In the early 1980s, the Superior Court in San Francisco completed the filming of the Registers of Action for probate cases dating from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire through early 1942. After learning that the intent was to destroy the original oversize volumes, the California Genealogical Society obtained the originals. These priceless volumes became a fixture on our shelves and were indexed by a team of our member volunteers lead by Vernon A. Deubler.
As explained by Research Director Nancy Peterson in Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for Pre-1906 San Francisco Research (2006):
Register of Actions ledgers reference all papers that will be found in a probate file. Arrangement of entries in them is chronological according to initial filing date, or the date of reopening of pre-earthquake proceedings... (R)eferences to pre-earthquake proceedings have been found in ledgers as late as 1925.
The 1906 calamity destroyed all San Francisco probate files including wills, guardianships and administrations. With the exception of one lost register (volume 11) covering the two-month period, January 9 to March 17, 1908, the registers include the period from April 12, 1906 to March 27, 1942. Some of the cases were not finalized until the mid 1980s.
For the first time in print, San Francisco Probate 1906-1942 Register of Actions, provides an index to the 108,898 names in the registers of probate action of the city and county of San Francisco.
Each Register of Actions captures in abbreviated fashion every transaction required to process the probate. Many of the transactions are routine administrative actions, such as the recording of an affidavit, public notification of time and place of future actions or hearings, voucher files, etc. Some probate proceedings required years to complete. Entries for wills, mailings to heirs, final settlements and distributions of assets may lead to useful genealogical information. Rarely are original wills retained in the files that are indexed, but register entries usually point to locations where these documents have been transcribed or summarized.
The index is presented in two volumes, the first covering surnames beginning with A-K, and the second L-Z. Information was extracted from 179 volumes, each containing 500 pages. Included are 108,998 names, aliases and minor’s names representing over 85,500 probates and guardianship proceedings.
Many of the probates from 1906 were ongoing proceedings from before the fire and represent reopened and reconstructed files. A date of “1906” may, therefore, be misleading and refer to earlier probate proceedings no long in existence. Other probates from before 1906 may have been re-opened when additional assets were uncovered. Those will bear the date of re-opening and not the date of the original filing.
San Francisco Probate 1906-1942 Register of Actions is available for purchase at our Lulu bookstore.
Verne Deubler and the California Genealogical Society acknowledge with gratitude the many people who contributed to compiling the index, including Carol Backhus, Dorothy Fowler, Gloria Hanson, Patti Melvin, Nancy Servin and in particular, the most diligent proofreader, Anita Dean, who single handedly reviewed more than two-thirds of the index.
In addition, we extend our thanks to Barbara Close and Cathy Paris for transforming and publishing the index as reference books
Vernon A. Deubler is a past president and long-time board member of the California Genealogical Society. He compiled the book, San Francisco, California: Columbarium Records 1847-1980, published by the society in 2003. With Barbara Close, he compiled the four volumes set of books, San Francisco Deaths 1865-1904: Abstracts from Surviving Civil Records, also scheduled for publication in 2010.
San Francisco Probate 1906-1942 Registers of Action
Softbound, 8 1/2 x 11" format, 498 pp. (vol. I), 490 pp. (vol.II)
ISBN 978-0-9785694-7-1; LOC 2010926283
Copyright © 2010 by Kathryn M. Doyle, California Genealogical Society and Library