Newspapers have always played an important role in genealogical research. In the
case of San Francisco California, this role becomes even more important.
On April 18, 1906 a devastating earthquake shook the San Andreas fault near San Francisco. Even greater than the damage caused by the quake itself, estimated at $20,000,000, was the damage caused by the subsequent fires that broke out in the city. By the time the fires had been extinguished, leaving another $400,000,000 in losses, most of the city had been destroyed including the government buildings. The loss included nearly all of the public records held by the city/county government --- land records, vital statistics, court records, and so on.
Compounding the loss, the State of California did not require recording of vital statistics (births, marriages, and deaths) until 1 July 1905. Prior to that date, counties kept their own records. After July 1905, a standard form was used by the counties, and duplicate copies were sent to the State, thus only those events that occurred between July 1905 and April 1906 survive for San Francisco city/county.
Records of a few other events also survived. For example, nearly 5000 marriages have been found in eleven volumes of "General Records" for the years 1850-1858 and a few other miscellaneous records have been located. Because of this great loss to the records of San Francisco, the newspaper accounts of events become the key to finding genealogical information.
In addition to replacing the lost public records, there is also another important aspect to the publication of vital statistics in the San Francisco newspapers. San Francisco, like New York City was a major port of immigration. Like New York City, the new immigrants tended to remain in the city for a long period of time thus a large segment of the city's population was foreign-born --- In 1872, 52% of the voter population was foreign-born compared to 33% statewide. The detail provided in the newspaper death notices and some marriage notices often lists the place of birth, even down to the local village or parish.
From 1949 through the 1950s, the California Branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution undertook a project to transcribe the vital statistics from the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. Their transcriptions have been published in 23 volumes of annual alphabetized lists for the years 1855 through 1874 (except 1869). Copies of these volumes are available at the California State Library in Sacramento.
The years 1869 and 1875 through June 1905 still remain a problem for research since there is no index to the events published. The intent of this project is to compile an index those years using the San Francisco Morning Call.
It should be noted that although the majority of events recorded in the San Francisco Call took place in San Francisco and vicinity, many events occurred in other locations in California from Eureka to Los Angeles. Some events, affecting family or friends in San Francisco, occurred as far away as Paris France, Hong Kong, Ireland, and New York City. Since San Francisco was a port city, there are also several events recorded for deaths at sea.
Printed Indices to San Francisco Newspapers In The Holdings of the California
Alsworth, Mary Dean, comp., "Gleanings from Alta California - Marriages and Deaths Reported in the First Newspapers Published in California 1846 through 1850" (Rancho Cordova, CA: Dean Pub., 1980)
Alsworth, Mary Dean, comp., "More Gleanings from Alta California - Vital Records Published in California's First Newspaper - Year 1851" (Rancho Cordova, CA: Dean Pub., 1982)
_____, Vital Records from San Francisco Daily Alta California 1854 (Calif. DAR, 1955)
_____, Vital Records from San Francisco Bulletin, Alta California 1855 (California DAR, 1956)
_____, Vital Records from San Francisco Daily Bulletin 1856-1868, 1870-1874 [22 vols.] (California DAR 1943-1962)
_____, San Francisco Call Index 1894-1903 [4 vols. - indexes feature articles only]
California Information Card File [State Library's primary card file - includes many references to feature articles found in the San Francisco Morning Call, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Daily Alta California from 1849 forward.]
The information used to prepare this web page, including reference to these San Francisco newspapers, is found in Newspaper Holdings of the California State Library by Marianne Leach (Sacramento, California, copyright 1986 by the California State Library Foundation).
The following is not an all inclusive list of all available San Francisco newspapers contained therein nor of those available at the California State Library. For example, there are also several foreign-language newspapers that served the various ethnic communities.
A limited number of copies of this publication are still available for sale at $47.10 postpaid to US and Canadian addresses from:
California State Library Foundation
1225 8th Street, Suite 345
Sacramento, CA 95814-4809, USA
Telephone: (916) 447-6331
There are several newspapers from San Francisco that can fill the gap in vital records left by the destruction of public records in the 1906 earthquake. The major of these are:
Alta California - the run of this paper covers January 1849 to June
1891. It was a daily newspaper. (There is also a weekly paper with the same
name that is scattered in the run and covering the period January 1849
through December 1852).
Evening Picayune - the run of this paper covers August 1850 into
Francisco Daily Evening News - the run of this paper covers November
1853 into January 1854. In Jan 1854, this paper merged with the Daily
Evening Picayune and became known as the San Francisco Daily
Evening News & Picayune. Under this name, the run of the paper
continues into May 1856.
Evening Bulletin - the run of this paper starts with scattered
issues in 1855 and runs into May 1895. In May 1895, this paper changed its
name to The Bulletin and the run continues under that name
until 19 September 1928. On 20 Septmber 1928, another name change occurred;
the paper's name becoming the San Francisco Bulletin by which
name it continued until 28 August 1929. On 29 August 1929, the San
Francisco Bulletin merged with the San Francisco Call & Post
(see history below) and became the Call Bulletin by which name
it continued until August 1959.
As a sidenote, another San Francisco paper, San Francisco Journal of Commerce [September 1920 - June 1924] merged with the Bulletin in June 1924. The Journal had been know as the Daily Journal of Commerce from January 1872 into September 1920.
Morning Call - the run of this paper covers December 1856 to March
1895 when it was renamed the San Francisco Call. Under this
new name, the paper continues from March 1895 to December 1913. In December
1913, the San Francisco Call merged with the Evening
Post (see history below) to become the San Francisco Call &
Post. It remained under this name until August 1929 when it merged
with the San Francisco Bulletin (see above).
Evening Post - the run of this paper covers the period December 1871
to December 1913. In December 1913, it merged with the San Francisco
Call to become the San Francisco Call & Post (see
above). Another paper, the San Francisco Evening Globe [July
1908 - June 1909] merged with the Post in June 1909.
Francisco Chronicle - the run of this paper begins 31 August 1868.
Francisco Examiner - the run of this paper begins on 12 June 1865.