Napa Valley                                                                           Genealogical Society

Who We Are

The Napa Valley Genealogical Society offers its members and the public a means for learning about ancestral heritage and homeland history. The Articles of Incorporation as a nonprofit organization were adopted in June 1975 and updated in January 2013.

The society is operated under the direction of an annually elected board. All functions of the organization are carried out by volunteers, without assistance from paid employees.

Beginner instructional classes and seminars are held throughout the year with individual assistance always available.

A bi-monthly newsletter, THE WINE PRESS, informs the membership of society activities, meetings, seminars, lists of new donations and acquisitions, research tips and advice, as well as free queries.

The History of the Napa Valley Genealogical Society

The Napa Valley Genealogical & Biographical Society was founded as an offshoot of the Bicentennial Committee of the Napa County Historical Society. Meetings began with great enthusiasm in July of 1974 with membership numbers growing quickly from the original core to 134 charter members. 

After six months of preliminary tasks including formation of the Society, adoption of by-laws, and filing for incorporation in the State of California, founding member Marian McGuire hosted an organizational meeting at her home in January of 1975. By the end of the meeting, the first slate of officers had been elected and board members appointed. 

In March of 1975, the group announced the opening of it first library, a rented room on the second floor of the Native Sons Hall in downtown Napa. The new library boasted how-to books, DAR magazines and yearbooks, National Genealogical Society quarterlies, some vital record compilations, and several volumes donated from Marian McGuire’s personal collections. The six-foot shelf held up by cinder blocks was rapidly filling. 

The Society became an official non-profit organization with the adoption of Articles of Incorporation in June of 1975. Members met four times per year, one meeting being an all-day workshop. By popular demand, that number kept expanding until the group met monthly as it does today. 

By 1978 the Society had developed a multi-day seminar called Roots and Shoots open to genealogists from around the Bay Area. The recognition gained from these events led the National Genealogical Society to chose us as the host society for their 1984 Conference in the States in San Francisco. Over 1,000 people from around the country attended this event.

Meanwhile, the library began outgrowing its space at the Native Sons Hall. After much discussion and trepidation, the group decided by 1986 to move to larger rented quarters on Solano Avenue. Monthly rent increased to what yearly rent had once been, necessitating an increase in dues and the initiation of serious fundraising efforts - rummage sales, wine raffles, turkey dinners, fashion shows, and other creative events. Longstanding members heeded the call, bolstered by the energy of new volunteers who increased the membership rolls to more than 200. 

In addition to fundraising, volunteers contributed hundreds of hours to genealogical projects - indexing the huge file of Hartford Times and Boston Transcript newspaper columns,  creating compilations of cemetery records and obituaries, copying vital records, and publishing Quarterly reviews.

As often happens, though, success brought new challenges. Support from members and  friends in the community had multiplied the library’s holdings so rapidly that we soon faced a hard decision - rent larger quarters or get rid of books. When rents turned out to be prohibitive, we began the search for a home of our own. 

Many buildings were studied and rejected, but the church at 1701 Menlo Avenue was found to be almost perfect. Our offer of $166,000, replete with contingencies, was accepted. After a year of feverish work, contingencies were removed and promissory notes signed on December 20, 1989. Continued fundraising and building preparation led to the library’s grand opening on July 20, 1991. Less than two years later, on May 22, 1993, the Society invited the community to a “Mortgage Burning” ceremony to celebrate full payment of the balance on our library loan. With pride and gratitude, the ceremony’s written program proclaimed: “ It is ours free and clear. Thank you all!”

The genealogy library and its collections will always be the core legacy of our early volunteers. But as we know from history, challenges and opportunities never end. Resting on our laurels is not an option. By offering our first online education program in February of 2021, launching a redesigned website the following month, and being open to innovation in changing times, we stay determined to continue the mission we’ve inherited in new and creative ways.  

  • Adapted from Sandra K. Ogle, Napa Valley Genealogical & Biographical Society History, 1993.
Napa Valley Genealogical Society, 1701 Menlo Avenue, Napa, California 94558  
(corner of Menlo and California)

Phone: (707) 252-2252 

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