I knew that the city of San Francisco did not have a copy of the marriage record for my Great Great Grandparents, Thomas A. Jones and Margaret Kelly because the records were destroyed in 1906. I also knew that the state of California did not begin recording vital records until after 1905. I didn’t know where to go from there. As I wrote in my article Newspapers Provide Proof When Disaster When Disasters Destroy Records, I found out when they married through a newspaper index.
I knew that Margaret and Thomas were Catholic. So, I wrote a letter to the Archdiocese of San Francisco to see what they might have on hand. My hopes weren’t very high. If the city records were destroyed in the earthquake and fire, chances are church records were also destroyed. I hope the archdiocese had copies of something–anything!
When I saw the envelope in the mail box, I wasn’t thrilled. It wasn’t very thick and I could see a handwritten letter in side. Only one sheet of paper–not a very good sign.
Boy, was I surprised!!! Although the letter was short, it contained more information than I dreamed possible. They did not find a marriage record for my Great Great Grandparents. What they found was an obituary for Margaret (Kelly) Jones in the Catholic newspaper “The Monitor”. It confirmed my information on Margaret. It also had a surprise for me. I was always told that Margaret was born in Ireland or San Francisco. Neither was right. She was born in Manchester, N.H.!
I hadn’t even thought of the fact that religious organizations would publish their own newspapers. If you have trouble locating information about an ancestor, try to determine their religion. Then check to see if that group put out their own newspaper. You just might find that one piece of the puzzle you’ve been searching for.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com