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When working in archives around San Diego, I often overhear people tell librarians they are just beginning to research their family history and ask what sources are available. Many research sources exist locally, and to facilitate the research process, I have compiled some of them into this article. What follows is a list of libraries, archives, historical societies, and government entities that have records, books, photos, manuscripts, or other items of genealogical interest.

Couts-Bandini pedigree chart

Couts-Bandini pedigree chart

Pedigree Chart

Before beginning your research, it would be good to follow two steps. The first is to fill out a pedigree chart like the one shown below. The pedigree chart is valuable because, if filled out properly, it provides a road map of what a researcher knows about his family and what he needs to find out. Above all, family-history research is a study of people and locations. If you don’t know the names of your great-grandparents or where they lived, you will have a hard time researching them.

On the pedigree chart, you will see lines for individual names, and the lines are numbered so that I can explain the chart. The best of all worlds for a researcher is to have the chart filled out with each person’s full name and the dates and places of birth, marriage, and death.

Write your own name on line 1 of the chart. On line 2, place your father’s name, and on line 3, your mother’s name (maiden name only). The name of your father’s father goes on line 4, and your father’s mother on line 5. Place the name of your mother’s father on line 6, and your mother’s mother on line 7. On lines 8 through 11, fill out your great-grandparents on your father’s side, and on lines 12 through 15, your great-grandparents on your mother’s side.

Books by Richard Pourade

Books by Richard Pourade

If you have birth, marriage, and death information for each individual on lines 1 through 15, you have come a long way toward starting your family-history research. The information you cannot fill out becomes the information you must discover through additional research.

Talk to Relatives

The second step is to talk to relatives about questions raised by your pedigree chart. Contact any relatives who have information about your family, and if someone has kept the family papers, tape record an interview with that person to get information that might never be available to you again once he or she has passed on or left the area. I cannot stress how important this step is, for valuable family information is lost forever with the passing of key people.

I will not get into the topic of adoption, as it is complicated and depends upon state laws and the availability of records. Suffice it to say, adoptees are finding their birth families all the time, if necessary by using search services.

Cemetery books

Cemetery books

Research Sources in San Diego

After you have constructed your pedigree chart and talked with relatives, the next step is to begin your research. This article, for the most part, is limited to research in San Diego, but at the end of the article, I point out sources that will help you to conduct research in other locations.

More cemetery books

More cemetery books

Books on San Diego History

When researching families in San Diego, it is a good idea to learn a little about local history. William Smythe’s History of San Diego, 1542-1907 contains a comprehensive discussion of the settlement of San Diego from the earliest times to the beginning of the 20th Century. The book has a chapter on early Spanish families and one on early American families. Copies of this book and of an index to it are available at the California Room of the San Diego Public Library, at 820 E Street in downtown San Diego.

Calvary Cemetery, Mission Hills

Calvary Cemetery, Mission Hills

For a wonderful source about the various historical periods of San Diego, read a series of books by Richard Pourade. The titles of the books in this series, along with the historic periods they cover, are included in the sidebar below.

If you are interested in information on the Rancho Period, get the book by Cecil Moyer entitled Historic Ranchos of San Diego, available at the library and at the San Diego Historical Society.

For the development of downtown, or “New San Diego” as it was originally called, the best book is Elizabeth C. MacPhail’s Story of New San Diego and of Its Founder Alonzo E. Horton. MacPhail covers approximately 1850 through 1920 and discusses the development of an area that competed for prominence with Old Town, and eventually won out. A copy of this book is available in the California Room and in the History Department at the downtown library and is also in the archives and for sale at the San Diego Historical Society.

The San Diego Historical Society publication Journal of San Diego History has many articles of interest on local people, communities, and events. For example, an article by Dr. Iris Engstrand and Thomas L. Scharf in Volume XX, Winter 1974, discusses Rancho Guajome, the home of historic figure Cave Johnson Couts. Another example is Volume XXXVl.Spring/Summer 1990, dedicated to the Marston House. A short genealogy of the Marston and Gunn families is included.

For a good overview of Old Town, read Orion Zink’s “Places and People in Old Town” in the Journal of San Diego History, Volume XV, Winter 1969. Zink interviewed several early residents of Old Town who remembered where houses stood and who lived in them. Maps are provided. The families discussed in this volume are the Bandinis, Estudillos, Machado-Silvases, and Machado-Stewarts.

The San Diego Historical Society has many issues of its Journal of San Diego History available for research and/or for sale at its archives in Balboa Park and its museum on Presidio Hill. Additionally, Journal of San Diego History articles are available for research purposes at the California Room of the public library downtown, and early volumes are available at the San Diego Genealogical Society library in El Cajon.

Histories of the city and county often contain biographies of individuals, including pioneers of outlying communities like Spring Valley and El Cajon. A list of some of these books is included in the sidebar on page 32. Check with libraries and historical societies in the community in which you are interested for additional books.

Famous Individuals in San Diego History

Some of you descend from individuals well known in San Diego history. There are books about historical figures at the San Diego Public Library and the San Diego Historical Society, so visit these locations and check their card catalogs. Or search the catalog of the public library online.

Theses are another source of information about well-known San Diegans. A list of theses at local universities was compiled by James Newland and presented in a Journal of San Diego History article (Summer 1993) entitled “A Preliminary Checklist of Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations on the History of San Diego.” The article notes all theses and dissertations completed up to 1993 at the University of California San Diego, University of San Diego, United States International University, and San Diego State University, plus some theses from the University of California Los Angeles and from one or two other locations. The staff at the San Diego Historical Society is continuing to update this list, but there are probably additional theses and dissertations available at the above-named schools for the years following 1994.

Historical Site Board Reports

Homes of famous people often become historical sites. When the City of San Diego Historical Resources Board considers a site, a report is made to justify the historical designation. The reports include the name of the site, location, current and original ownership, original use and period (such as “Early American Period”), physical details of the property, a summary of its historic significance, a map showing site location, and photographs of the property, along with other supplemental information.

Copies of the reports are kept at the San Diego Historical Society research archives. The originals are housed at the City Administration building in downtown San Diego. The Historical Site Board message center number is 619-235-5224.

San Diego Pedigree Charts

Four sources in San Diego have pedigree charts donated by descendants of San Diego families.

The Family History Center has two such books, the first entitled Early San Diego and California Families, Volumes I and II. Pedigree charts for the following families are in these two volumes: Altamirano, Alvarado, Ames, Arguello, Connors, Cota, Couts, Dominguez, Estudillo (in Volume I); Horton, Lopez, Machado, Pico, Pio Pico, and Serrano (in Volume 2). The second book, San Diego Pedigrees, has about 500 pages of pedigree charts and a 26-page index.

The San Diego Genealogical Society requests that new members donate a pedigree chart tracing four generations of the families they descend from, and these are arranged alphabetically in file cabinets and noted in a card catalog. In addition, the society has a book with pedigree charts for early San Diego families. It is located with the other California books in their library.

Pedigree charts and other information about early Old Town families can be viewed at meetings of the Old Town Descendants. Their website is www.ot-boot.com/descen-dants.htm. They can be contacted by e-mail at Snelling49(fi>aol. com or through Old Town State Park, at 619-220-5422.

The Biographical Files at the San Diego Historical Society (discussed shortly) often include pedigree charts, and the charts can be downloaded from computers at the Family History Center (discussed at the end of this article). Generally the computers are useful only after you have traced your family back several generations, for then you arc more likely to connect up with research done by others. Work done by others, however, contributed photos to the collection.

San Diego Public Library

The main branch of the San Diego Public Library is located in downtown San Diego at 820 E Street. The hours are Monday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Phone numbers for individual rooms at the library are 619-236-5834 (California Room and Genealogy Room); 236-5835 (Newspaper Room); and 236-5820 (History Department).

The card catalog of the San Diego Public library can be accessed online at www.ci.san-diego.ca. us/public-library.

The Newspaper Room, California Room, and Genealogy Room are adjacent to each other on the second floor. Information will be presented about the holdings of these collections under the heading Specific Genealogical Records Available in San Diego, below. If you come across an “RCC” designation in a call number when researching a book at the library, it means the book is in the California Room. An “RGY” designation means the book is located in the Genealogy Room.

The California Room houses a number of file cabinets filled with newspaper clippings and excerpts from magazines and journals. Look here for citations to individuals, locations, historic sites, or events. A ring binder lists the subject headings in the file cabinets.

The California Room has an old card catalog with names of people and citations to journal articles and book biographies about them. The card catalog also covers many subjects, events, and little-known locations around San Diego County. There are city directories for various years from the late 1880s to 1984, a marriage index on microfiche covering the state of California for 1960 through 1986, and a death index on microfiche covering the state of California for 1940 through 1995.

