I’ve spent the last few weeks working on my Azorean ancestors. While I still have work to do in Achada, Nordeste, I decided to take a break from reading Portuguese records.
I saw that new records had been added at familysearch.org in the San Mateo County collection. I wanted to see if I could find my 3rd great grandfather, Martin Kelly, in the deeds. Martin owned property on Mission Road, now know as Mission Street and El Camino Real which lies partly in San Francisco County and partly in San Mateo County.
It’s difficult to find what you need in San Francisco County records because of the gaps created by losses from the 1906 earthquake and fire. I have depending on city directories, censuses, newspapers and other records to identify Martin Kelly’s properties.
I found a couple of references to Martin Kelly living on Mission Road in city directories. At first, these entries stated that he lived in San Francisco, but around 1890, those entries referred to it as “County Line” or “County Road”. I began to suspect that some of Martin Kelly’s land had been redrawn into San Mateo County. If so, it might turn into my lucky day if the San Mateo County records survived 1906.
I have only worked with deeds once when I searched for the sale of the Five Mile House from Frederick Meincke to his wife, Mary (Kelly) Meincke, a few days before his death. I was somewhat at a loss as to where to start my research. The listings at familysearch.org are confusing. The dates on indexes and register books overlap. So, it might seem 3 or more listings cover the same dates. I started with one set of indexes and hit it big. I found several entries for Martin Kelly. I was pretty sure most were mine as they listed transfers between him and his son, Matthew. There were mentions of his estate starting in 1899 as well.
The problem was these indexes listed dates, not book and page numbers. How the heck did a person find the right book without that information. I picked one of the books with overlapping dates and soon realized I was in over my head. The files could be several pages long. Page 100 might have a record dated in 1890 and page 200 might refer to an older record from 1883. After muddling through for a half hour, I realized I was wasting my time.
I went back to the list of records and noticed there was another type of index. These were called “Index to Deeds: Grantor/Grantee”. I found the first page, and yes, this is what I wanted. It listed the names of both parties, the book number, and the page number. I found my way to the K’s. Right off the bat I found entries for Martin M. Kelly. Although there were not many Martin Kelly’s living in San Francisco and San Mateo at this time, I knew Martin M. was not mine. Mine was Martin J. Kelly and most likely, just plain old, Martin Kelly.
I only had to go in about 3 pages before I found my guy
It was an entry for Matthew Kelly and his father, Martin Kelly, dated 29 Nov 1890. This is my family! It is in Book 81, on page 556. This index entry lead me to the exact book and page I needed. No more muddling through.
I spent most of the evening going through the index. In the end, I found 27 entries for Martin Kelly. I believe the majority of them are for my 3rd great grandfather. I was aware that he owned two boardinghouses on Mission Road and possibly another in Ocean View. It looks like he may have owned much more land than I was aware of. Maybe my grandmother’s story about her mother pointing out one of Martin Kelly’s boardinghouse on the Great American Highway will turn out to be true after all.
I have a whole new area of genealogy research to explore now. Prior to this, I had not paid much attention to land records. Either the records were not easily accessible for me or my ancestors simply didn’t own anything to look up. Thank goodness for the internet and digitized records! Now I’m off to find those deeds!
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com