About

Research in the States – California , written by Sheila Benedict,is available in both hard copy and PDF eBook. The book has California historical information important to genealogical researchers, along with lists of available repositories in each county. You can order the book online through the National Genealogical Society (NGS) website.

My name is Sheila Benedict and I have been a professional genealogist for more than twenty-five years. I can be of assistance with my expertise in historical, genealogical, and legal research. Forensic genealogy is my current focus, which is assisting attorneys and others that have cases that require kinship determinations.

My BA degree is in Political Science from California State University, San Bernardino, emphasis was on pre-law. I studied at the University of California, Riverside and took a variety of master’s classes and paralegal studies at both campuses. I am a member of the national scholastic honor society Phi Kappa Phi.

My professional life has been very diverse as I worked with my husband running a quarter horse breeding farm, ran the office of his commercial swimming pool business, and was a professional political campaign assistant for a variety of local, state, and federal candidates and ballot issues.

My interest in genealogy began when my first husband became gravely ill and passed away when our children were quite young. I was asked about his family medical history and could not answer that at all. When my second husband was diagnosed in his late 40s with Parkinson’s Disease the same question came up. This devastating news set me off on a genealogical search of his ancestry. I was never able to determine a genetic reason for his illness, partially because none of the records indicated it, and DNA at that time, never crossed either of our minds.

What did happen was the discovery that I had the ability to assist other people research their family ancestry. I went to every school that taught genealogical research at that time. I studied advanced genealogical techniques and Irish Research at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University in Birmingham, AL; use of federal records at the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) at the National Archives in Washington, DC.; the genealogy study programs at the National Genealogical Society (NGS), and any other workshops and seminars that would benefit and increase my research skills. From 1992 until 2007, I was certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) (#681).

I have lectured at major National Genealogical Society and Federation of Genealogical Societies Conferences, traveled and lectured in many states nationwide, taught genealogy at Allan Hancock Community College, in Santa Maria, CA through their adult education program, wrote articles for genealogical publications, assisted many clients interested in their ancestry, worked for attorneys that required research about family background, such as for determining heirs to an estate, or in one case, researching surnames being used in a federal domain name case .

During that time, I was a member of the Board of the Association of Professional Genealogists, served on the board and am a life member of the National Genealogical Society, past-president and life member of the California State Genealogical Alliance, a charter member of the Genealogical Speakers Guild, and member of a number of local genealogical and historical societies.

I let my certification lapse in 2007 as, during that time, I had been hired as the archivist and administrator at Old Mission Santa Inés, in Solvang CA, one of the twenty-one California Historic Missions. Working the many hours there, and the schooling needed for that position, did not allow time for client work or extensive travel. In 2012, I resigned as the administrator at the Mission but was immediately hired back to continue to run the archive on a part-time basis and has re-started by professional genealogical research business.

Before my work at the Mission, My specialties were California research and records, certain church records, and assisting people of Irish ancestry in the United States so, hopefully, they can work toward locating ancestry in Ireland. I have traveled there and to England for clients and have an exceptional Irish researcher in Dublin that I work with when I cannot travel myself.

My genealogical society positions include being the immediate past vice-president of the Virtual Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists and current vice-president of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG). Additionally, I wrote an article on forensic genealogy for CAFG. In my community, I was the 2014-2015 president of the Solvang Rotary Club, serve as their public relations chair, and in the past, wrote a rotary monthly column in a local newspaper.

Interest in Forensic Genealogy was the deciding factor in attending the 2014 Institute on Forensic Genealogy in Dallas, Texas. I live in Santa Barbara County, California and am a member of several local societies, such as the Central Coast Paralegal Association, the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society, and the San Luis Obispo County Genealogical Society.

My lecture topics are listed on another page of the website and I will happily discuss other topics where my expertise can be of value.

Specialties include California research, Social Sciences, genealogical methodology, migration patterns in the USA, Catholic records, Irish-American Research, and forensic genealogy. Therefore, my personal library includes historical and resource texts, CDs, microfilm, microfiche, such as some county court indexes, and other legal sources to assist with forensic genealogy, including the California Civil Codes, especially Probate Codes. Many of these resources are also available online and those are used as well. In addition to California, the library also includes resources for other states, such as Ohio and Illinois family histories and databases. I have extensive knowledge of Catholic records as I worked full time as the administrator of an historic California Mission in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and currently still work there only part-time as the archivist so I can continue my forensic and family genealogy business. In the past, I worked for the Regional Bishop’s office and marriage tribunal, which required taking many classes on Canon Law as pertains to marriages.

Some California resource in-house examples include old county histories, gold mining, court records, marriage, divorce, and birth indexes (fiche and film) for various years, statewide 1890 Great Register (3 volumes) and many individual county Great Register compilations, a database of California county burials of American Civil War veterans, which includes both Union and Confederate men and many county genealogical society information texts.

For an Irish-American tracing their ancestry, it has to start with as much resources in this country as can be located because just knowing the county in Ireland where ancestors lived will not be enough to find them there. Once that part of the search has been completed, most of the Irish sources in my library are in texts and includes reference materials for Ireland’s Poor Law Unions, Registrar Districts, and other political divisions in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK).

Copyright ©2016 by Sheila Benedict. All Rights Reserved