If you are unfamiliar with the California Room’s collection, read Mary Allely’s article “Local History Materials in the California Room of the San Diego Public library,” Journal of San Diego History (Summer 1991). Allely is a former California Room librarian.

The Newspaper Room contains microfilm copies of the major newspapers in San Diego. This is one of the best places in the city to view microfilms, for there are a number of readers available and three of them can photocopy articles. In the California Room, there is an index to newspaper articles for selected years, which will be discussed under the Newspaper heading below. Additionally, articles from the San Diego Union, Evening Tribune, and Union-Tribune are now available on computer in the California Room for 1984 to the present (with a two-month time lag).

The Genealogy Room contains a few books on San Diego history, including county histories and printed census returns. But works on San Diego arc for the most part located in the California Room and in the History Department. For more information about the Genealogy Room’s holdings on other states, see the last paragraphs of this article.

The History Department, on the first floor, has books on California and San Diego history, accounts of individuals, and histories of communities surrounding San Diego, such as El Cajon, Ocean Beach, La Jolla, Spring Valley, Coronado, and Chula Vista.

San Diego Family History Center

This facility has some San Diego reference works and also a number of computers to do research on earlier generations of your family, which will be discussed at the end of this article. The center is located at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints building, nearly adjacent to National University in Mission Valley, off Fairmount, at 4195 Camino del Rio South, San Diego 92108, and its phone number is 619-584-7668. The hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; open Wednesday and Thursday nights until 9:00 p.m.

Books on San Diego history at the Family History Center arc noted in the sidebar on page 36, and other citations to books are listed under Specific Genealogical Records Available in San Diego, below. Many of the publications of the San Diego Genealogical Society arc housed at the Family History Center, and they will also be discussed below under Specific Genealogical Records Available in San Diego.

San Diego Genealogical Society

This is the major organization for genealogical research in San Diego, and it has a large and active membership. Its mailing address and the location of its genealogical library is 1050 Pioneer Way, Suite E, El Cajon 92020.

The phone number is 619-588-0065 (answering machine), and the Internet address is www.genealogy. org/~sdgs.

Meetings are held on the second Saturday of the month from around 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., except for the months of January, when the group holds its annual luncheon, and December. The monthly meeting is at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, 6556 Park Ridge Boulevard, in San Carlos, near Patrick Henry High School.

The group puts on an annual family-history fair in the fall of each year, with speakers, book vendors, and so on.

The society’s quarterly publication, San Diego Leaves & Saplings, presents important information to local researchers month after month. Examples of the research projects published in Leaves & Saplings appear in Specific Genealogical Records Available in San Diego, below. An index to Leaves & Saplings, 1974 to 1985, is available at the Family History Center and about 20 volumes of it, dating from Winter of 1973 to January/March of 1989, are located there.

The San Diego Genealogical Society library is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The California holdings are limited to the same types of books that are available at the San Diego Public Library. They have the Journal of San Diego History from the earliest volume up to volumes published about ten years ago.

The best resources at this library for San Diego research are its full run of Leaves & Saplings and the society’s newsletter, both of which have a wealth of information about family-history research. The library also has a tremendous number of newsletters from genealogical societies around the country, invaluable because they contain such things as tombstone inscriptions from little-known cemeteries.

Membership in the society allows one to use the library at all hours of the day or night. This is a wonderful resource if your family lived in another area of the country. Pedigree charts submitted by members of the society arc also cataloged alphabetically both in the card catalog and in file cabinets.

Publications of the San Diego Genealogical Society are available for sale at their meetings, and they include the following:

1850 Federal Census, San Diego County

1860 Federal Census, San Diego County 1870 Federal Census, San Diego County Land Records, Grantor Index to San Diego County Deeds (1848-1872)

Tax Assessment Rolls for San Diego County, 1853-1863

Newspaper Records, Vital Statistics from San Diego Newspapers, 1851 to February 1885

Mortuary Records (Johnson-Saum & Knobel), 1869-1888, 1907-1909 Mount Hope Cemetery Burial Records, Volume I,1869-1909

Cemetery and Burial Records for Rancho de la Nation/La Vista Cemetery (National City) and San Pasqual Cemetery

First Presbyterian Church Registers, some early dates but mostly after 1900

Episcopal Church Records, Holy Trinity, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, early records

Public Records

Public records — birth, death, divorce, marriage, civil and criminal cases, and probate files—provide primary evidence of the existence of a person. They normally can be treated with some confidence, except that they are products of human endeavor and may have the inevitable misspelled names and wrong dates. Be sure to check all source information against other information to pin down the exact dates of specific events.

Most of San Diego County’s public records are available for public viewing. Information regarding the offices of Assessor, Recorder, and County Clerk can be obtained at the county’s Internet site, www.sdarcc.com. Some information about real estate is also available online.

Birth, death, marriage, and property records are located at the County Recorder/County Clerk’s Office, County Administration Building, 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego 92101. Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed holidays. Phone: 619-237-0502.

Civil, criminal, divorce, and probate records are filed at 220 West Broadway, San Diego 92101. Most family-history research is done in the Older Records Department, located in the basement of this building. Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Phone: 619-531-3244.

Recently, Californians voted to combine the municipal and superior courts into a Superior Court system. The records of Municipal Court will be moved and housed in new areas. However, Municipal Court records are purged when they are ten years old, and thus no Older Records Department exists for these records.

San Diego County Public Law Library

Located at 1105 Front Street, San Diego 92101. Phone: 619-685-6553. Web address www.sdcll.org. Pat Lopez is the curator of the historical collection. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday, 800 a.m. to 500 p.m.; and Saturday, 1000 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Law Library has the following information of historical interest: Folders of biographical articles, newspaper clippings, and photos of local attorneys and judges; grand jury and Justice Court files; files on the Colorado River water litigation; the San Diego Daily Transcript newspaper for the past ten years; and old appellate court briefs from San Diego and California. The Pioneer Room contains book collections of local attorneys and books with biographies of local attorneys.

Congress of History of San Diego and Imperial Counties

This organization can be reached by contacting Kama Webster at 619-463-1029.

The Congress of History, formed in 1964, is a networking organization of the approximately 60 historical groups in San Diego and Imperial Counties. Meetings are held at various locations throughout the county and are noticed in their publication, Adelante. The group hosts an annual history convention in the spring and is attempting to provide computer access to all of the historical collections in San Diego County, Imperial County, and Baja California. A vertical file on the Congress of History has been set up in the California Room of the library.


We now come to the specific records you will find at the research locations mentioned above. But first, imagine you are tracing a relative who lived in San Diego in 1900. Realize that your ancestor had the same experiences in life that you have had. He was born at XYZ location and would have a birth certificate showing this fact There may be records available from the hospital where he was bom or church records of his christening or baptism. If your ancestor was bom in a foreign country and was naturalized in San Diego County, there are naturalization records to be consulted.

When you were growing up, you became very familiar with the boundaries of your neighborhood and could probably find it on a map. Consult books at the library about the area where your ancestor lived. Maps are important to family-history research, for they pinpoint exactly where your ancestor’s house was located and identify the part of town. You might obtain an early map from the Historical Society or the California Room of the library that would show how developed your ancestor’s neighborhood was when he lived there.

Your ancestor went to school, so recall your own school experience. There were report cards, yearbooks, and school newspapers that chronicled school events. I will not discuss these sources further, but if your ancestor attended a local school that is still open, visit it. Ask to see records, scrapbooks, annuals, and newspaper articles. Also, research the school at the San Diego Historical Society or at the California Room of the downtown library, or read about it in a community history.

If you are searching for a male ancestor, it is likely he was in the military. I will not go into this category for recent military personnel, but there are ways to trace their records. If your ancestor lived in early times, during the Civil or Revolutionary Wars, information in this article will help you obtain his war record.

Your ancestor got married and perhaps also divorced. If these events happened in San Diego County, public records exist here.

If your ancestor lived in San Diego between 1850 and 1920, he or she will appear in the San Diego census. (For privacy reasons, the census is currently available for research purposes only up through 1920.) Census records in book form are available from the San Diego Genealogical Society for a small charge. Manuscript copies of the census returns are also at the Historical Society and San Diego Public Library.

Your ancestor probably appeared in city directories, and those are available from about 1888 to 1984.

If your ancestor purchased property, these records are at the County. Grantor indexes were transcribed by the San Diego Genealogical Society for the years 1848 to 1872, and this was a good thing, for the early records on microfilm at the County are practically illegible. Tax records are also available for the years 1853 to 1863 and were also transcribed by the same organization.

