San Mateo County Genealogy
Research Tips


Cemeteries of Colma
Cemeteries -Cypress Lawn
Cemeteries -Holy Cross
Cemeteries -Olivet Memorial Park

Great Registers (Voting Registers)

SMC Clerk-Assessor-Recorder
SMC Superior Court (Records Room)


1880 U.S. Census Index-LDS
1930 Federal Census 
Great Register of Voters
Medical Examiner (Coroner)
National Archives
Native Daughters of the Golden West
Roman Catholic Church Archives
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Social Security Records
Sutro Library (federal census records)

Essential Research Tools
  • "A Research Journey with Ron Filion:  In Search of A.W. Barron"
  • NORCAL Genealogy Index

  • This is a miscellaneous and informal collection of research tips, helpful hints, and "secrets" shared by other researchers who have worked with specific San Mateo County area records. By sharing their experiences and knowledge here, they've enabled all of us to pick up some useful "tricks" to finding and working with these records.

    Bear in mind that these people do not all profess to be "experts"! These generous volunteers are merely sharing their observations, which may be different than your own experience.

    If you have different information than what is given on this page, by all means, please share with us! If you have any hints or tips to share regarding San Mateo County records that you feel might help others, please let us know so that they can be included here.

    This could help us all avoid needless time, expense, and frustration when searching for our San Mateo County ancestors!

    "Thank you!" to all the volunteers who have submitted information for this page!

    Cemeteries of Colma--General tips

    Ken Tessendorff (submitted ~Aug 2000) observed:

    "... I visited five cemetery offices in Colma in about one hour's time. Everyone I talked to was extremely cooperative. At two cemeteries, members of the office staff even drove us out to the graves and helped us find the locations. At the other cemeteries, they took the time to look through all the record books where they thought there might be information on my ancestors..."

    Cemeteries of Colma--Cypress Lawn

    Lynn Glocker (submitted ~Aug 2000) writes: "Some time ago I wrote them a letter and gave them several surnames that I was interested in. They responded within about a two week span, and sent me a computer print out of each person with that surname. I received more information than I had expected and was quite pleased with the promtness of their reply."

    Cemeteries of Colma--Holy Cross

    Please read this very helpful article: Research at Holy Cross Cemetery by Mike O'Brien (submitted 2 Feb 2003).

    Dorothy Tenaza (submitted ~Aug 2000) shared this helpful info:

    "Gates open 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Daily. Of the 283 acres of land set aside for this cemetery, as of 1993, 189 acres have been developed. Those buried in Calvary Cemetery, the Catholic Cemetery in San Francisco, were moved to Holy Cross in about 1942. When I go to do cemetery lookups at Holy Cross I stop by the reception desk first to check on the grave location. The locations are computerized and the receptionist is always very helpful in looking these up for me. It is a very busy cemetery so when I have a long list, this step can take awhile. There are usually quite a few grounds people working outside to point me in the right direction once I have the section, row, area, plot and grave numbers. Most of my lookups are for burials which took place quite a long time ago, so the stones are very old. Although the cemetery is very well kept, some of the stones are showing signs of aging. A few are unreadable. Most of the ones I am looking up are dirty and need a little attention before I can copy the inscriptions. I sometimes use a little water and a very soft brush to clean the stones, but I only clean them enough to read inscriptions. If, as has been the case with some cremations at Cypress Lawn, the marker is flush to the ground, I sometimes cut the grass back a little to better read the marker."

    Cemeteries of Colma--Olivet Memorial Park

    Judy Trefz Spooner (submitted ~Aug 2000) discovered:

    Olivet's records are indexed first by year, then alphabetically by first letter of the surname, though not necessarily alphabetical within each letter. However, the staff was extremely helpful during her visit. They brought out the old bound booklet for the year and letter of the surname she was looking for and offered to find the records for two of the g-grandparents she was looking for. Since the surname she was searching was a rare one and she was interested in records for anyone with the same name, they allowed her to look through it herself at the counter. When she found the entries for her great-grandparents and several others she was interested in, they offered to make photocopies for her. She asked if there would be any other records for them, and they found copies of her great-grandparents' newpaper obituaries and made photocopies of them as well! They also offered her a map of the cemetery and marked exactly where the graves could be found. They didn't ask for money, but she gave them several dollars to cover the cost of the copies. If only all the cemeteries' staff members were this terrific!

    Great Registers (Voting Registers)

    Ron Filion (submitted Jan 2006) informs us:

    These registers are a great resource, especially if your ancestor was naturalized (it usually gives the place and court when the event occurred). The Family History Library (LDS) has the following microfilm in their collection:

    The San Bruno Family History Library has the 1873 and 1888 Great Registers on microfilm. They are in the California drawer under 1434237 on two different rolls.

    San Mateo County Clerk-Assessor-Recorder

    Ron Filion (submitted Sep 2005) visited them and informs us:

    Their records are stored at the San Mateo County Elections' warehouse at 40 Tower Road, San Mateo. You may visit the warehouse ONLY after making an appointment with the County Clerk (650.312.8945).

    To access the warehouse, you must sign a legal form. The form is primarily if you are going to access the birth and death indices and/or records. There are RISKS for accessing these indexes! Read about it here. You may make modifications on the form to avoid these (notify them when you are making an appointment). You may need to visit the County Clerk's office in Redwood City to get a modified form. If you have any problems, contact the Deputy County Clerk-Recorder, Theresa Rabe (650.363.1895).

    San Mateo County (SMC) Superior Court (Records Room)

    Marina Cole (submitted June 2005) visited them and writes:

    The Original Books are available in the Records office for early cases (Civil, Probate and some criminal).  If you read the official information, it says that older cases are off-site and require 48 hours for retrieval.  However, at least some of the old, old cases, i.e. the ones in the books, are actually on microfilm and available there in the office. I was able to see my case file with only a 15 minute wait.

    First look up your case number in the plaintiff or defendant books. Then when you fill out your request form, do not fill in the section that asks, if this is a civil, family or criminal case.  That is used only for the new cases.  Be sure to tell the staff that the year of the case, and they will retrieve the microfilm and set you up at a reader.  The books covered 1880-1958 for civil cases.

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