My latest discovery has to deal with my first adventure in researching land records. Even though I’ve been researching for over 20 years, I have not had to do land research. It was an aspect of genealogy I hadn’t really delved into. I knew that my San Francisco ancestors held land back as early as the 1850s, but because so many records were lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire, I didn’t really bother to look for them. Most of my Portuguese relatives didn’t own land until the got to Oakland in 1905-1907. Since those records aren’t easily accessible to me, I never really had an experience with this type of research.
Over the last couple of years, San Francisco newspapers have been indexed and put online. The California Digital Newspaper Collection has been an important addition to my research tools. When I first began using these records, the search function was clunky. So, I mainly concentrated on obituaries.
As the search engines improved, I was able to find little tidbits about my ancestors and their daily lives, including the land they purchased, transferred, and sold. My gr gr gr grandfather, Martin Kelly, owned several parcels of land in San Francisco. I have some entries referring to a Martin Kelly. Unfortunately, there was another prominent Martin Kelly living in San Francisco at the same time, so I’m not sure if these entries I found are my Martin Kelly or not.
I decided to concentrate on Frederick and Mary (Kelly) Meincke, my gr gr uncle and aunt. Frederick and Mary owned the Five Mile House on Mission Road at Silver Avenue in San Francisco from the mid 1880s through 1900. I should point out that there was another Five Mile House that was much more prominent and still exists today on San Bruno Road. As far as I can tell, my people never owned the San Bruno Road Five Mile House.
I found many mentions in the newspaper about the Five Mile House. Most of them had to do with fights, shootings, and drunkenness outside the saloon doors. It doesn’t sound like it was a particularly friendly part of town.
In one of my searches I found this entry:
First, the location caught my eye. The Five Mile House’s address was sometimes given as Mission Road near Silver Avenue. I don’t see Silver Avenue mention in that description. However, looking at a map of San Francisco, I can see that Tingley Street is the next cross street after Silver Avenue. I know there are books that show the exact location of tracts of land. I’m not sure if those exist for San Francisco prior to 1906. But, it’s quite possible this is where the Five Mile House was located. Back around 1900, this stretch of Mission Road had very few buildings. They were working on the new county road at the turn of the century and making the area more accessible. There were some businesses on this stretch of road, some of the boarding houses that the Kelly’s and Meincke’s owned. So, it’s possible that in 1900, the parcel of land that Frederick Meincke owned stretched from Tingley up to Silver.
Second, the date of this land transfer is particularly important. It took place days just days before Frederick died. The entry was published in the newspaper on November 15th. Frederick died on November 25th. He was only 52 years old. His death following so closely after the land transfer that it makes me think he had become very ill, maybe suddenly. It appears he was tying up lose ends to make sure that Mary was taken care of.
After finding this entry, I yearned to find the deed. I didn’t really think it would tell me anything I didn’t already know. Still, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I am sure you know the feeling!
I went to familysearch.org where they have the collection, “The San Francisco County Records, 1824-1997: Land and Property Records”. I searched through the entries and found the index that I needed. Though the index is by first letter of the last name, the entries are not alphabetized on each page. Eventually, I found the entry for Meincke Mary A/Meincke, Frederick, Nov 12 1900, Book 1892, page 178.
I was in luck! The book I needed was on familysearch.org! After fumbling around a bit, I found the page I was looking for. The first lines told me I had found the right deed:
Through the legalize of the next section I learn that the party of the first part (Frederick) was giving this land to the party of the second part (Mary) and her heirs out of “love and affection”:
The next part describe the land being transfered. The description fits the information that was in the newspaper:
The deed doesn’t really add anything to my family tree. Still, it’s something to see the original document and hold it in my hands. It gives me a little chill knowing that this gesture came as Frederick lay dying.
Mary appears in the 1907 city directory at 19 Cotter. I have read that the section of San Francisco where this parcel of land exists was devastated during the 1906 earthquake and fire. As I understand it, because this part of town wasn’t as developed as other parts, there was no access for the fire department. They let this area go to save others. I hope that Mary moved because she wanted to and not because she had to. But, we know that so many people lost everything in 1906. Mary may have been one of them.
I wonder if having this deed might lead to more information? I don’t have any photographs of the Five Mile House or any of the property the family owned on Mission Road (i.e. Mission Street or New County Road depending on the era). They had at least three boardinghouses and saloons just on the one stretch of road alone. I suspect any family photographs were probably lost in 1906. But, you never know. There might be a photo or drawing tucked away in an archive somewhere.
Even if I don’t have a photograph of the boardinghouse, I now have this deed. I have documented proof that the Meincke’s were land owners. It’s kind of exciting to add this document to my collection. If only I knew what that property looked like back in 1900. Now, that would really be something.
[This entry submitted to the Carnival of Genealogy, edition no. 120: Great Discoveries
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com