Finding Death Records for Ancestors from San Francisco, California

California StateDuring the 19th century thousands of people were attracted to the growing city of San Francisco on the west coast of California. Many came from the eastern  half of the United States, from European or Asian countries. The area became a true melting pot of individuals. Even after the great earthquake of April 1906, there were vast numbers of people who immigrated to this city to help rebuild it.

If you had an ancestor from the city of San Francisco or surrounding area the San Francisco Mortuary Viewer of Records site, set up by SFGenealogy, will be essential in your research. The documents are from the records held by the various funeral homes from 1895 to the 1980s throughout the city.  These private businesses held onto their records for decades, so that SFGenealogy was able to collect and scan the pages.

The search engine provides help in locating an ancestor. The best way is to start with a surname and a given name, especially if the relative had a common surname.  Don’t try to place a death date unless you are sure of the death year.  If you are off on the day of the month by one number, the name won’t be found.

An example of the type of information on these documents can be found with Alfred J. Johnson who died February 21, 1917.  Given on the funeral home information sheet was also   his wife’s name, that of Cassie Johnson, his home address, where he died, the cause of death, the doctor who signed the death certificate, his birth date of June 11, 1853, his occupation – that of shipwright and where he was buried. Plus the most fascinating aspect, the costs to the family for the casket, funeral, etc., amounted to a total of $133.50.  This document on Alfred J. Johnson had included the typed note from the widow, Cassie Johnson, to Cantner & Maison Funeral Home to “kindly receive  and dispose of (by depositing in the waters of the bay) the incinerated remains of my late husband Alfred J. Johnson.”  So you just never known what information can be located with the funeral home documents.

If you had an ancestor who was killed from the April 18, 1906 earthquake in San Francisco that is especially interesting. An example of the people who were affected by the quake is the listing for Anna Baumeister, who died April 18th from burns she suffered due to the fires across the city from the quake.

She was only 14 years old and it was her father, Henry Baumeister, who provided the record’s information.  The document was not filled out until May 14, 1906 because all the funeral homes were overwhelmed by the number of deaths. Anna’s body had been kept in the city morgue, kept on ice for a period of time and the funeral finally held on May 16th.  We learn about young Anna, that she was a sales lady, of the Roman Catholic religion and buried at Holy Cross Cemetery. Her family was most likely very poor and the total cost of her funeral was $10.

The information is from the original documents which have been scanned.  It can be printed out as a hard copy also for your files. Even if you don’t have a San Francisco relative, the information and the history are quite remarkable.

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