If your ancestor was involved in a lawsuit or criminal case, if he was naturalized, or if he appeared in voter registers, these are available and will be described in more detail below. There are theses and books on various occupations your ancestor might have pursued and church records that track church membership.

Your ancestor may have been the subject of an oral-history interview, and this would be available at the San Diego Historical Society or possibly in the California Room of the public library. Diaries might also be found at these two locations.

If your ancestor donated photos, they most likely would be in the archives of local historical societies or in the Vertical Files in the California Room of the downtown library. Photos often accompany newspaper obituaries, and newspapers also have individual and group photos and photos of members of organizations. Photos are available at the California Room and the Newspaper Room at the downtown library.

Finally, your ancestor died and was buried. There is a wealth of local death, probate, coroner, mortuary, and cemetery records.

Following the reasoning above, of taking your ancestor from birth to death, what records can be found in San Diego?

Birth Records

Birth records are available in San Diego County for 1857 to 1904 in old books in vault, and for 1905 to the present on computer and on microfiche. People who wish to purchase birth records must have the information necessary to locate the record or a supervisor must be called. Call the County for additional information on birth records at 619-237-0502.

The San Diego Historical Society has a group of records from the County Recorder entitled Quarterly Returns of Marriages and Births 1858-1860. Returns of birth show name, sex, and color of newborn; date and location of birth; names, residence, color, and nativity of parents; and date of recordation. They are arranged chronologically and indexed by name.

The Historical Society has another group of records from the same source called Return of Birth 1874-1876. These records contain birth notices showing the name, sex, and race of the newborn; date and place of birth; name and residence of parents; names of medical attendant and person making report. They are arranged chronologically by date of birth and indexed by name.

The San Diego Genealogical Society has a publication called Newspapers, which is located at the Family History Center. The publication includes birth information published in local papers between 1851 and 1885.

The San Diego Public Library has a set of Catholic baptismal records entitled “Baptisms for the Mission and Vicinity, 1769-1850” on two reels of microfilm. These may be early records of baptisms that were submitted to the library by R. Clinton Griffin. These records are of historic value in the study of early inhabitants of the mission and its surrounding areas.

See also the “Census” heading below. Starting in 1850, census returns listed children. Thus, the census is a primary tool to discover the existence of children and to ascertain the approximate date they were born, for the age of each member of the family was enumerated.

Naturalization Records

A study was not done on naturalization records for the purposes of this article, but the following is a brief survey of the types of records that arc available. The San Diego Public Library has an “Index to Declaration of Intention [to be naturalized] in the Superior Court of San Diego County, California, 1853-1956” on microfilm in the California Room. It also has another set of records entitled “Naturalization Index Cards from the Superior Court of San Diego County, California, 1920-1956,” on five reels of microfilm in the California Room.

The National Archives in Laguna Niguel (discussed at the end of this article) has the following naturalization records for San Diego:

“Index to San Diego Superior Court Naturalizations, 1929-1956,” microfilm Ml 526 VI

“Index to Citizens Naturalized, San Diego Superior Court, 1853-1956,” microfilm M1609 VI “San Diego Superior Court Records, 1883-1940,” microfilm M1613 VI

“Index to San Diego Superior Court Declarations, 1853-1956," microfilm M1612 VI “Declarations of Intent to the San Diego Superior Court, 1871-1941,” microfilm 9L-RA-1 VI

The Family History Center has many records on naturalization because this is a primary genealogical tool. These records are too numerous to mention here. Visit the Family History Center for additional information and for pamphlets that can be purchased on this topic. Also, search the Family History Library t catalog for naturalization records available from the Salt Lake City library, which are discussed at the end of this article.

Regarding church records of births, the San Diego Genealogical Society, in their publication Episcopal Church Records, documents baptisms at Holy Trinity Church from September 1872 to February 1887. Other churches in San Diego can be contacted to determine if they have records for your ancestor. A good

book to read that describes when many churches started in early California is Ben Dixon’s San Diego’s Religious Heritage, available at the public library.

Neighborhood Records and Maps

The San Diego Historical Society has an extensive collection of maps, including fire insurance maps made by the Sanborn Map Company, which show individual city blocks and the buildings that were on them.

Sanborn maps are also available at the library, both printed (available in the California Room) and on microfilm for various years between 1884 and 1970 (the City of San Diego being on reels 53, 54, and 76). Often on the printed maps individual plots of land will have overlays of paper showing subsequent ownerships. The Sanborn maps in the California Room are too fragile to photocopy, copies can be obtained in the Newspaper Room from the microfilm version. Many other maps are available at both the Historical Society and the California Room.

The Family History Center has a map drawer with a collection of maps sorted by state and country. The card catalog gives references to the maps in these drawers.

Military Records

Military records from World War II to the present arc beyond the scope of this article. However, there are records in the San Diego area for earlier wars. For example, the San Diego Historical Society has a group of records from the County Assessor: Militia Rolls 1853-1894. These annual rolls show the names of all men eligible for local military service during those years, although several years are missing. The records after 1880 also indicate residence. The records are arranged chronologically.

The Family History Center has a group of records called the “California Military Records/Pension List 1883,” microfilm no. 1,035, 781, Item 3, which comprises veterans living in California who were pension recipients in 1883. This list may be a valuable resource to search for ancestors from other California counties.

A major source for research on the Civil War and on the Union forces (although it does contain much information on the Confederacy as well) is Frederick H. Dyers Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, located at the downtown public library with the History Department’s reference books. This exhaustive work originally consisted of4025 typed sheets and when published contained three parts:

Part 1: Summarizes enlistments and losses and all national cemeteries and their locations and lists (by state) 2494 regiments, 126 battalions, and 939 batteries and independent companies. It also lists 900 federal regiments that lost 50 or more men in combat (grouped by state and numbers killed and wounded). Additionally, it contains an alphabetical list of7800 people who commanded brigades and larger organizations and all of the Union’s departments, armies, corps, divisions, and brigades.

Part 2: Contains a record of all Civil War engagements and losses, arranged chronologically and by state. This listing comprises 10,455 military events.

Part 3: Contains 3550 . Regimental Histories, including where each unit was organized, when it was mustered into the federal service, the higher headquarters to which it was assigned, the areas and actions in which it served, changes in its designations and status, the date it was mustered out, and the number of officers and men who died from battle causes or diseases.

In the Genealogy Room of the downtown library is a book entitled Records of California Men in the War of the Rebellion, 1861 to 1867, by Brig. Gen. Richard H. Orton. It documents the various infantry and cavalry units (including “native” Hispanic units) that were assembled in the State of California during the time periods described in the title. J. Carlyle Parker has done an index to the Orton book entitled A Personal Name Index to Orton’s “Records of California Men in the War of the Rebellion. ” It is located in the California Room.

The San Diego Historical Society has military records pertaining to Civil War veterans who migrated to San Diego after the war. These are in a set of six boxes at Call No. MS 365, “Military Records.” The boxes contain Grand Army of the Republic records for Hdntzd-man and Datus Coon Posts of the GAR, plus other smaller Heintzelman Post address and ledger books and minutes of meetings, which give an insight into the operation of the group and its activities.

The GAR records were transcribed and arc included in The Civil War Veterans of San Diego, which is available at the California Room of the public library, at the Historical Society archives, at the San Diego Genealogical Society Library, and at the Family History Center. The book also contains local burial records for nearly 1000 Civil War veterans and GAR records on approximately 800 others for whom burial information could not be determined.

If you have determined that an ancestor was a Civil War veteran, you may wish to obtain his service record and pension papers from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. You need to use a National Archives form to order records, and to expedite matters you need to have your veteran’s pension file number. The Family History Center has a ring binder containing an index entitled “United States Military Records — Pension Index File— 1861-1934,” at Call No. Ref-Military Records - Civil War. This lists microfilms with veterans’ pension file numbers. They are arranged by the military units the veterans fought with during the wan “Union Troops,” “Confederate Troops,” or “Civil War Colored Troops.” The listings in the index read like the following:

  1. Name Film No.

Aab-Ackerman 540,757

Ackerman-Adams 540,758

Adams-Ahh 540,759

Say your veteran was named “Agee.” His pension number would appear on microfilm 540,759. Now look to see if the Family History Center has microfilm 540,759. If the microfilm isn’t in, it must be ordered from Salt Lake City. If the film is in, view it to find your Civil War veteran’s pension number. If the veteran’s name is missing from the microfilm, then he might not have obtained a pension.

