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18 September 2009

Old San Francisco Cemetery Records

Saturday, October 17, 2009
11 a.m.–1 p.m.

San Francisco Main Library
Latino/Hispanic Room B
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, California 94102

Our own Nancy Peterson, Research Director for the California Genealogical Society and Library presents Old San Francisco Cemetery Records as part of the One City One Book September Events line-up at the San Francisco Main Library.

Her lecture will answer questions about San Francisco’s old cemeteries – Where did the bodies go and what records followed them? Who and what was left behind and never moved at all?

Nancy tells me that she will spend some time on "determining the date of death in order to locate the correct old cemetery." She's created a summary handout of available records so she can concentrate her talk on "the colorful history of disinterment and reinterment (and no disinterment)" in the second hour of her presentation.

Nancy Simons Peterson is a certified genealogist and author of numerous articles. She won the Society of Genealogists Scholar Award in 2003. Her narrative genealogy Guarded Pasts: The Lives and Offspring of Colonel George and Clara (Baldwin) Bomford was the winning entry in the 1998 National Genealogical Society Family History Writing Contest and is used as an example of quality work in the NGS Quarterly style on the Board for Certification of Genealogists Web site.

Nancy's search for her maternal San Francisco ancestors led ultimately to the publication of Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for Pre-1906 San Francisco Research, published by the society in 2006 to coincide with the centennial of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

As Research Director, Nancy provides expert assistance for members and non-members alike. The charge is $30 per hour ($20 for members) which covers research time, analysis, documentation and a report. Rarely can one obtain the services of a certified genealogist at such bargain prices, and, as with the proceeds from her book, all monies collected benefit the society.

Photograph of the old IOOF Cemetery is part of the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, used for this promotion with permission of Christina Moretta, Photo Curator, San Francisco Main Library.


Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of solving a family mystery last year. A family member made a second trip to California in 1861. He had family in Sacramento County at the time. It was reported that he died in a steamer explosion in 1864. In 1953 a family member came to Sacramento to ascertain the facts about his death. For some reason this family member thought he parished on the steamer Washoe. The reason I know this is that while I was checking out the family in Sacramento County, I went to the State Library. I was new research. One of the ladies was helping me and suggested I go to the index cards and look up the surname I was interested in. I found one card with a reference to that family. It mentioned a letter to Mr A R Ottley, the head of the State Library. I had Mr. Ottley's correspondence pulled out. It was so scant I couldn't believe it. I found the letter that the researcher in 1953 wrote to Mr. Ottley upon her arrival back home in Wisconsin. In this letter she mentioned the Washoe and was interested in having someone research the list of those that were killed in the explosion. This was in 2002 before I had run across the family member in my research. Since that time I made contact with others in the family doing research. In 2008 the subject came up and I did some research on the Washoe with no success. Shortly after a family member here in Sacramento was reading a book that told about a Chinese fellow that was at the scene of a steamer explosion at Rio Vista. He swam out to see if he could help anyone. This family member told me of this find. The date was October 12, 1865, the exact date that was found later to be this persons date of death.

I found that the Steamer Yosemite had an explosion on that same day at Rio Vista. Now I started to read all newspapers starting with the 13th of October 1865. He was not in the first list of fatalities. I did find him listed on the 14th. I had not ran across him being taken to Sacramento, but did find, "The bodies of thirteen white males, recovered at Rio Vista, were taken by the Chrysopolis to San Francisco. The names of these were: W. S. Sutherland, Minor Moore, John S. Fallon, L. Lilly, H. N. Dakin, C Jacks, John E. Myers, T. Major, H. Regensbarger, W.M. Carnagie, M. Champion, J. Harris, and a small boy whose name is unknown". Minor Moore is the family member I was looking for.
The bodies were at Gray's Casket Warehouse.
I then found out that since then that Gray's had went through sever changes but was still in business. I emailed them and was told that the SF History Center had Gray's funeral records. I emailed them and they found the records. I was told the location at Laurel Hills. Next I had to find what cemetery in Colma were the bodied removed too. The first one I tried was Cypress Lawn. The people at Cypress Lawn said they would check it out and call back. I got the call about 20 minutes later and they located Minor Moore in a mass grave with the same information in Gray's records. So that's how I did it.

All the family member that are on Ancestry had him buried in Wisconsin. I have notified them all and some will not change, others were very appreciative of my work.

Charles B. Compton
[email protected]

Unknown said...

Will the lecture be available in transcript/video format for those of us who cannot attend? Old San Francisco cemeteries (and their records) is a great topic for those of us whose ancestors lived in and around SF. I would be curious to know if Bancroft Library records (Index to early San Francisco burial records, E-K and L-Q, 1850-1870) have been reviewed by Mrs. Peterson?

L.W. France-

Anonymous said...

Hi, Bud said...
I posted the comment on the death on the Yosemite. I couldn't figure out on Select profile how it worked after trying them all.
Anonmyous worked for me. As you can see I am not Anonmyous. This my not have been a comment as much as my story on searching SF Cemeteries for a family member before and after the removel process. The complete story of this search is quite fasinating. I still don't know how to Post this Comment under anything but Anonmyous.

[email protected]

Kathryn Doyle said...


Your story is fascinating! Job well done! Would you be interesting in writing it up as an article for our periodical, The California Nugget?

One question: how did you find the 1865 date of death? Do you recall where you obtained the record?

I'll look into what I can do to make it easier to leave comments here at the blog.

Anonymous said...

The information of the date of his death came from a family Bible. It happened to be passed on to a nearer realitive than the one who had posession of it in SD or Montana. I don't know how long ago it was passed on (not to long I'm thinking). I was emailed a copy of the deaths page only and the person that passed it on to me only said it was from a cousin. At the time it was confidential. In a short while I was given that cousin's name and email address. She later sent me a copy of all the vitals in that Bible. I have already put together what is called a "Creative work of non-fiction". The lady from Wisconsin(a court recorder) left notes of her research and in them she told of a neice of Minor Moore's that identified him by the money she had sewn into the lining of his overcoat. It was stated in one of the newspaper articles that he was the traveling compaion of William S. Sutherland one of the two agents for the Bank of British North America in San Francisco. The thinking is Minor must have done well when he came out in 1851.

Based on what I knew from the note's and being a native Sacramentan I was able to put something together that sounded reasonable to the descendents of Minor Moore. I sent them my story and the newspaper articles.

This was almost a family myth but for the information that must have been written down and then lost track of, and continued orally. There was enough lost that the correct date of his death was recorded and being killed in a steamer accident. This Bible was a 1867 edition that belonged to his wife Sally Harris Moore.

I would be interested in doing this for the Nugget, but its a long story. Maybe you need to look at it. I did receive my first Nugget several months ago.

Please email me at [email protected]

Bud Compton