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November 28, 2007 > Local history at your library

Local history at your library

By Janet Cronbach, Local History Specialist, Fremont Main Library

Ever wondered how Irvington got its name? Want the low-down on the Niles Ghost, or need to research the history of your old house? The Maurice Marks Center for Local and California History is a hidden gem at the Fremont Main Library which can help to answer these questions and others.

The Maurice Marks Center for Local and California History is named after community activist Maurice Marks, who was influential in creating and supporting community organizations and services during Fremont's early years as a city.

The collection focuses on the Tri-City region of Fremont, Newark and Union City with emphasis on the City of Fremont. The collection includes early telephone books, maps, newspapers, and some photographs as well as history books. Special areas of the collection include oral history tapes recorded in the early 1970s and mid 1980s, and the papers of Oakland Tribune reporter Gladys Williamson.

These unique resources are invaluable to those doing family research. We recently had the pleasure of helping a patron locate the home they lived in as a child. The street names have changed, but with the help of a 1954 telephone directory and a 1953 county atlas, she was able to pinpoint where the house was and where she started elementary school.

Because much of this collection is irreplaceable, the materials must be requested at the Reference Desk on the second floor of the Fremont Main Library. The collection may be accessed at any time during the library's open hours. Local History Specialist, Janet Cronbach, is happy to schedule an appointment with anyone who needs assistance with their research. Her e-mail address is

More details about the collection are posted on the library's website at:

We also offer a number of online resources to assist those researching local and family history. Start at. and choose Genealogy Resources from the choices under Research Guide.

Ancestry Library Edition is an invaluable resource for those doing family research. It includes census, birth, marriage and death records among others. (This is available at the library only.)

Heritage Quest, includes some excellent history books for Alameda County including the comprehensive "History of Alameda County, California : including its geology, topography, soil, and productions : together with a full and particular record of the Spanish grants : the early history and settlement, compiled from the most authentic sources, the names of original Spanish and American pioneers, a full political history, comprising a tabular statement of officers of the county since its formation : separate histories of each of the townships, showing their advancement and progress : also incidents of pioneer life, the raising of the Bear Flag, and biographical sketches of early and prominent citizens and representative men, and of its cities, towns, churches, schools, secret societies, etc." published by Myron W. Wood in 1883.

Here at the library, we use the California Death Records site on a daily basis to help people locate obituaries.

Our newest online resource is a small sampling of photographs from the Gladys Williamson Collection:

The Gladys Williamson Collection is one of our most heavily used and treasured resources. As a reporter for the Oakland Tribune, Gladys Williamson covered stories about the Tri-City area from the 1934 to 1962. She lived in Niles and took a keen interest and active role in local affairs including the incorporation of the City of Fremont. Most of the historic photographs at the library are held in her papers.

As you explore this mini-exhibit, you will note that some descriptions are uncertain. Perhaps you can help us clarify some of the ambiguities. We welcome your comments.

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