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Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society

"Lost" index to 1883 history of Alameda County

July 25, 1999

The Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society (L-AGS) has just published a reprint of a "lost" index to Myron Winslow Wood's "History of Alameda County, California," 1883. The full book, reprinted in 1969, is widely held by libraries in California and elsewhere, but it contains only a perfunctory index, mainly of the names of prominent citizens who paid to have their biographies printed in the book.

The Works Progress Administration compiled a complete name and subject index to Wood's history in 1936. In contrast to the book itself, this index appears to be rare. A search failed to find it in the online catalogs of the LDS Family History Library, the Library of Congress, the University of California, Sutro Library, the California State Library, the Oakland Public Library or the San Francisco City Library. However, the Alameda County Library has a carbon copy typescript of the index (VCa 974 Wood's...) housed in a locked case in the Maurice Marks Center for Local and California History in the Fremont Main Library.

It is the Alameda County Library copy of the index that has just been reprinted by L-AGS.

L-AGS's reprint is a xerographic reproduction of the carbon copy index, 8 1/2 x 11 inches, 223 pages, spiral bound, containing about 9000 entries. To members of L-AGS the cost is $23 and to all others the cost is $35 plus $3.20 shipping. Orders may be sent to:

L-AGS ("Wood's Index")
P.O. Box 901
Livermore, CA 94551-0901

Checks should be made out to "L-AGS."

Wood's history is typical of county histories published in the decade around the first U.S. centennial in 1876. It was a commercial venture, not a scholarly work, relying for profit partly on patronage of county citizens (313 men and not one woman!) whose laudatory biographies and portraits were included in the book. In derisive reference to the portraits, works in the genre became known as "mug books." In spite of its commercial origins, Wood's history is an extremely valuable reference for the history of Alameda County up to 1883. It is a massive tome of 1001 pages. Hardly an event that occurred in any part of the county escapes mention.

From the standpoint of historians and genealogists, the book has a major flaw - it has no general index. Present-day researchers had apparently overlooked the fact that the WPA had compiled an index in the depression era. When the WPA index was recently "discovered" in the Fremont Library, L-AGS decided it would be a service to genealogists and local historians to issue a reprint.

An alternative to hard copy printing would have been to post the index on the L-AGS Web site for free access to all. This choice would have been in keeping with L-AGS policy and past practices, exemplified by its posting of the records of local cemeteries and mortuaries. However, the manuscript of the index is so poorly legible that optical character recognition failed. Manual keying in of the data would have been too daunting for L-AGS volunteers and posting scanned images of the index pages would have been prohibitive in Web server space. Hence the decision for hard copy printing. In any event, the new index will probably be most useful when shelved beside the full history book, which itself is not yet online.

Update May 1, 2013

Wood's Index is now online on the L-AGS Web site at Wood's Index online.

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06 Aug 2013, 22:53:49

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