Newspaper obituaries and death notices are often a first step in uncovering valuable family history information. In the California Room of the San Diego Public Library, researchers can search a microfiche index of the San Diego Union to look for obituaries. A “hit” in fiche will reveal the exact newspaper date, page and column, of the obituary. The obituary or death notice can then be found on microfilm in the Newspaper Room.
The newspaper indexing has an interesting history. Librarians at the downtown Carnegie Library (the site of today’s Central Library) began creating the subject index in 1930. The subject entries were laboriously typed on 3 x 5 cards to create a massive card catalog. Eventually, the cards were photographed and the film was printed on microfiche, which researchers now use in the California Room.
The fiche covers much of San Diego history. The Herald was indexed (1851-1860) and the Union from 1868 to 1983. The Newsbank database in the Newspaper Room carries the indexing forward since 1983.
Unfortunately, there’s a major hole in the indexing. The “infamous gap” from 1903 to 1930 occurred when the library ran out of funds. Staff time became too expensive and the indexing project ended without completion.
The current California Room staff has been slowly filling “the gap” for the all-important obituaries and death notices by entering the missing information into an Access database. So far, about fourteen years of the gap have been filled in. A pdf version of the database is available here: Index to Deaths and Obituaries