To order copies of your veteran’s pension file, call the National Archives in Laguna Niguel, at 949-360-2641, and ask them to send you NATF Form 85. (More information about the National Archives is given at the end of this article.) Fill out the form and send it to the Washington, D.C., address on the form (not the St. Louis address). They will send you an estimate of the cost to photocopy your ancestor’s pension file. To obtain the records faster, you may charge the costs to your credit card.

The Family History Center has “1890 Census of Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War.” The records of this special census are arranged alphabetically by state. Alabama through the first half of Kentucky were apparently lost in a fire. Thus, California is not represented on this microfilm.

The Family History Center has a group of records called “California Civil War Veteran Burial Listings” (Film No. 1,000,138, Item 4). This is a compilation of burial locations for many veterans who served in California volunteer units in the Civil War, most of the burials occurring in the Los Angeles area. No veterans in this compilation were buried in San Diego.

Finally, the Family History Center publishes a number of “Research Outlines” about a variety of topics. A “Military Records” guide called Research Outline: US. Military Records is helpful in organizing research about military records. The guide is currently 39 pages long and can be purchased from the Family History Center for a nominal charge.

Marriage Records

Public marriage records are those that are open to the public and available for viewing and/or purchase in Room 260 of the County Administration Building. Indexes to the marriage records from 1904 to 1972 are on microfiche. Indexes from 1973 on are available on the county’s computers.

Public marriage indexes for the 1850s to 1904 are in old books in the vault. Marriages are indexed both in the grooms’ books and the brides’ books, alphabetized by first letter of surname, and then listed chronologically by date of filing. The first recorded marriages for each letter of the alphabet vary by many years. For example, for groom names starting with A the first recorded marriage is in 1850; for groom names starting with L, the first recorded marriage is in 1859, and so forth, as seen below;

A:1850 B:1858 C: 1859 D:1851 E; 1857 F: 1854 G:1859 H: 1856 I: 1872 J: 1851 K:1864 L-1859 M: 1859 Me: 1865 N:1874 O: 1859 P: 1850 Q:1876 R: 1859 S: 1859 T; 1864 U: 1876 V: 1866 W: 1857 X; No dates in early book Y: 1877 Z: 1874

Dr. David Hoffman is an example of how the old marriage records work. He is listed in the H section of the first grooms’ index. The index shows that his marriage record is found in Book 1, page 5, of the marriage record books. The old marriage records were microfilmed and can be viewed on a microfilm reader. (The actual marriage records were not in ledger books but in fragile books that are not available for public viewing.) A certified copy of a marriage record can be purchased for $12.

Confidential marriage records may be viewed and/or purchased only by the bride or groom, who must show identification. For more information on marriage records, contact the County of San Diego, 619-237-0502.

At the California Room of the downtown library, there is a microfiche listing of marriage records from 1960 to 1986 for the entire state of California.

Earlier marriage records are available at the San Diego Historical Society. They include the following records from the County Recorder’s Office:

Marriage Certificates 1880-1881. Certificates show the names of bride, groom, and witnesses; name and title of person officiating; nativity of bride, groom, and parents; and dates of marriage and recording. Arranged chronologically and indexed by name.

Quarterly Returns of Marriages and Births 1858-1860. Show names, age, color, residence, and nativity for bride and groom; date and location of marriage; name, residence, and position of person officiating; and date of recording.

The San Diego Genealogical Society study entitled Episcopal Church Records contains a listing of marriages at Holy Trinity Church from April 1873 to June 1887. An example of these records is the following:

Remondino, Peter C. & Earle, Sophie, at res. of Mr. Earle. 27 Sep 1877. Wit: Father & brother of bride and B. Etcheverry. [Note: an earlier citation read: Etchevery, Bernard & Earle; Louise at home of Mr. Earle. 2 Apr 1877. ] Minister: Rev. Hobart Chetwood.

Marriages are also listed in a publication at the Family History Center entitled Newspapers. There are several pages containing marriages from the San Diego Herald for the dates 1851 to 1859 and about 130 pages of vital records from the San Diego Union and the San Diego Daily Union for 1868 to 1885. Additionally, check Ben Dixon’s book San Diego's Religious Heritage and William Smythe’s book History of San Diego 1542-1907 (both at the library) for when various churches were started in San Diego. This will give a clue as to when birth, marriage, and death records were recorded at these churches.

Divorce Records

Divorce records are found in the Superior Court Older Records office at 220 Broadway, San Diego, 619-531-3244. Records before 1960 are not alphabetically indexed and are in old ledger books divided into five- or ten-year periods. The 1940 to 1949 book, for example, had names filed by first letter of surname and then chronologically as each divorce was filed.

Research in divorce records could prove to be a tedious process unless the exact date a divorce was filed is known. When searching the H surnames recently, 1 found that listings in the 1940 to 1949 ledger book would run from 1940 to 1949 for a few pages and then start over with 1940 and go to 1949 again. This happened several times. Additionally, divorce records were mixed with civil case filings.

Occupational Records

Some occupational records are memorialized in books about those occupations. One of the best is San Diego’s LL.B.: Legal Lore and the Bar, which describes the founding of the San Diego County Bar and the judges and attorneys who made up this group. The book, available at the downtown library, has biographies of judges who served in San Diego, including Benjamin Hayes, Oliver Withcrby, Edwin Parker, Norman Conklin, and David Hoffman.

Books on San Diego architects include Five California Architects and Bruce Kamerling’s book on Irving Gill. Local architects about whom theses have been written include William Hebbard, Edward Quale, the Reid Brothers, Richard Requa, Lillian Rice, and Hazel Waterman. The location of these theses was discussed earlier.

There are books and articles on merchants, such as George Marston, and builders, such as Roscoe Hazard. Elizabeth MacPhail’s Influence of German Immigrants on the Growth of San Diego discusses the occupations of a number of people. Check the subject catalog at various libraries in San Diego for books or other reference material on occupations.

Census Records

The Family History Center has San Diego census records for 1850 to 1870 printed in book form. These printed census books arc for sale by the San Diego Genealogical Society, as mentioned above. Soundex indexes (a system used to index names that sounded alike) for California for 1880, 1900, and 1910 are also available at the Family History Center, as are Enumeration District microfilms for California for 1900, 1910, and 1920. The 1910 Enumeration District information is also available on microfiche.

Census records printed in book form at the California Room of the public library include the 1850 California census, the 1850 federal census of San Diego, the 1870 census of San Diego County, and an index to the 1900 census, compiled by the North County Genealogical Society, a copy of which I believe is also at the San Diego Genealogical Society Library. The 1900 census index is an alphabetical listing of heads of households and any other surnames found within the house. The citations read like the following:

Name Enumeration District/Page

Abbey, Eunice 202-1

Abbott, Mrs. E. 197-6

The authors explain that the “San Diego County Census for 1900 is on two rolls of microfilm prepared by the National Archives and Records Service. Roll T623-99 includes Enumeration Districts 172 through 199, and Sheets 1-4 of Enumeration District 200. Roll T623-100 continues the rest of the census for the county. Fort Rosecrans is not assigned an Enumeration District number, and appears in the index as ‘Fort Rosecrans.’ At the time of the 1900 census, San Diego County included yvhat is now Imperial County.” The 1900 census contains a wealth of information on individuals and family members. The index is especially valuable because it enables researchers to go directly to the names of those being researched.

San Diego Public Library also has San Diego County census records on microfilm from 1850 to 1920 in the Newspaper Room. Additionally, the 1860 California Census Index is on microfiche in both the California Room and the Genealogy Room.

The San Diego Historical Society has federal census manuscripts for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910. Transcripts of census schedules generally have the following information for individuals: name, age, sex, color, occupation, value of real and personal property, place of birth, marital status, and education. Schedules for 1880, 1900, and 1910 are on microfilm only.

Voter Registers

The San Diego Public Library has the Great Register of Voters for selected years from 1866 through 1909, and the Historical Society has the Great Register ofVoters for selected years from 1877 to 1898. Great Registers generally show the name of the voter, age, nativity, occupation, local residence (township), whether naturalized, and date registered. Volumes after 1892 also indicate height, complexion, color of eyes and hair, visible marks and scars, and post office address. The entries are arranged alphabetically by name of voter.

The Historical Society also has a group of records called Registrations, 1902,1906. This record indexes the Great Register of San Diego County, listing the name, address, and age of voters in city and outside precincts. It is arranged alphabetically by name of voter. The Family History Center has the Great Register ofVoters for 1866 to 1873,1866 to 1879, and 1880 to 1887.

The Great Register is easy to use. Follow up your research in the Great Register with research in census and other sources to fully establish that an individual ancestor was indeed in San Diego at an early date.

