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Was My Uncle Really a Bigamist? Finding the Truth on Ancestry

As I kid, I used to hear my parents talking about my uncle the bigamist. Once I learned what that word meant, I wanted to know more. However, my parents had no proof and we didn’t have access to the amazing Ancestry Library database that contains billions of vital records, census reports and images, military and immigration records and much more. Recently, using the Mechanics’ Ancestry database, I was able to confirm that indeed my uncle was a bigamist, with one wife in California and another in Rhode Island. I was able find the marriage dates, his wives’ full names and much more.

Are there skeletons in your family tree? Find out more by accessing our Ancestry Library database: http://www.milibrary.org/research/databases. Not sure where to begin? Every other month, I offer an Ancestry class that is free to members. The next one is on April 14 at 6 p.m. To find out more and register, go to: http://www.milibrary.org/events/grow-your-family-tree-ancestry-library-edition-apr-14-2016

Posted on Mar. 28, 2016 by Deborah Hunt

EXHIBIT: The Legacy of the PPIE

October 1-December 4, 2015 | Library, 2nd Floor

When the lights went out on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition on December 4, 1915, the city collectively let out a sigh of relief and indulged in a pat on the back. San Francisco had proven that it was a city that could overcome adversity (the 1906 earthquake and fire), rally its citizens to perform great acts of civic pride and duty, and show the rest of the nation and the world that it was a shining beacon on the western edge of the United States.

At the close of the Exposition, San Francisco was left with the remnants of the fair’s grounds – 635 acres of mostly landfill which eventually became the Marina District, the Yacht Harbor, the Palace of Fine Arts, and a few other structures that were preserved and moved to new locations. The prominence of the personages involved in the Exposition, such as Bernard Maybeck and M. H. de Young, benefitted from their work for the PPIE.

This display will feature photographs, pamphlets and ephemera regarding the close of the PPIE festivities on December 4, 1915, and the legacy engendered by this celebration.

Free and open to the public.

Posted on Oct. 2, 2015 by Deborah Hunt

The Panama Canal Exhibit - Open to the Public

The ship Kroonland in the Panama Canal

June 1 – July 31
2nd Floor Library

Named one of the seven modern wonders of the world by the American Society of Engineers, the Panama Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This engineering marvel provides a shortcut of 8,000 miles for vessels travelling between oceans and eliminates the need to travel around the treacherous Cape Horn.

Canal excavation began in 1881 by the French who eventually abandoned the work in 1894 due to construction problems and a devastating number of fatalities of workers due to malaria and yellow fever. In 1904, the United States purchased the rights to the land from the Panamanian government, the equipment and excavations from the French, and continued construction of the Panama Canal. The Canal was completed and opened to international traffic on August 15, 1914.

The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco was a celebration of the opening of the Panama Canal and the expanded trade that helped the Port of San Francisco to prosper.

Posted on Jun. 4, 2015 by Deborah Hunt

Reuben Hale Family Collection Exhibit, January 22 to March 31 (Open to the Public)

As the inaugural exhibit in the new Archival Display Cabinet, the Mechanics' Institute is displaying the family heirlooms of one of the members of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) executive committee, Reuben B. Hale.

The Reuben Hale Family Collection includes photos, medals, pins, certificates, and books related to the 1915 PPIE. Mr. Hale, a retail tycoon and president of the S.F. Merchant’s Association in the early 1900’s, was considered to be the originator of the grand idea to host an international exposition in San Francisco. He served as a Vice President on the PPIE executive committee and as a member of the Commission Extraordinary which visited governments in Europe in 1912 to solicit their participation in the PPIE.

The display is in the Library on the 2nd Floor of the Mechanics' Institute Building at 57 Post Street, San Francisco. Admission is free.

Posted on Feb. 2, 2015 by Deborah Hunt

June 2014 : The Great Outdoors




Summer officially arrives in June and for many of us it means vacations, travel and getting outside to enjoy the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, the state of California as well as points beyond.
Here are a few of my favorite titles for enjoying the great outdoors, whether in person or in your favorite chair at home.

My first summer in the Sierra   by John Muir ; with illustrations from drawings made by the author in 1869 and from photographs by Herbert W. Gleason.   917.94 M95 v.2
If there ever was a book to inspire one to get up from reading and head into the Sierras, this is it. This is the diary Muir kept his first summer in California in 1869 as he worked as a sheep hand for the annual migration of sheep from the Central Valley to the High Sierra around Yosemite Valley. Muir's engaging journal describes majestic vistas, flora and fauna, as well as the region's other breathtaking natural wonders. There are comical moments such as when he encounters a bear grazing on wildflowers in a meadow and sad ones as he describes the Native Americans he encounters who are already being devastated by disease and poverty. This work is also available in audiobook format.  917.94 M95c

A walk in the woods: rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail   by Bill Bryson.  917.404 B916
Solidly in middle age, the author decides to fulfill a dream he has of hiking the Appalachian Trail. He is somewhat ill prepared though and makes the mistake of inviting an old college buddy who is in no shape to face the trek. You’ll be sure to laugh at the predicaments they find themselves in, while enjoying Bryson’s informative narrative on the flora and fauna of the areas they pass through.

Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.   92 S913
The amazing story of a young woman, who has never been backpacking before, as she works her way North on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexico-California border through to the Oregon-Washington border. As she hikes alone, she meets mostly helpful, wonderful trail mates and becomes more and more confident in her abilities to do just about anything. Her life, up to this point, has been mostly a sad one, and the name she has taken on -- “Strayed” -- reflects her feelings of being adrift. In the end, she overcomes so much both in a physical and psychological sense. This work is likewise available in audiobook format. 92 S913c

Posted on Jun. 2, 2014 by Deborah Hunt

March 2014: You Are Never Too Old to Read Children’s Books





My children are grown, but as part of my library responsibilities, I review new children’s books and movies to purchase for the Mechanics’ Institute. Did you know we have 856 children’s books and 107 DVDs in our collection?  We have picture books and books for middle schoolers and everything in between. I am having a ball as I read the reviews and then read the actual books when they arrive.

To search for book titles, use the Dewey Call No. “Child”, or browse our children’s section on the 2nd floor over by the arched windows. Children’s books which don’t fit on the 2nd floor are in the basement. We will happily retrieve them for you. To find DVDs, search on the subject “children’s dvds”. They are located at the end of the adult fiction DVDs.


Here are a few of my favorites:

Erik the red sees green: a story about color blindness by Julie Anderson; illustrated by David López.
When Erik begins having problems in school and on the soccer field, he discovers that he's color blind -- he can't read the chalkboard, do the right homework or kick to his own team. He's happiest in art class, until one day, he paints himself as Erik the Green. Classmate Annabel understands what's wrong: He has color vision deficiency (CVD), also known as color blindness, just like her father.  Illustrations of everyday objects compare what Erik sees to what his classmates see, revealing that seemingly minor details such as yellow chalk on a green chalkboard or color-coded index cards can be a major problem for people with CVD. With careful explanations and simple, matter-of-fact accommodations, Erik can participate in school again.

The matchbox diary by Paul Fleischman; illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.
A little girl and her great-grandfather meet for the first time and attempt to get to know each other. The child is intrigued by the curiosities she sees in a collection of matchboxes. These matchboxes represent the memories of the old man's life, a tangible diary, undertaken as a substitute for the written form at a time in his life when he was illiterate. Bits and pieces contained within call forth events, emotions or people that were important in his life's journey, from his early childhood in Italy to the difficult voyage to America and the struggles of his immigrant family in the new world. An olive pit, a pen nib, a fish bone, a piece of coal and more tell of poverty, dreams and perseverance. 

Paper son: Lee's journey to America by Helen Foster James & Virginia Shin-Mui Loh ; illustrated by Wilson Ong.
Twelve-year-old Wang Lee, an orphan, reluctantly leaves his grandparents in China for the long sea voyage to San Francisco, where he and other immigrants undergo examinations at Angel Island Immigration Station. The journey from China to Angel Island is fraught with anxiety and peril. In order to gain admittance, he takes the "paper son" name Fu Lee, taking the place of someone whose records had burnt in the 1906 earthquake and fire. If he does not pass the examination on Angel Island, he will be returned to China.

Roald Dahl's revolting recipes illustrated by Quentin Blake ; with photographs by Jan Baldwin ; recipes compiled by Josie Fison and Felicity Dahl.
Growing up, my children loved Roald Dahl’s quirky sense of humor as we read his books together. This compilation of recipes for dishes (revolting or not) referred to in Roald Dahl's books makes for fun reading.

Posted on Mar. 5, 2014 by Deborah Hunt

December 2013: Cookies for the Holidays




December is a busy month in our family with three birthdays and the holidays. During the cool weather, I love to bake and enjoy the aroma of fresh cookies in the house. If you are like me, you have time-tested recipes that may have become traditional favorites in your family. This year, I’m going to try out some of the recipes in the books below. I hope you will too.

Chewy gooey crispy crunchy melt-in-your-mouth cookies by Alice Medrich (Balcony 2B, 641.865 M492)
This is the only cookbook I’ve seen that comes with a User’s Guide followed by an FAQ (frequently asked questions) section. The tips here are, even for this experienced baker, quite useful – how to toast coconut, sesame seeds and nuts to the cacao content of chocolate used in the recipes. The recipes are then ordered in chapters by texture: crispy, crunchy, chunky, chewy, gooey, flakey and melt-in-your-mouth. Included are whole grain recipes along with wheat free ones.

The cookie jar by Josephine Perry (Balcony 2B, 641.865 P46)
A 1940s collection of cookies from around the world, from simple to complicated. Cookie ingredients have not changed much over the years. Following the table of contents is an interesting section entitled “Choosing the right cookie” that works well for everything from parties to Christmas to gift boxes. Another section called “What kind of cookies shall I bake” lists ingredients in the recipe such as buttermilk to cookie types, such as honey cakes.

The Jewish holiday baker by Joan Nathan  (Balcony 2B, 641.815 N27)
Although Joan Nathan is listed as the author, bakers from all over the world contributed to this book. Each holiday section has an introduction explaining about the holiday and the related traditional foods. The recipes come from many parts of the world, representing the breadth of Jewish history and geography.

Swedish cakes and cookies by Melody Favish (Balcony 2B, 641.8653 S974)
Over 100 cookies recipes and much more. A beautifully illustrated book of treats I’ve often seen in bakeries. Even though this has “Swedish” in the title, you’ll find sections on Danish pastries, Italian biscotti and tips for successful baking.

Posted on Nov. 27, 2013 by Deborah Hunt