FamilySearch.org has a database that many California genealogist might not know about, but will find very useful. It’s the California, Oakland, Alameda County, Newspaper Record Collection, 1985-2011. If you relatives lived in Alameda County, California this collection is going to be useful to you.
What This Collection Is and Isn’t
Let’s clarify what this database is. There are no actual newspapers in this collection. You won’t be able to flip through page by page or read whole pages.
It is also not just an index or extract. Each page in this index does have extracted information from the original clipping. But, it also includes the news clippings themselves. It appears these are stuck to index cards, hence, the use of the term index card file in the description.
Each entry includes names, dates, and places listed in various news items. The information is pulled from obituaries, wedding announcements, birth announcements, and anniversaries.
I could not find a list of which newspapers are included in this collection. The information page only states that it covers local newspapers as well as some from Southern California that include information on Alameda County area residents.
There are 74,691 entries in this collection. This number differs from the number given on the Historical Records Page (70,598)
Searching This Collection
You search this newspaper collection as you would any other FamilySearch collection by filling in the Search Collection boxes under the description of the collection.
I started with some simple surname searches just to get a feel for the database and its limitations. The surname Pacheco pulled up 315 results.
I scrolled down the list and found Margaret C. Pacheco. She was the wife of my grandfather’s cousin, Richard Pacheco.
The information from the results page gives me her name, her birth and death information, where the obituary can be located, and the names of the other people noted in the obituary. Relationships are given.
I noted that every single entry on the page says it is an obituary. I wonder if all of them are identified this way rather than as wedding, anniversary, or birth.
What Does Margaret’s Entry Show Us?
I clicked on the paper icon to see what else is included. There is a extract of the information on the results page for Margaret.
There is also a clipping of Margaret’s obituary. It can be viewed by clicking on it. You must be logged in to view it though (accounts are free). This is a glimpse at Margaret’s entry (there is more info below the fold).
Try Different Searches
You can try adding different search terms to narrow your results. For instance, I tried Pacheco surname Hawaii birthplace. There were 4 results.
The search Pacheco surname Kauai birthplace came up with zero.
You can also do birthplace searches without a surname. I tried birth place Kauai. 66 items were returned. As almost all my Portuguese Hawaiian relatives were born on Kauai, this is extremely useful to me.
But note that many people from Kauai will not be identified this way. I have found that people often identified with Hawaii, the state, in general, and the city of Honolulu even when they were not born there. If you don’t find your person listen under Kauai, try other searches with surname and birthplace Honolulu. You might get lucky.
Remember the Typos!
When searching for names, be aware that if a typo was made in the original item it will appear in the index. One example was a relative’s son Steven was noted in the obituary as Stephine. The person doing the extractions would not know that the obituary contained an error.
This is why I usually start with surnames unless it’s a really common surname. That way, I don’t miss the anomalies.
You can learn more about the database at FamilySearch.org.