I found a little gem on the San Francisco Genealogy website last week. They’ve add the San Francisco Orphans, Half Orphans, Etc. on State Aid, 1903-1910.
I looked to see if any names were in my database. I found the child of my Great Great Aunt Gertude (Jones) Burke. As the story goes, Gertrude was very pregnant when the 1906 earthquake struck. Her husband went missing at the same time. A couple weeks after the earthquake they found her husband, John “Jack” Burke dead. My Grandma said that he always wore alot of jewelry. His body had been stripped of everything but the clothes. He was buried in a pauper’s grave. I was never sure from my Grandma retelling if he died in the earthquake and fire or afterward, perhaps, in a robbery or a brawl.
I did track down one of John and Gertrude’s daughters. She was the one that Gertrude was pregnant with. She confirmed my Grandma’s story, but could not add any more details to it. I was always curious about that. But, maybe it was so tragic for Gertrude that she never talked about it.
I never could find mention of John Burke’s death in any records including newspaper accounts. I also could not find proof of the daughter’s birth. The story could be wrong, mixed up, or maybe because of the turmoil in the city, the record of records was a mess. I leaned towards latter.
I pretty much gave up on finding either and then the orphans records fell into my lap. I found three of Gertrude’s children listed in the index. They were her youngest children: Genevieve, Madeline, and Virginia.
The application was filed 18 Feb 1910. You can view it from the website. The application provides some information I did not know before. I learned that the baby, Virginia, was born 10 Jun 1906. So Gertrude was 7 months pregnant as she fled the earthquake and fire.
It states that they received aid because their Father had died on 27 Apr 1906 in San Francisco. I’ve searched for an obituary. So far, no luck.
I also learn that Gertrude and John were married 27 Oct 1897. I did not have this information in my records. There’s another blank filled in!
The application shows where Gertrude was living at when the application was filed. She was living with her sister, Alice, and her family. The three children named above are listed as being in the “care and charge” of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. I’m not clear on this, but it sound like the children were living at some sort of foster home or shelter. What would that have been like for Gertrude to lose her husband and then to have three of her children not living with her? I suspect that financially she had no choice. Gertrude did not work when John died. She lost her home as well. She would not have had the means to support her entire family.
Thanks to these new records I have been able to fill in three pieces of information I did not previously have: Virginia’s birth date, John’s death date, and Gertude and John’s marriage date.
As with all San Francisco research, patience is the key. The records you may need might have been destroyed in 1906. That does not mean there isn’t another source out there waiting to be discovered. Always keep looking, you never know when the information you need with come to light!
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com