File would be available for our research. The computer, a new kid on the block, would soon become a necessity for many genealogists.

Still, copying records, the old fashioned way, was important. Members copied and indexed obits from the Press-Enterprise which continue today in a permanent file in the genealogy section. [WEBMASTER'S NOTE: after 1995 (exact year not remembered just now ) we discontinued copying and filing obits as the librarian had access to obits and death notices on the PE.com website; original card file is still available in the local history section]

During this time, Sherman Indian Records were copied and published in the LIFELINER. A series on the historic churches of Riverside, beginning with the four founding churches (1876 to 1882), were highlighted. The earliest churches were were: 1) All Saints Episcopal; 2) First Methodist Episcopal; 3) First Baptist; 4) Arlington Presbyterian. The histories of twelve churches were published.

Throughout the decade, members contributed wonderful articles for the LIFELINER. Joan Hall, a Riverside historian, wrote numerous articles about early Riverside. Vi Hamner covered Moreno Valley, and Theresa Gordon wrote article about early Arlington. Many memories and other pertinent genealogical information filled 49 pages of the LIFELINER.

In 1990, GSOR celebrated its 25th Anniversary. It began as a year of transition and sadness. Four members died all leaving an indelible mark on our society. Reuben (Chip) Perley will be remembered for his many years as GSOR's Treasurer and his genealogy classes for much of our history. Ruth Adeline Johnson, President for 1982 to 1985 saw our membership reach 250 with an attendance of 100 at the monthly meeting. Dale Harris, a diligent genealogist, was the LIFELINER Editor from 1983 to 1985. Lenna Brimmage will be remembered for her many years of support for the Society.

GSOR could not have survived 30 years without the many unnamed volunteers and members who have made our history so successful. They too have left their mark. As we look forward to the next 30 years, we have gone from mimeographing to microfilming to microfiche -- from computers to fax to voice mail! But,

"There is no such thing as Instant genealogy,
Our ancestors have a way of tell us
where they have been.
But they certainly didn't bother to
leave a forwarding address.
When they left
they just went ‘that-a-way!"

1995 to 2005

During this Time period, Kathy Stephens, new member in 1995-1996, initiated library field trips by car pool to various libraries holding genealogical collections. When Gary Aubuchon joined us later, he took over the both the driving and the planning.

We also saw our first ever webpage and email for GSOR! Kathy Stephens designed and regularly updated the site. First we appeared on Yahoo/Geocities in June 1999. In January 2005, we moved the website to Rootsweb.

2005 to Current

We currently meet on the second Saturday of the month, September through June, with no meeting in July and August. We always have a nice selection of speakers throughout the year to give us clues and tips on how to become better researchers in numerous fields.

After our regular meetings, we hold impromptu session of Genealogy 101 to help people find ways to get around their "brick walls." These are member to member sessions where someone with more experience in one field can share how they overcame a similar obstacle.

To expand the scope of our research, we have library field trips (we car pool) monthly to different libraries throughout Southern California. On the way to the libraries we talk about what we are looking for and on the way back we share what we found. And, of course, there's always lunch break at a local restaurant to talk some more! It is exciting when you find another member looking for the same lines you are!

In 2005-2006 we began to renegotiate a new contract with the Riverside Public Library. It is not yet finalized. In 2006-2007 we will formalize a new mission statement -- not as yet written.

A number of us attended the SCGS Jamboree in May 2006 and attended a number of lectures on how to make our society bigger and better. Kathy Stephens was particularly infused with the idea of our own domain name and a new format for the entire site. In May, Kathy purchased the domain name -- gsor.org -- and in June paid for the hosting site and then began working double time on it! Kathy has spent many hours creating the new format with new features. Her son Kevin also helped in formatting the new design. (Lifeliner, Volume 30, #4, June 1995. Pages 111-114)

We are grateful for the contribution, vision, and leadership

provided by the past presidents of GSOR:

1965 - 1967   Mary Tiffany
1967 - 1968   Sarah Sharp
1968 - 1969   Evelyn Charter
1969 - 1971   Myrtle Williamson
1971 - 1972   Randall W. Fentress
1972 - 1973   Betty Pennington
1973 - 1974   Betti Radewald
1974 - 1975   Jerry Mercer
1975 - 1977   Jackie Peel
1977 - 1979   Jo Warner
1979 - 1980   Moderator Only
1980 - 1981   Mamie Miller
1981 - 1983   Adeline Johnson
1984 - 1985   Ellen Schick
1985 - 1987   Lois Wickizer
1987 - 1989   Georgia Harris
1989 - 1991   Lois Sisson Lippman
1991 - 1994   Carol Costello
1994 - 1998   Ferne Goff
1998 - 2000   Carmen Bradley
2000 - 2001   Kathy Stephens
2001 - 2006   Gary AuBuchon
2006 - 2008   Peggy Farmer
2008 - 2010   Gary Aubuchon & Ferne Goff (co-Presidents)
2010 - 2011   Kathy Stephens
2011 - 2014   Patti Prime