Conducting research online can be productive and certainly is convenient. But there is nothing more satisfying than visiting an out-of-town repository and discovering something new about your ancestors. Traveling to the places that were important to our family can provide context and add texture to our understanding of their lives. Immersing yourself in the area where they lived and walking on the streets where they walked can really bring your ancestors to life. Of course it is always a bonus when they were thoughtful enough to choose a scenic place to live!
Here are just a few of my favorite places to visit to search for my California ancestors.
Doris Foley Library where I found:
- Original court record of my great great uncle’s second wife’s divorce from her first husband (Aden C. Congleton, Late Bloomer)
- Microfilm of the deed showing the location of my great grandfather’s saw mill (John Congleton’s Saw Mill)
- Book documenting the fact that another great great uncle established the Masonic Lodge in Butte County
California State Archives where I found:
- Actual letters written in 1859 by my great great grandfather when he was in the local militia
- Original records from my great great uncle’s two 1870s incarcerations in San Quentin
- The 1930s mug shot of my great great half aunt’s abusive husband when he was sent to San Quentin for murder
Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society where I found:
- Oodles of newspaper articles detailing my ancestors’ lives
- 1886 Sanborn map showing the local saloon and bordello located conveniently close to my great grandparents’ home (Agnes Makes a Regrettable Choice)
- Cemetery record for my long lost great great uncle
Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library where I found:
- My uncle’s 1920 high school yearbook with his graduation photo
- Book with the location of my great great uncle’s grave (Aden C. Congleton, Late Bloomer)
- Photo of my grandmother in the 8th grade
California State Library where I found:
- Record of my great great uncle on the 1849 wagon train traveling to the California Gold Rush (Aden C. Congleton, Late Bloomer)
California Genealogical Society Library where I found
- The key to finding the land record of my great great grandfather’s 1850s saw mill (John Congleton’s Saw Mill)
- Newspaper record of my outlaw ancestor’s marriage and of his divorce
- Census record of my great great uncle living in Nevada City, CA in 1852
I can hardly wait until my next research road trip!
2 thoughts on “Jean’s Favorite California Repositories”
Let’s all hope your next trip will be sooner rather than later.