It has been a challenge having so much of my ancestor in San Francisco before and after the earthquake. It can be really difficult finding records that replace those lost during the disaster.
I have found three resources to be indispensable for researching San Francisco:
1. The US Federal Census. Using the 1900 and 1910 Federal Census records you can find out information about the family before and after the disaster.
2. City Directories. By researching your family in city directories, you can figure out where they were in 1906 and where they ended up afterward. A new address in 1907 is probably an indication that they had no home to go to after the fire was put out.
3. San Francisco Newspapers. Newspapers are probably the single most important resource for San Francisco researchers. The Daily Alta Californian, the San Francisco Morning Call, the Call Monitor, the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner were all in use at this time. They can be used to find mention of births, deaths, and marriages before the earthquake struck. Also, much of the city’s history can be found within a newspaper’s pages. Many small local stories were used to fill the pages. By researching newspaper, you might find stories about your relatives that are recorded nowhere else.
Newspapers from San Franciso’s early period are easily found on the internet. The ability to use search engines to local surnames in newspaper makes your task that much easier. Check the California Digital Newspaper Collection for pre-1900 newspapers. The Library of Congress has some San Francisco newspaper on the Chronicling America website.
And, while you are at it, make sure you check out the San Francisco Genealogy website. Volunteers are tirelessly transcribing records, creating indexes, etc. on a regular basis. There is much to be discovered here!
Researching in San Francisco may give you headaches but it’s not entirely impossible. You may have to work a little harder to make up for the gaps in records. With a little patience, you will find your ancestors!