City Directories

City directories are the fastest and easiest way to locate individuals in San Diego. The California Room of the public library has city directories from the late 1880s to 1984. The Newspaper Room has city directories from 1886 to 1950 on 25 reels of microfilm.

Early city directories listed wives, wives as widows, and deaths of individuals. An example of the latter is “Dr. Gilbert P. Bennett died 10/19/1910, aged 75,” which was printed in the city directory for 1911, a year after Dr. Bennett’s death. Scan the directories in five-year increments to sec when an individual arrived in San Diego or in outlying communities, and when he or she dropped out of the listings. Check movement around the city by addresses and notice occupations, which are often listed.

The San Diego Historical Society has several pre-1882 directories, as well as Coast Directories and Pacific Coast Directories of 1882 to 1885 and city directories from 1886 to 1984. The Family History Center has city directories for the years 1924, 1926, 1940, and 1958 to 1974. There are also city directories available for sale at Wahrenbrock’s Book House in downtown San Diego, third floor.


Among the best resources in the downtown library’s Newspaper Room are the collection of early newspapers on microfilm and the large number of microfilm readers available, so that one can spend time reading the papers. There are also three rcader/photo-copicrs. The most important microfilm holdings in the Newspaper Room arc the following:

San Diego Union: October 10, 1868-February 1,1992

San Diego Evening-Tribune: December 1895-February 1,1992

San Diego Union-Tribune: February 2, 1992, to the present

San Diego Herald: 1851-1860 (incomplete); 1914-1946

San Diego Sun: July 1881-November 1939 (incomplete)

The California Room has an important set of microfiche containing photos of index cards that reference individuals, organizations, subjects, and events discussed in newspapers from 1851 to 1903 and from 1930 to 1983. Please note the gap in years when the newspapers were not indexed.

After consulting the index, go next door to the Newspaper Room to view the newspaper article on microfilm. Be aware that at times an article will appear in a newspaper other than the San Diego Union or Evening-Tribune, and if it does, the index cards note that fact. Otherwise, you may be searching the San Diego Union microfilm, when you really need the San Diego Herald.

The Genealogy Room at the downtown library has a publication by the San Diego Genealogical Society entitled Newspaper Records: 1851-February 1885. It contains transcriptions of vital records published in the San Diego Herald, the San Diego Union, and the San Diego Daily Union.

The San Diego Historical Society has a 70-plus-page printout of all of its newspaper holdings. It has the same microfiche index to newspapers as the San Diego Public Library does but only one film reader. Contact the Historical Society at 619-232-6203, ext. 123 or 124, for more information on the Newspaper collection.

The Family History Center has a San Diego Genealogical Society publication entitled Newspapers, with the following information: Several pages of births, deaths, and marriages from the San Diego Herald, 1851 to 1859; about 9 pages of vital records from the San Diego Union for 1868 to 1871; 122 pages of vital records from the Daily San Diego Union for 1871 to 1885; 5 pages of vital statistics from the San Diego Bulletin for 1869 to 1871; a 4-page list of letters left at the Post Office at San Diego on May 21,1851, from the San Diego Herald; and 3 pages from the Otay Press dated March 28,1889.

Church Registers

The Family History Center has a San Diego Genealogical Society publication entitled Episcopal Church Records, with records of the Holy Trinity Church, in existence from 1872 to 1887. Holy Trinity became St. Paul’s Episcopal on January 22,1887.

The publication contains the following: Various church records from 1873 to 1881, which list members of Holy Trinity, a Holy Trinity Church register for 1872; and a register of St. Paul’s communicants from 1887 to 1894.

Another San Diego Genealogical Society publication has records of members of First Presbyterian Church on Date Street in downtown San Diego. This book is indexed. Although it contains records from the late 1800s, most are from 1900 onward.

Property Records

Property records from 1848 to the present have been compiled by the County of San Diego. They are located at the County Administration Building, Room 103, 1600 Pacific Highway in San Diego. The grantor/grantee indexes at the county are on microfilm (not in book form, as the death and marriage records are). The earliest records are very difficult to read. The grantor/grantee indexes are alphabetical by first letter of surname and they give the deed numbers. After you find the deed number, you must go to other microfilms to find the deed you wish to research. Deeds and other property records can be printed out from reader/photocopiers for $2 a page.

Alpha and numeric property indexes for 1982 to the present and an alpha index for 1970 to 1989 are on computer at the county and also online at www.sdarcc.com.

As mentioned above, the San Diego Genealogical Society has a publication entitled Land Records. The Genealogy Room of the downtown library has a copy, which it titles Land Records, San Diego County, California — Grantor Index—Deed Books A-25, and the Family History Center has a copy, which it titles Deeds. The book, while only a “grantor” index, is important because it can be used as a substitute for the illegible early grantor records on microfilm at the County.

The San Diego Historical Society has the following additional information on deeds from the County Recorder:

Index to Deeds 1850-1886. This index shows names of grantors and grantees, date of deed, and book and page of recording. Arranged alphabetically by name of grantor and grantee.

Deeds, Miscellaneous 1850-1919. The deed instruments show names of grantor and grantee, a legal description of property, amount of consideration, book and page of recording, and date filed. Arranged chronologically by date of filing and indexed alphabetically by names of grantor and grantee.

Additionally, the Historical Society has the following from the City Clerk’s Office:

Deeds (Deed Record) 1850-1947. This contains transcripts of legal deeds showing real property and property rights obtained by the City of San Diego. Entries include the date and type of deed, location, names of owners, amounts of compensation paid, and purpose of city acquisition. Arranged chronologically by date of deed.

Tax Records

The San Diego Historical Society has the following records from the County Assessor’s Office:

Assessment Lists 1853-1873. These list property, real and personal, show name of property owner, legal description of property, nature and value of taxable personal property (farm animals, financial instruments, etc), and date filed. Arranged chronologically and indexed by name of property owner.

Reports of the County Assessor 1875-1894. Annual summaries of county taxable property — real and personal — show a description of property or item, values, and totals. Arranged chronologically.

Assessment Roll (Tax Books) 1850-1854,1859,1869, 1871-1876. These rolls of real property and secured personal property show owner’s name, residence, legal description of property, number of acres, value of property and improvements, value of personal property, total taxes due, and date paid. Arranged alphabetically by name of taxpayer.

The Family History Center has a copy of a publication entitled Taxpayers of San Diego County, Book II— 1851. This book lists tax assessment rolls for the early 1850s. The author notes that it represents only a partial list, for most of the entries are for ranches rather than places in town.

Civil and Criminal Records

The San Diego Superior Court civil and criminal records are available for viewing in Older Records at 220 Broadway, San Diego 92101. Civil records before 1964 and criminal records before 1958 are recorded in handwritten ledger books divided into ten-year periods. Contact Older Records at 619-531-3244 for additional information.

The San Diego Historical Society has the following civil/criminal case files:

County Court Case Files — Civil and Criminal 1850-1880. Case files contain the official documents of the court including complaints, subpoenas, arrest warrants, transcripts of testimony, jury verdicts, court actions, and judgments. Arranged chronologically by court date and indexed by names of plaintiffs and defendants, and cause.

Court of Sessions Case Files — Civil and Criminal 1850-1860. Court documents, arranged chronologically by court date and indexed by names of plaintiffs and defendants, and cause.

District Court Case Files — Civil and Criminal 1850-1880. Files of civil and criminal proceedings. Arranged numerically by case number and indexed by names of plaintiffs and defendants.

Grand Jury Reports 1906-1928. Transcripts of preliminary and final reports of investigations conducted in San Diego County, including supplemental reports and audits of county departments. Arranged chronologically by year.

Justice Court Case Files—Civil and Criminal 1870-1918. Court documents arranged alphabetically by name of township and chronologically thereunder by court date. Indexed by names of plaintiff and defendant, subject, and township.

Superior Court Case Files — Civil and Criminal 1879-1921. Court documents arranged chronologically and indexed by names of plaintiffs and defendants.

Superior Court Judgments — Civil 1886-1947. Judgment books show the case number, names of plaintiffs, defendants, and judge, and all judgments and orders. Arranged chronologically by date of judgment and indexed (volsi 19-119) by name of plaintiff.

Death and Burial Records

Death and burial records are the biggest source of genealogical records in San Diego County and include death certificates, probate records, coroner and mortuary records, and cemetery records. Death records can be viewed in Room 260 at the County Administration Building, 1600 Pacific Highway. Their phone number is 619-237-0502. Anyone may purchase copies of death records and/or view the records free of charge.

Records of deaths from 1905 on are computerized, and a file number leads to a death certificate, which can be purchased for $8.

