Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Word to Local Historians

While working on the Monrovia history books indexes mentioned in the previous post, the people involved have all had the same observations and frustrations. They make research go from difficult to impossible and cause confusion. So to all current and future historians, our gripes are as follows:

1.  Lack of full names - often we find only initials and not first names (E. L. Smith instead of Edward L. Smith). Or nicknames like Ed Smith with no further clues whether it's Edward Longstocking Smith or Edward Finklebein Smith. There are tantalizing clues with titles like Chief Smith (which Chief - fire or police?) and then we discover there were two such persons in town. So which one is it? Alarmingly, especially in the older histories, women are referred to as Mrs. Smith without clarifying WHICH Mrs. Smith of the four Smiths who live on a single street. Even worse, their given names are rarely used and even less frequently, their previous surnames.

2.  Two people with the same name - Take pity on those of us who do not time travel so we can sort out which one is which. If E. L. Smith was born in 1820 and died in 1893, and E. L. Smith the nephew was born in 1850 and died in 1928, please make every reference E. L. Smith (1820-1893) and E. L. Smith (1850-1928). It may very well interrupt the florid prose of your opus, but since it is a history book and not a novel, it's nice to keep the history straight for those of us from Fiji in 2052.

3.  Colloquial place/item names - The Green Blintz may have been the hottest way to travel in 1902, and certainly that should be mentioned as the customary way of talking about the Great Southern Pacific Atomic Pearl Railway, but don't forget to mention the Great Southern Pacific Atomic Pearl Railway. And don't just call it the Railroad when it isn't - it's a railway. Yes, there is a difference and yes, to the researcher, it matters. Likewise do mention a stately home is called The Pines, but don't assume everyone knows where it is - or was. If you're citing the local newspaper, make sure to give the full title of The SoCal Busybody Press instead of using the local nickname The Busybody. A good researcher will ultimately figure out you are writing about the newspaper and not the local town gossip, but why make it aggravatingly difficult?

4.  Vague dates - Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts to pinpoint the exact date of the grand opening of the Gilded Spa and Pancake Palace, the best you can do is give the intrepid researcher the month and year. That is FAR better than the vague, "sometime in the 20th Century," or narrowing down a bit, "in the 1920s...." Researchers want to know what specific day and date the new City Hall opened and failing that, at the very least, the exact year. Last but not least, make an attempt to date photographs. If you're not sure, use circa to indicate it's a best guess.

5.  Acronyms with no explanation - Acronyms are great IF everyone knows what they mean to the town's history. NRA in 21st Century America usually conjures up National Rifle Association. In early 20th Century Monrovia, however, it meant National Recovery Administration. Those two associations couldn't be further apart in purpose. It is very important to spell it out for those mortals who live in different times.

All of which is to say - historians, please think of your audience not as your near neighbor who knows all the people, places and events you are so happy to share with posterity, but the poor soul who has just moved to your town 100 years in the future.

Indexing the Main Monrovia History Books

The library is tackling a project we hope has positive ramifications for future local historians and genealogy buffs. We are creating annotated indexes of the major histories of Monrovia currently in our possession. While it is standard practice to prepare annotated bibliographies, annotating an index to a book is more unusual.

Books which are fortunate enough to contain an index at all are constrained by the number of pages the author or publisher is willing to devote to it. With the advent of computers, such constraints are no longer necessary. We can be as complete as we want - naming every person, place and event on every page if necessary. We can also add quick notations giving relationships or facts. Often the index serves to answer the question sufficiently so the book doesn't need to be referenced. And the best part is, you don't have to think like a librarian since Internet documents are keyword searchable. Basically, we're trying to make it as easy as possible to stub your toe on the information you seek.

An example of annotations providing useful information is sorting out relationships and names - particularly for women. Writers in the past had the distressing habit of only referring to married women as Mrs. John Smith. If at any point their first names or surnames before marriage made it into the book, those names were rarely (if ever) indexed. Not only do we list both names, when possible there is a note explaining the other name. For example:

Jones, Maria            pg. 42  A.K.A. Mrs. John Smith
Smith, John (Mrs.)  pg. 42  neĆ© Maria Jones

These notations especially help genealogists sorting out who's who.

An off-shoot of the Giant Index Project is the photograph index for the same history books. While photographs are certainly being recorded in each individual book index, we are in the process of compiling all the photos and illustrations from the major texts and and having the information in one complete index. If you are looking for a picture of William Monroe, the photograph index will list all the books and pages together for easier searching.

There will, of course, be printed copies of each index in the Library, and once the compilations are complete, they will also be available on the Internet. Once an index is complete, an announcement will appear on our website of course, on this blog and on Twitter. In the meantime, here is a sample of what we're working on from the Monrovia Centennial Review:

Friday, September 18, 2015



The current library, opened on May 16, 2009, was designed by Gonzalez Goodale Architects to be the striking showpiece of Old Town Monrovia. With its slim profile, it nestles between the old trees Library Park is famous for. Inside there is a spacious central atrium and clerestory to allow maximum natural light into the building. The building is 28,000 square feet and cost just under the 16 million dollars Monrovia residents voted on as a bond issue in March 2007.

Yamada furniture and shelving
Bernards was Construction Manager for the new LEED® Silver library. The Library and Library Park are Monrovia’s first U.S. Green Building Council LEED® certified facilities.
Sustainable cork flooring covers the main portion of the building, while carpets that contain up to 49% pre-consumer recycled content, cover the Youth areas and Community Room. Low or no-VOC paint and sealants were used, and energy efficient lighting is featured throughout. The steel used in construction contains at least 25% recycled materials, the HVAC system is high-efficiency and the building features a cool roof to reflect the sun’s energy away from the building.
Warren Hile furniture in the Large Print Collection alcove
Even the furniture uses recycled content. The furniture for the public is designed by Yamada Enterprises; for the staff workroom by Tangram Designs. Craftsman style Heritage Room cabinets, tables and chairs, and the furniture in the entrance tunnel were designed specifically for the Library by Warren Hile of Hile Studio.

