Notes on San Francisco Genealogy

Genealogy. An account of one’s descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.

Ambrose Bierce

I get many requests for information about San Francisco genealogy, particularly given the problem of the 1906 earthquake and fire. Some records are available. Here are a list of sources:

Birth Records

Pre-1906 birth records were mostly lost in the fire. The exception are the period beginning 1 July 1905 through 31 March 1906. These are kept in the State Registrar of Vital Statistics, Sacramento, California.

Death Records

Though most death records were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, there are still many available. The periods are:

Source From To
Book 1Nov 8 1865 Sept 30 1869
Book 2 Oct 1 1869 Apr 30 1873
Book 3¹ Apr 1 1882 June 30 1889
Book M Aug 1 1894 June 30 1896
Book O Jul 1 1898 Mar 16 1900
Book P Mar 17 1900 Oct 22 1901
Book Q Oct 23 1901 June 30 1903
Book R Jul 1 1903 June 30 1904
¹Coroner Cases Only

Where the Dead Went

San Francisco Cemeteries moved around quite a bit. Here's a list of what happened to various cemeteries:

San Francisco
Cemetery Name
Dates of Operation/Fate
Mission Dolores Cemetery 1776-1901. Still at Mission Dolores
San Francisco National Cemetery Closed in 1990. Still at the Presidio, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
North Beach Cemetery Deposition Unknown
Telegraph Hill Cemetery Deposition Unknown
Russian Hill Cemetery Deposition Unknown
Calvary Cemetery 1860-1901. Remains moved to Holy Cross, Colma, 1942
Chinese Cemetery Moved to Golden Gate Cemetery
Gibbath Olom Cemetery
(Hills of Eternity)
1861-1888. Moved to Colma, 1889
Golden Gate Cemetery 1868-1901. Turned into Lincoln Park Golf Course in 1906. Stones dumped at Ocean Beach.
Greek Cemetery Deposition Unknown
Hebrew Cemetery 1850-1860. Deposition Unknown
Laurel Hill Cemetery
(aka Lone Mountain Cemetery)
1854-1901. Remains moved to Laurel Hill Mound, Cypress Lawn, Colma
Masonic Cemetery 1864-1901. Remains moved to Woodlawn Cemetery, Colma. Tombstones used as fill on approaches to Golden Gate Bridge.
Nevai Shalom Cemetery
(Home of Peace)
1860-1888. Moved to Colma in 1889.
Odd Fellows Cemetery 1865-1901. Remains moved to Greenlawn Cemetery, Colma. Tombstones used to construct Aquatic Park seawall
Yerba Buena Cemetery 1850-1860. Remains moved to Golden Gate Cemetery, 1870

Special Note: Sunset View Cemetery, Colma, was closed in 1951. This was the potter's field for San Francisco where indigents, amputations, used cadavers, and still-borns were buried. Records for Sunset View are kept at Olivet Memorial Park. The site is now covered by the Cypress Hills Golf Course. Markers have been removed.

San Francisco Call Database

Another resource for those seeking information about pre-1906 ancestors can try the San Francisco Call database, developed and maintained by Jim W. Faulkinbury. The records for the period will eventually cover births, deaths, and marriages through June 1905, providing the San Francisco genealogist with ample information about these milestone events.

Currently, you can find information by date, surname, ethnic, religious, or national group.

Click here to visit the San Francisco Call Homepage

ALHN California History Mailing List

ALHNCalhist is for those who wish to discuss California history. For more information on the mailing list and the American Local History Network, visit the homepage.

NORCAL Mailing List

NORCAL is for those who are researching ancestors who lived in northern California between about 1840 and 1900. San Francisco research is a large part of its discussions.

To SUBSCRIBE, UNSUBSCRIBE, receive posts in DIGEST mode, or turn mail off temporarily when you go on vacation, send these messages to:

  1. To subscribe to the list:

  2. To unsubscribe, send a message to the same address with:


For more information on NORCAL, write to Yvonne Bowers

H-California Mailing List

H-California exists so that people involved in California Studies can communicate with each other more easily. We hope to sponsor reviews of new books dealing with California topics, develop an exchange of course syllabi dealing with California subjects, announce matters of interest for those interested in California studies, develop a website for California studies, and serve as a channel of communication for the California Studies Association. Subscription is open to all who are interested in California Studies.

To subscribe to H-California, send a message with no subject and only this text to

sub [list name] [First Name] [Surname], [Institutional Affiliation]

Military Records

The records from the Presidio are now under the care of the U.S. National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Park Service runs an Army Records Center which is open on Monday and Friday. The phone number is 415-561-5001.

There are two National Cemeteries in the Bay Area. San Francisco National Cemetery is located at the Presidio (415-561-2008). Golden Gate National Cemetery is located south of San Francisco (and Colma) in San Bruno (415-761-1646)

Other Online Resources

If you have a San Francisco genealogy-related page, let me know about it and I will gladly link it!

Genealogical Resources
Marin County Genealogical Page
San Francisco Genealogy Research Facilites
San Mateo County Genealogy Page
Pam Storm Wolfskill's San Francisco Genealogy Page
State of California Vital Records
Norcal Genealogy Index
California Genealogical Society
San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society
Z Pub San Francisco Obituary Page

Useful Phone Numbers
National Archives, San Bruno - 415-876-9009/
San Francisco National Cemetery - 415-561-2008
Presidio Army Records Center - 415-561-5001

Historical Resources
American Local History Network California
z San Francisco City Facts
z San Francisco History Page
San Francisco Population Data
Annotated Bibliography of San Francisco History
California State Archives
City of San Francisco Homepage
San Francisco Public Library
California Historical Society
Museum of the City of San Francisco
BarbaryMUSH - roleplaying game set in 1890s San Francisco

Return to Tales from Colma
Map of Colma with Cemetery Phone Numbers
Colma Timeline
Chronology of Social Violence in San Francisco
Text and photo copyright 1996 by Joel GAzis-SAx. Photo: San Francisco National Cemetery, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA.

It is an odd thing, but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.

Oscar Wilde