Deaths occurring between 1873 and 1904 are recorded in index books. The books are not out in the open, and a request must be made to view them. Information is organized alphabetically by first letter of surname, and then chronologically by date when the death was recorded. As with marriage records, the first recorded deaths for each letter of the alphabet vary by many years. For example, for names starting with D, records begin in 1851; for names starting with K, records begin in 1871; and so on, as indicated below.

A:1877 B:1854 C:1850 D:1851 E: 1851 F: 1863 G: 1853 H:1868 1:1854 J: 1853 K:1871 L: 1850 M: 1851 Me: 1890 N:1852 O: 1851 P:1850 Q: 1870 R: 1850 S: 1852 T: 1868 U: 1880 V: 1854 W: 1853 X: No listings in early book Y:1851 Z: 1851

The old ledger books list death information as follows: Date of death, name of decedent, race, age at death, sex, marital status, nativity, cause of death, coroncr/doctor attending, and occupation. There is a good deal of information on nativity in these books. .

The California Room of the public library has a death index on microfiche for the entire state of California from 1940 to 1995. The Family History Center publication entitled Newspapers has several pages of vital records, including deaths, gathered from the San Diego Herald for the years 1851 to 1859, and 130 pages of vital records from the San Diego Union and the San Diego Daily Union for 1868 to 1885.

The Family History Center has a valuable index entitled the “California Death Index,” for 1905 to 1929 and 1930 to 1939, Microfilm Nos. 1,686,044 through 1,686,048 for the earlier years, and Film Nos. 1,686,048 through 1,686,050 for the later years. This is a compilation of death records from the State of California Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Information on this index is listed alphabetically by name of decedent and includes initials of spouse, age at death, county in which the death was filed, date of death, and a number such as the following: 19-030543. The “19” stands for 1919, the year the death certificate was filed in the county of death; the “030543” is the state number under which the decedent’s record is filed. Original death certificates are on file at the Office of the State Registrar of Vital Statistics. Copies of the death certificates are on file at the County Recorder’s office in the county of death.

The San Diego Historical Society has the following death records from the County Recorder and from a private collection:

Certificates of Death, 1873-1876. These certificates show the name, age, marital status, sex, occupation, and birthplace of deceased; names of medical attendant, person making report, and undertaker, location of burial; location, date, and cause of death. They are arranged chronologically by date of death and indexed by name.

The R Clinton Griffin Collection of Catholic Death Records. This is a collection of Catholic burial records for all of the older Catholic cemeteries in San Diego (except Holy Cross, which is still operating as a cemetery). In the Griffin collection are the following bound and indexed volumes, as well as other Catholic diocese records and a few mortuary records:

Mission San Diego de Alcala: Burials for the Mission & Presidio 1775-1831

El Campo Santo 1849-1880

Mission Hills Catholic Cemetery (Old Calvary) 1875-1 %9

Probate Records/Wills

Probate records are located in the Older Records office at the old courthouse at 220 West Broadway, 619-531 -3244. The records start with the beginning of county formation in 1850 and go to a recent cutoff date. After that, the records are kept in the Newer Records area. Be aware that old probate books must be searched, for an alphabetized index is not available for probates filed before 1962. The books are arranged by first letter of decedent’s surname, and then chronologically as the probate was filed or the will deposited.

The Family History Center has San Diego County Probate Index covering 1850 to 1922, and in it is written, “All information contained in these books was taken from the index of the San Diego County Superior Court Probate Records, located in the San Diego County Courthouse, County Clerk’s Office, third floor.” The index covers July 1,1850, to January 14,1922. The listings are followed by the Probate Court file number assigned to the case. Guardianships are reported for minors and for those who were incompetent.

The following probate records and wills arc available at the San Diego Historical Society:

Superior Court Probate Court Case Files 1891-1920. Arranged chronologically by year and indexed by name of the estate.

Superior Court Probate Orders and Decrees 1886-1940. Arranged chronologically by court date and indexed by name of estate.

Superior Court Record ofWills 1880-1927. Shows names of deceased, heirs, and witnesses; dates of death and recording of will; and transcript of will. Arranged chronologically by recording date and indexed by name of testator.

Office of the Treasurer, Estates of Deceased Persons 1876-1886, 1923-1924. Record of receipt and disposition of monies from estates shows name of deceased, date of entry, source and amount of receipts, date of disbursements and to whom disbursed, and names of heirs. Arranged chronologically by date of entry and partially indexed by name of deceased.

Coroner Records

The San Diego Historical Society has a group of records from the San Diego County Clerk entitled Coroner’s Inquest Papers 1853-1904. These contain certificates of death and transcripts of testimony from inquests. Certificates show name, age, occupation, marital status, place of birth, length of residence in San Diego County, and previous residence of deceased; and date, cause, and location of death. These records are arranged chronologically by date of death and indexed by name, cause, and location.

The San Diego Genealogical Society has published a book entitled Coroner’s Inquest Records of San Diego County 1870-1896. In the volume is stated, “This record dates from 4/18/1871 to 1/5/18%, and contains the name of the deceased, date of death and location, age at death, nativity, and occupation, where available, the names of coroner, witnesses, and jurors who heard the*case, and a case number citation.”

Mortuary Records

The San Diego Genealogical Society has published a book entitled Mortuary Records (John-son-Saum & Knobel), 1869-1888,1907-1909. The 1869 to 1888 records give year, name, date of death, age at death, place of birth, sex, marital status, and disposition (“shipped East,” “bur Catholic Cem Old Town,” etc.). The records from 1907 to 1908 are more complete, giving date of death, name, age at death, race, nativity, sex, marital status, cause of death, physician, where buried, and place of death.

The Family History Center computer, discussed at the end of this article, has a citation for “Goodbody Funeral Home: Permits for Burial and Removal 1913-1919,” and “Funeral Home Records from 1914-1921” (US/CAN Film Area, Film No. 1598078). These microfilmed records can be ordered from the main Family History Center library in Salt Lake City. They arc an excellent research source for Catholic burials in San Diego, for Goodbody’s Funeral Home served the Catholic community for many years. The records include name, age, sex, residence, name and birthplace of parents, spouse, dates of birth and death, etc, of the deceased as well as county burial permits. The “Author” citation for this microfilm is “San Diego County (California) Registrar.”


In discussing the cemeteries of San Diego, I rely on and am grateful to Laurie Bissell for her article entitled “San Diego Cemeteries: A Brief Guide,” which appeared in the Journal of San Diego History, Volume XXVIII (Fall 1982).

Presidio Hill Cemetery

“On July 1, 1769, soon after the arrival of (Father Junfpero} Serra,” Laurie Bissell writes, “burials began in consecrated ground on Presidio Hill....

“Even though people [ later j began moving off Presidio Hill and settled in Old Town, burials still took place within the Presidio walls. These burials included early settlers as well as Mission Indians. The last recorded burial in this location was Henry Delano Fitch, who died in 1849, the same year as the first burial at El Campo Santo in Old Town....

“Although it was no longer used by Europeans, the Indians continued burying their dead on Presidio Hill through the 1870s.”

A record of burials at the Presidio from 1775 to 1831 is included in the R. Clinton Griffin Collection at the San Diego Historical Society.

There is an excellent article by the late Dr. Paul Ezell entitled “The Excavation Program at the San Diego Presidio,” the Journal of San Diego History, Volume XXII (Fall 1976). The article contains citations to additional journal articles on this subject.

El Campo Santo (Old Town)

When the Presidio settlers moved off the hill to found Old Town, El Campo Santo, the second oldest cemetery in San Diego, was created. As Bissell states, burials here date “back to 1849 with the burial of Juan Adams. Burials continued through 1880, consisting of early San Diegans from varied backgrounds.” Burials at El Campo Santo were documented by Lawrence Riveroll Carrillo and Orion M. Zink in Inventory List of El Campo Santo Cemetery (see sidebar). The R. Clinton Griffin Collection contains indexed records for burials at El Campo Santo from 1849 to 1880. Also, upon entering El Campo Santo, you will see displayed a listing of individuals buried there. Some burials, however, could not be identified.

Protestant Cemetery in Old Town

The Johnson-Sawn and Knobe! Mortuary Records contain citations to several individuals who were buried at Protestant Cemetery. Among the earliest are a “U.S. Soldier” who died February 11, 1870, and Capt. George A. Pendleton, an early resident and leader of Old Town, who died March 5, 1871. The final burial at Protestant Cemetery appears to be Henrietta Huick, who died in 1876; she was later removed to Mount Hope Cemetery. There are also entries in the Johnson-Saum and Knobel records for burials at the “Odd Fellows” and “Masonic” Cemeteries at Old Town.