Warren Hile furniture and cabinets in the Heritage Room

Lawrence R. Moss & Associates of Glendale designed landscaping to be drought tolerant and easily sustainable.

For more pictures of the Library and Library Park, visit our Flickr site.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Family History Research at the Monrovia Public Library

You are not alone if an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? or Genealogy Roadshow got you thinking about your own family history. How can you get started on your search?

1.          Gather information at home. The sources you have at home, or at the homes of your family members, may include family photographs, scrapbooks, letters, diaries, Bibles, obituaries, funeral cards, or birth, marriage, and death certificates. All of these are pieces of the puzzle of your family history. If you come up empty handed, reach out to relatives.

2.            Talk to your family members. Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles about their childhoods, what they remember about their own parents and grandparents, and what family stories they may have been told. Some family stories are passed down for generations! Be sure to record your interview – many phones can do this – or take notes.

3.            Record your information. Start with yourself and work back in time to fill in a family tree or pedigree chart with the names and dates that you already know. If you prefer not to work with paper and pencil, there are several computer software programs available.

4.            Focus your research. Review your information and note where there might be gaps that need to be filled. What questions do you want to answer about your ancestors’ lives? In order to stay on track, focus on one individual, family, or surname at a time.

5.            Search online. There are countless websites and databases that can help you find your ancestors, and while many are free, some require subscriptions. A world of information is at your fingertips, including ship passenger lists, census records, city directories, military records, historic newspapers, gravestones, photographs, and vital records.

6.            Search offline. While more information is online every day, you may find that you need to turn to libraries, archives, courthouses, and historical societies as well. You may also choose to view records on microfilm at your local Family History Center. Eventually, you might decide to travel to see the places where your ancestors lived for yourself.

7.            Organize your research. Whether you use paper files, computer software, or both, organize the information that you find and be sure to cite each source as precisely as possible. You will also want to keep a record of which sources you have searched.

8.            Share! Don’t keep your hard work to yourself. Consider creating an online family tree, website, blog, or even a book or scrapbook to share with your family members in order to document the fascinating stories you have found. The next generation will thank you!

The Monrovia Public Library has a number of resources to assist you in your research. Check out some of our new titles on genealogy, including The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy, Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques, The Family Photo Detective, and How to Archive Family Keepsakes. For those with roots in Monrovia, ask at the Adult Services desk about viewing our city directories and historic newspapers. And of course, library card holders are welcome to use our computers to access and other free genealogy databases.

Friday, August 7, 2015


A relic of the past will be around for awhile to see the future. Monrovia Historic Preservation Group (MOPHG) and a private citizen stepped forward to save the last remaining vestige of Monrovia's horse and buggy past. The carriage barn, built in 1890, was slated for demolition when the new owners of the property wanted to build a second house on their lot. MOPHG members pledged money to move the barn to a new site and a private owner agreed to house the barn and pay for reconstruction. Jimmy Hendrix coordinated the move and restoration. A small celebration for the completion of the project was held on Saturday, July 4, 2015. Pictures courtesy Ms. Annette. They were taken before the completion of the barn.

Story based on article appearing in Monrovia Weekly, July 2-8, 2015, pages 1 & 12.


This is a quick random facts about Monrovia section. The question: DID YOU KNOW?

1.  Monrovia had its own marching band, started in 1889 by avid musician Albert E. Cronenwett. Mr. C. owned a jewelry store and optician shop and played the cornet. The band was affectionately known as Cronie's Band.

2.  Continuing in the musical vein, Monrovia had not one, but two orchestras. Both were formed in 1906. The Apollo Club started one of the orchestras and the other was called the Aeolian Orchestra.

3.  Monrovia had its own airport, originally called the Foothill Flying Club before being named Monrovia Airport. It operated from 1928 - 1953.

4.  Two brothers started a juice stand near the airport and called it the Airdrome. By 1940, they moved their operation to San Bernardino under the now ubiquitous name, McDonald's.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Monrovia - Incorporated 4th in Los Angeles County

You may have heard it from time to time: Monrovia is the fourth oldest city in Los Angeles County. Well - yes and no. It certainly and definitively was the 4th city to be incorporated in the County, after Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Santa Monica. But it was not the fourth city founded in the County. A cursory noodling around yielded many cities that were around before Monrovia was a gleam in William Monroe's eye.

Los Angeles:  1781
Baldwin Park, formerly known as Vineland:  1860
Compton:  1869

Then the County woke up and got busy. 1874 was a very popular year with the founding of Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Alhambra, followed in 1875 by Pomona and 1878 by South Pasadena. Covina was founded in 1882, with La Puente hard on its heels in 1884.

By 1886, when Monrovia was founded, a veritable landslide of towns popped up and by the time Monrovia incorporated in 1887, the County was well on its way to the full complement of 88 cities we have today.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Quick - what two Presidents of the United States visited Monrovia? The first was President William Howard Taft who made a brief whistle-stop appearance in 1909. The second was President William Jefferson Clinton, who spoke at Monrovia High School on July 22, 1996.

Perhaps even more intriguing, is Congressional candidate Richard M. Nixon. According to Charles F. Davis in the Monrovia-Duarte Community Book, Nixon was a frequent visitor to Monrovia even after he became Vice President. He mentions the debate between Nixon and Jerry Voorhis as taking place in the Monrovia High School, and later the Nixons entertaining at the Woman's Clubhouse. (p.126)