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Contributed: pre-2006


The University of California Library Catalog

Contributed by Ken Tessendorff

MELVYL is the on-line library catalog that lists the holdings of all the University of California campus libraries, the California State Library in Sacramento, and the Sutro Library in San Francisco. The holding of many other facilities are also accessible through MELVYL. For people researching ancestors who lived in California, this is probably one of the most important library catalogs available anywhere in the country. Included in the holdings of the University of California libraries are special collections that exist at no other facilities. Especially important for genealogists researching early California ancestors are the holdings at the Bancroft Library on the University of California campus at Berkeley. One very important collection at the Bancroft Library consists of questionnaires that Hubert H. Bancroft and his staff collected around 1887 from pioneer Californians. It appears that he was going to use the information to write a history of the pacific states. The original forms are on file at Bancroft Library and are cataloged in MELVYL using, as author, the name of the person who completed the questionnaire.

These were the questions asked:

  • Full name and birthplace 
  • Year and route of arrival. If by sea, name of vessel. If by land, in what party, or name of some other members of the party. 
  • Brief statement of experience in California, especially in early times,changes in business, residence, etc. 
  • Date of marriage, maiden name of wife, children, years of birth and what became of them. 
  • Present residence and business, or date of death. 
  • Brothers, sons, or other relatives, who came to California in early times, and what became of them. 
Unfortunately, my ancestor was very brief with his answers and I already had most of the information on his form, but I did find the names of two children that were new to me. I was also able to verify the exact year that he came to California. If your ancestor submitted one of these forms, he or she may have given more complete answers and you might be able to fill in a lot of blanks in your family history.

There are several ways to enter the MELVYL catalog. To find out which works best for you, type MELVYL into any good search engine and examine the results of your search until you find a method that you like. The UC library has included a lot of instructional information on their web sites to help people learn the most efficient methods for using MELVYL. This instructional information should be consulted before using the catalog.

After you find your way into MELVYL, search using both the "personal author" and "title word" methods. Frequently, a citation will appear using one method, but not the other. It would be a shame to miss something, because both methods were not used.

The following information was supplied by Susan Guhm (NORCAL Mailing List.)

How to contact the Bancroft Library on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley:

Telephone: (510) 642-6481

Fax: (510) 642-7589


Melvyl Web Page

Bancroft Library Homepage

Snail mail: The Bancroft Library

University of California

Berkeley, CA 94720

MELVYL should never be overlooked by anyone researching California ancestors.