According to Bissell, when “San Diego’s population moved away from Old Town, relatives of those buried on this land in ‘Protestant Cemetery’ began to transfer their dead to other cemeteries.”

The land once occupied by the Protestant Cemetery was acquired by the State of California in the 1960s for construction of Interstate 5, according to Historical Site Board Report #47, on file at the San Diego City Planning Commission and the San Diego Historical Society.

Calvary Cemetery (Pioneer Park)

Calvary Cemetery, located adjacent to Grant Elementary School in Mission Hills, was established by the City of San Diego in 1870. Catholic families, including the Bandinis and the Coutses, buried their dead there until 1919, when Holy Cross Cemetery opened. The count of those buried at Calvary varies from 1600 to 2000, and many have Irish, Italian, and Hispanic surnames.

Late in the 1930s, according to Bissell, “a fire in the caretaker’s shack, located on Calvary grounds, destroyed all the burial records except one book which dated back to 1899. Unmarked graves lost their identity.”

In 1970, after a record was made of the location of the tombstones, the cemetery was turned into a park Tombstones of interest were relocated to the southeast comer of the park, and a plaque was installed with the names of people buried in the cemetery.

The Photo Archives of the San Diego Historical Society has photos of many of the Calvary Cemetery tombstones. The photos are grouped into jackets, and notations on the jackets indicate the section of the cemetery in which the photographs were taken.

The R. Clinton Griffin Collection of Catholic Death Records, located at the San Diego Historical Society archives, has an indexed volume entitled Mission Hills Catholic Cemetery (Old Calvary) 1875-1969, which contains burial records. Look in the index for children’s burials, for often the children’s listings will add the names of their parents.

Maps for Calvary Cemetery are located in the storage room at Mount Hope Cemetery office. There is also a drawer of index cards at Mount Hope that contains records of some of those buried at Calvary Cemetery. However, the Griffin collection probably contains a more accurate listing than either the “Pioneer Memorial” plaque or the index cards at Mount Hope.

Mount Hope Cemetery

Mount Hope Cemetery is San Diego’s only public cemetery that is still operating. It is run by the city. Alonzo E. Horton, founder of New Town, and others established Mount Hope in 1869. Early burials most often occurred in the GAR Section (Civil War veterans), in Divisions 1 through 6, and in the Odd Fellows and Masonic sections. Tombstones in Mount Hope Cemetery date from the early 1880s, and many have information of genealogical interest on them.

There are several record sources at Mount Hope Cemetery, including the following;

  1. Old cemetery books: There are four old bound volumes at Mount Hope that constitute a record of early burials to 1948. Burials are grouped by the first letter of the surname, and individual burials are listed chronologically under each letter. Volume 1 covejs the period of 1869 to 1909. This volume has been transcribed (though it is unindexed) by the San Diego Genealogical Society. Volume 2 dates from around 1910 to 1926, Volume 3 from around 1927 to 1940, and Volume 4 from around 1941 to 1948. This constitutes the early written record of Mount Hope and reflects interments from the earliest burials at this cemetery.

The information in these books varies. The first two books contain more genealogical information, including a decedent’s name, date of death, date of burial, race, age at death, sex, marital status, nativity, and location of burial within the cemetery. Some of the nativity listings contain the word “American,” but many mention a state of birth. The last two books contain only basic burial information, i.e., date of death, date of burial, and location of burial within the cemetery.

  1. Burial cards: There are about 30 drawers of index cards currently in use at Mount Hope that provide information on burials. The cards reflect the information in the bound volumes and are maintained to the present time. “Nativity” was not copied onto the cards, so a researcher would have to look at the bound volumes to determine where an ancestor was born.
  1. Lot cards: These cards show who is buried in a particular lot, and also who the owner of the lot is. The grouping by lot helps a researcher to identify additional family members of an ancestor without having to consult the burial cards or old cemetery books. Lot cards also contain information on when the people were buried in the lot and when the lot was first purchased.
  2. Maps: Maps at Mount Hope are valuable because they show who is buried next to whom. Some Mount Hope maps, particularly those for GAR Divisions 1,2, and 3, show existing tombstones, valuable because a tombstone may yield inscription information. However, for most of the older sections of Mount Hope, tombstones are not drawn on maps.

If you believe that a relative may be buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, contact the cemetery office at 619-527-3400 for additional information. The address is 3752 Market Street, San Diego 92102. The office is open from 8:00 a.m. until around 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and closed weekends. The grounds are fenced and open every day, but only from 8:00 a.m. to 4.-00 p.m. (not until dusk, as is common at other San Diego cemeteries).

Cypress View Mausoleum

At the southeast corner of Mount Hope Cemetery is a large structure called Cypress View Mausoleum. It faces onto Imperial Avenue and is not accessible from Mount Hope. The office to this facility is across the street on Imperial Avenue, where additional mausoleum crypts are located.

Cypress View Mausoleum, built in the mid-1920s, is composed of sanctuaries with burial crypts built above the ground. In the office, there is a file of index cards with the names of all persons interred at the mausoleum. The cards contain date of death, location of burial, and sometimes other information such as name of spouse, date the burial crypt was sold, whom it was sold to, and the mortician handling the burial If you believe that a relative is interred at Cypress View Mausoleum, call 619-264-3168 to request a search of the card file. The address of the mausoleum is 3953 Imperial Avenue, San Diego 92113. The office is open 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Greenwood Memorial Park and Mortuary

Many pioneers of San Diego are buried at Greenwood Cemetery, but unless they were removed to Greenwood from other locations, they are pioneers who died after 1907, when the cemetery opened. If you believe you have a relative buried at Greenwood, call the cemetery office for additional information. Phone number 619-264-3131; mailing address: 4300 Imperial Avenue, San Diego 92102. Greenwood is east of and adjacent to Mount Hope Cemetery. The grounds are fenced. Grounds hours are 8:00 a.m. to dusk; the records department is open from 8:00 a.m. to around 4:30 p.m. daily.

Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum

Holy Cross Cemetery was dedicated in 1919 and its mausoleum was built in 1939. It is the only Catholic cemetery currently in operation in San Diego (although non-Catholics can now be buried there). The cemetery is located in Chollas View, at 4470 Hilltop Drive, San Diego 92102. The phone number is 619-264-3127. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 430 pm, and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The grounds are fenced and are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The mausoleum is open until 4:00 p.m. daily.

Home of Peace Cemetery

Laurie Bissell writes: “The first Jew in San Diego, Louis Rose, arrived in 1850. Immediately he began to purchase land, eventually developing 'Roseville.’ Soon more Jews settled in San Diego. By 1861, they organized Adath Joshurun under the leadership of Marcus Schiller. Top priority would be acquiring land for a Jewish Cemetery.

“Louis Rose answered the need by deeding Adath Joshurun five acres in Roseville” for the cemetery.

“Population shifted with time,” Bissell continues, “leaving Roseville and the cemetery inconveniently far from town. Congregation Beth Israel petitioned the City for land in Mount Hope Cemetery C->r a lovid i burial ground. They received the land in 1892, establishing the'Home of Peace’ cemetery.

“With Home of Peace available, the Jewish community discontinued use of the old cemetery. In 1937, they reinterred those buried at the Old Jewish Cemetery into Home of Peace.”

Recently a survey of Home of Peace Cemetery has been done and the information computerized. A book containing Home of Peace tombstone inscriptions entitled Tombstone Inscriptions can be found at the Family History Center. The book contains 30 pages of inscriptions for this cemetery, but the recent survey of the cemetery will probably be more complete.

The cemetery gates at home of Peace are open Monday through Friday, 8.00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1000 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.; closed Saturday and holidays. The site is unstatted. For information about burials, contact the Home of Peace office, 6363 El Cajon Boulevard; phone number 619-286-1867. This fenced cemetery is located at the southwest comer of Mount Hope Cemetery, but the entrance is at 3668 Imperial Avenue.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

“Fort Rosecrans Cemetery,” Bissell writes, “began as part of 1,000 acres set aside for military purposes in 1852. Although Ballast Point is believed to be the location of burials from 1542 and 1602, the first recorded burials in the area began in 1856.”

A computer screen housed in a kiosk outside the cemetery office can be used to determine if a particular veteran is buried here. Also in the kiosk are ring binders containing alphabetical lists of all veterans buried in the cemetery, giving the date of interment, rank, and section of the cemetery where the veterans are buried. Many tombstones have numbers on the back, which is helpful in finding them. At times, the veteran s wife is named on the back of the tombstone, along with her date of death.

