Monday, April 23, 2007

Best San Diego Genealogy Research Sites

The five best research sites for genealogy in San Diego, IMHO, are:

1) San Diego Family History Center -- I've spent 19 years there turning microfilm, reading microfiches, microfilms, books and journals, sifting through online databases and talking to my friends there. It costs money to play there - film rentals and page copies cost, but, in most cases, it is cheaper to rent the films than go to Salt Lake City and turn microfilm there. The focus at the FHC changed several years ago - from traditional research using books, microfiche and microfilms of original records to using online databases (including The online databases have essentially replaced the IGI on microfiche. Unfortunately, the access to at thew FHC was recently limited to the 1880, 1900 and 1920 census records, and some indexes. The real "gems" in the FHL microfilms haven't been replaced yet - the land records, probate records, tax lists, etc. for almost every county in the USA. They will be indexed and digitized eventually, but there will still be a need for the FHC.

2) Carlsbad Public Library -- the genealogy book collection is excellent - many surname books, many locality books, and a wonderful journal collection, plus the UMI microfiche collection of surname books, locality books and public source books. The best part is that they keep adding to the collection of books. I've spent many days at Carlsbad searching all of those resources., Ancestry Library Edition and are available in the library. Over the last 5 years, my Carlsbad library card provided home access to the HQO resources - census, Revolutionary War pensions, PERSI, and historical books.

3) San Diego Genealogical Society library -- the society has its own members library in El Cajon, rented in a small office complex. In addition to the surname and locality book collection, they have an excellent periodical collection - probably the best in town. One of the "gems" here is the vertical file collection by surname or locality - these are papers donated by the members or the estates of members. Another "gem" is the Leaves and Saplings publication that SDGS has published over the years - including cemetery lists, voter lists, early deaths, early probate files, etc. from San Diego records.

4) San Diego Public Library (Downtown San Diego) -- the basis of this genealogy book collection is a DAR book collection donated many years ago. It is in the Genealogy Room, which can be accessed through the California Room (local history room). However, they are the only library with a complete run of the New England Historic Genealogical Register and the American Genealogical and Biographical Index (AGBI). The California Room also has the archives of the San Diego newspapers on microfilm (with an index 1868-1902 and 1930-1980) and a nice collection of San Diego City directories. Ancestry Library Edition is available in all branch libraries in the system.

5) Chula Vista Public Library (Civic Center Branch) -- This library hosts the modest Chula Vista Genealogical Society book and periodical collection. A local history room houses an incomplete San Diego city directory collection plus other historical resources. Microfilms of the Chula Vista Star-News (from 1916 on) and the San Diego Union (from 1975 on) are available for perusing without indexes. Ancestry Library Edition is available in all branch libraries. CVGS holds their regular meetings, research group and computer group meetings in the facility. The 100 seat Auditorium is the best venue for genealogy speakers and programs in the city (if only they would install wireless internet in it!).

I want to mention the National City Public Library, because when they built a new library several years ago, they dedicated significant space to a Local History Room which houses the archival material, including the National City newspapers, an excellent collection of the San Diego city directories, and a curator. Unfortunately, it is open only three afternoons a week.

The San Diego Historical Society is excellent, but I haven't used it much. This is in a large room in Balboa Park, with many racks of archival material about San Diego history. I found Sanborn maps, landowner lists, pre-1920 probate records and other genealogical gems at SDHS. While they charge non-members for use, the repository has curators with expertise in handling archival materials and knowledge about San Diego history.

I know that El Cajon, Escondido and probably other San Diego County cities have local history rooms, but I haven't visited them. In addition, I know that San Diego State University and University of California San Diego have large research libraries, but I have not been there to determine the extent of their genealogy holdings.

So there you have it - all about San Diego genealogy research sites. If any of my San Diego readers have a different opinion, I'd love to hear them.

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