Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday's Website/San Franscisco Area Catholic Burials


     I recently came across this week's websites whilst researching my San Francisco O'Hore family.  There are two links in this blog, the first is to an index of the burial records of Mt. Calvary and Holy Cross Cemeteries here, the second, here is to the actual registers for Calvary and Holy Cross!  Why am I so excited about that?  For one thing the records run from 1851--well before death certificates--to 2006 and these are images of the registers, not transcriptions. Also, like many older burial registers, the entries up to and including March of 1888 contain a cause of death!   Something often difficult to find in cases without certificates.

     A little background on the cemetery situation in San Francisco is probably in order; in the early days, several large cemeteries were built west of the city, huge actually, and they took up vast amounts of land.  As the population  of SF rapidly multiplied, the land on which the cemeteries were situated became quite valuable; by the 1880's a campaign to remove the cemeteries had begun. At that time Catholic Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan, along with two Jewish cemetery associations purchased land in Colma to establish new cemeteries to ease the over crowding in their existing burial grounds.  

     In 1901 a law was passed banning any new interments within San Francisco's city limits and finding a burial spot became much harder.  More cemetery associations began purchasing land in Colma and over time the large cemeteries in SF began disinterring their "residents" and moving them there.  Those buried in Catholic Mt. Calvary were sent to the new Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. For the most part, the bodies wound up in mass graves with a single marker to identify their new resting place.  Survivors were given the option to have tombstones relocated with the bodies of their loved ones for a fee, but most stones never made it to Colma.  Unfortunately, not all the bodies made it to Colma either.  Hundreds were left behind at what is today the campus of the University Of San Francisco.  Every time construction on new buildings has begun, human remains have turned up.

    But back to the websites.  The index is easy to search and the registers only slightly harder.  The index links to cards with information like who purchased the grave, age of the deceased and the date of burial, (which in many cases I've seen is actually the death date, not burial date), and it's location.  It does not link to the register images but with the date from the index card it's a simple process to look up the burial in the register which is where you find the good stuff--like the cause, along with an address.

     There remains a nagging question about the O'Hore's of San Francisco.  Edward O'Hore and his wife Sarah Frazier had a daughter named Sarah in late 1859 in Auburn, NY, shortly before heading west to California.  In 1864 another daughter, this one born in California, was also named Sarah.  I naturally assumed the first Sarah had passed away, but a cousin in California who was a direct descendant insisted the first Sarah had lived until January 6th of 1874.  I had my doubts, but noticed that the Jan. 6 date was exactly the same as the death date of another daughter, Agnes R. O'Hore who was born in 1872.  I found Agnes through her obituary several years ago, but since she died in 1874 from scarlet fever, she appeared in no censuses and my cousin, (now deceased herself), didn't know of her existence.  She had however apparently seen the burial record in person and somehow turned Agnes R. into Sarah.  With the register now being online I was able to find the record, which clearly says, "Agnes R. O'Hore" daughter of Edward & Sarah, died at age 1 and a half of scarlatina.

Index card for Agnes R. O'Hore
     I don't know why my late cousin wanted this to be the burial of the first Sarah badly enough that she twisted the record to suit her purposes, instead of considering there could have been an additional child named Agnes.  I do know that in the future I won't be so quick to think a direct descendant living in the original location necessarily has better research than my own.  The question remains however, with the 1870 census showing two girls named Sarah in the household--could one be adopted?  I've seen the older Sarah's baptism record, my great-great-grandfather was her sponsor so it's not her.  And yet, the younger Sarah bears the middle name Rachel--the name of Sarah Frazier's mother.  Also odd, the R in Agnes R?  It's for Rachel and an older sister, Winifred, had the middle name of Agnes.  These folks were maybe not too imaginative when it came to naming their children?


  1. Great resource Ellie, makes me wish I had family in San Francisco!