The cemetery is located one mile short of the Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma. Their mailing address is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, P.O. Box 6237, San Diego 92166. Their phone number is 619-553-2084. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The fenced grounds are open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Glen Abbey Cemetery

Located in Bonita at 3838 Bonita Road, 91902. Phone: 619-498-4600. Office hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Grounds hours: 7:00 a.m. to dusk. Glen Abbey serves the South Bay areas of National City, Chula Vista, Bonita, and Imperial Beach.

The Family History Center has a list of persons buried at Glen Abbey entitled Glen Abbey Cemetery, Chula Vista, California — Tombstone Inscriptions to 1968. This large volume contains at least 324 pages of tombstone inscriptions and a 70-page index. Many of the inscriptions date from the late 1800s.

La Vista Memorial Park

Located in National City at 3191 Orange Street 91950. Phone: 619-262-1225. Office hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Grounds hours: 8 JO a.m. to 5:00 pjn. daily.

La Vista has served South Bay since 1868, making it one of the oldest cemeteries in the area. Two books located at the Family History Center summarize burials at this cemetery. One is entitled Tombstone Inscriptions: San Diego and Riverside Counties, California, and the other is Cemetery Records of San Diego County, later titled Cemetery and Burial Records for Rancho de la Nation/La Vista Cemetery (National City) and San Pasqual Cemetery. The latter volume is for sale by the San Diego Genealogical Society.

A visit to La Vista reveals a fenced, hilly cemetery with a number of tombstones dating from the 1870s. The “Non-Endowment” section contains some of the oldest graves. The Kimball family, founders of National City, are buried here.

El Cajon Cemetery

This is one of the older cemeteries in the San Diego area and is located at 2080 Dehesa Road, just east of El Cajon. Phone: 619-442-0052 (cemetery office). Office hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Grounds hours: every day, 8:00 a.m. to dusk.

El Cajon Cemetery serves East County, including El Cajon, Lakeside, La Mesa, and Mount Helix. A three-page listing of individuals buried at El Cajon Cemetery appears in Tombstone Inscriptions, San Diego and Riverside Counties, California, which can be found at the Family History Center. Additionally, a group from the San Diego Genealogical Society is transcribing tombstone inscriptions at this cemetery.

Other cemeteries exist in outlying areas of San Diego County. The sidebar on Cemetery Books includes several books with tombstone inscriptions from cemeteries not mentioned here. To research outlying cemeteries, contact the San Diego Historical Society, the California Room of the San Diego Public Library, and local historical societies in the location that is of interest to you.


Several facilities in San Diego will help you extend your research to other areas of the United States, and they will be mentioned briefly here. But first, a word about classes. If you are interested in extending your study to other locations, take a good basic course in genealogy offered free at the Family History Center in Mission Valley, for a small charge at the La Mesa Senior Adult Center (619-464-0505), and free from the North County Genealogical Society, which holds classes in Carlsbad on the first Saturday of each month (call Carol Baird, 858-481-8511, or Bee Koons, 760-723-0676, for more information).

Other classes are held by various organizations for people of British, German, Scandinavian, Italian, African-American, Jewish, and Hispanic descent. Announcements of classes and genealogy conferences are on the bulletin board at the Family History Center

The Family History Center is one of the main resources for conducting research in other states. There arc Family I listory Centers throughout the United States, and they all tap into the large collection of genealogical materials at a main library in Salt lake City, compiled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Use of the computers at the Family History Center in Mission Valley is free. Printouts of information are 5 cents a page for computer printouts and 25 cents a page for reader/photocopies of microfilm or microfiche pages.

The following indexes or library catalogs are available on Family History Center computers:

The Ancestral File Computerized Index: By typing in the surname you are researching, you may be able to tap into another person’s research, pull up an entire pedigree chart for the individual, and go several generations or more up your family tree. This is a simple system to use, and an instruction bode to this computer-search program called FamilySearch: Using Ancestral File is available from the Family History Center for a minimal charge.

The International Genealogical Index (IGI) Computerized Index: A computer list of several hundred million names of deceased persons that can provide you with information about particular individuals. Pedigree charts cannot be printed out from this source. If that is needed, re-enter the name in the Ancestral File. A small instruction book to this index called FamilySearch: International Genealogical Index can be purchased from the Family History Center for a minimal charge.

The Family History Library Catalog: This database lists and describes microfilms and microfiche containing vital records, books, family and local histories, and maps that are available at the main Family History Center library in Salt lake City. The file can be searched by locality or surname. Obtain a microfilm or microfiche number, and you can order the film or fiche from Salt lake City for a small charge. An instruction book on this index, FamilySearch: Family History Library Catalog, can be purchased from the Family History Center for a minimal charge.

Another major source is the Carlsbad Library, located at 1250 Carlsbad Village Drive (just east of I-5), Carlsbad 92008. The phone number of the Genealogy Room is 760-434-2931, and their hours are Monday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

This library has 20 or more drawers of microfiche containing family histories, local histories, vital records, and the largest collection ofU.S. census index books in the area, making a trip there a must if you are searching migration patterns of individuals and families through the census indexes. Then come back to San Diego to view the actual census microfilms at the Family History Center in Mission Valley, for they have all census returns for all states and all years.

The Carlsbad library also has a huge collection of books on genealogical information from other states. Their library catalog can be accessed online at web2.ci.carlsbad.ca.us. Contact librarian Mary Van Orsdol for further information about this library.

The Genealogy Room of the San Diego Public Library is a good place for researching the eastern states and also for American colonial research. It has the entire series of journals from the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, and it has indexes that can be used to locate ancestors who lived in colonial times. A scries of books in this room entitled Germans in America documents individual German immigrants who came to the United States from 1850 on, and there are also books like The Great Migration Begins, which lists information about immigrants who came to the American Colonies before 1628.

The San Diego Genealogical Society library in El Cajon is a good source for genealogical books on all states in the country, plus it has a wonderful collection of genealogical society newsletters from many regions of the country. These are invaluable for tracing individuals, for often newsletters give tombstone inscriptions from small cemeteries, or memberships in organizations, or military service records that would not be available any other place.

Local universities have a great deal of information in their libraries not only about San Diego but also about the history of other dtics and states in the union. I have researched Chicago and other locations in Illinois at UCSD, for example, and San Diego State also has many historical books.

Last but not least is a branch of the National Archives, located at 24000 Avila Road, Laguna Niguel CA 92677. Their phone number is 949-360-2641, and their hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; open to 8:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month; 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the first and third Saturdays of the month. Closed federal holidays. Internet address is www.nara.gov, and the e-mail address is [email protected]

The best time to access records at this facility is in the early-morning hours when there is not a line to use the microfilm reader/photo-copiers. There is a restaurant in the building open to the public. A booklet entitled Index to Microfilms in the Research Room can be obtained by calling the National Archives.

This facility has federal censuses for 1790 through 1920 for all states, but you can view these at the Family History Center in Mission Valley. The National Archives docs have census indexes that aren’t available at the Carlsbad Library, the San Diego Public Library, or the Family History Center, so if you are really stuck on researching a particular line, you can go to the National Archives and look at its indexes.

The National Archives also has all the Soundex indexes on microfilm. Soundex was a system used to index names that sounded alike for the 1880 through 1920 census years. The Soundex indexes help to identify the Enumeration District and page number that your ancestor is on in the census returns, saving you the trouble of going through the census page by page.

Using the indexes available on microfilm at Laguna Nigud, you can obtain a pension file number for a Revolutionary War ancestor, just as you did at the Family History Center for the Civil War ancestor, as discussed above. Then, order the Revolutionary War ancestor’s file from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., using NATF Form 85. A sampling of other microfilms available at Laguna Niguel includes:

Index to Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, microfilm M253 V9

Index to Compiled Service Records of Vo-unteer Union Soldiers, various microfilms, V9-11 Index to Compiled Service Records of Union Colored Troops, M589 V11

Special Census Enumerating Veterans 8c Widows of the Civil War, 1890, M12311

Headstone Records for Civil War Union and some 1812 Veterans, 1879-1938, M1845V12 Registers of the Pacific Branch, Sawtelle Home for Disabled Soldiers, 1882-1938, M1749V12 Burial Registers for Military Posts, Camps and Sections 1768-1921, M2014V12

Army Post Returns for California and Arizona, 1800-1916, M617V12


As you can see, there is a wealth of information in and around San Diego available to family-history researchers, and it only requires you to get out there and discover what the records hold about your family. I wish you well in your research and hope that this article can be of use to you.

Descriptions of the San Diego Historical Society’s collection are taken from A Guide to the San Diego Historical Society Public Records Collection, by Richard Crawford.

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