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1st June
written by Richard

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


  1. Philip Smith

    I have found references to two family members in your Index to Obituaries and Death Notices in the San Diego Union (1868-1915). These individuals are:

    Calvin H. Turner, Newspaper Date: 1/2/1904
    Mrs. Calvin H. Turner, Newspaper Date: 10/29/1905

    How do I go about getting a copy of these notices or obituaries. Thank you in advance.

    Philip Smith
    Wichita, Kansas

  2. 20/04/2014

    Philip, you need to send an email to the San Diego Public Library: The staff will look it up for you. –Rick

  3. 22/11/2014

    Need for genealogy

  4. Heidi Crabtree

    Have been searching for an obit for Belle Benbrook (Mrs John Benbrook), I’ve emailed someone who said they saw her obit, San Diego, 1960, but her surname was spelled Bembrook with an M instead. I cannot find this obit anywhere.

  5. 15/10/2015

    I can’t answer your question but I’d suggest you email the San Diego Public Library at this address:

  6. Patricia Lowrie

    I’m looking for an article on the death of Sallie Waller Dixon Lockett on January 15, 1898. This is for DAR. I can’t find a death certificate in San Diego, CA. so I was hoping that the notice would be published in a newspaper. Her husband was Thomas Lockett and he died in Vernon, Missouri.

    Any advice or help you could give me would be much appreciated

    Thank you,

    Pat Lowrie (father: Richard Joseph Carter of San Diego, CA)

  7. 26/01/2016

    Patricia, I would send your inquiry to That’s the Special Collections department of the Public Library.

  8. Gail Stanley

    I am looking for an actual obituary for Pauline Doble (nee Baillie) who died November 25, 1989 in San Diego, probate was completed on December 8, 1989. Her husband was William Doble (he predeased her in Spokane Washington in 1932. Genealogy related. Any ideas where to look online – Ancestry has the listing details, but I’m looking for the specific obituary for more information and family names. etc.

  9. 03/03/2016

    Gail, I would send your inquiry to That’s the Special Collections department of the Public Library.

  10. Lael Montgomery

    Dear Richard,
    I visited the California Room a week ago (Aug. 10th) and, silly me, jotted down an incomplete reference. Might you know what work the “20 volume CETA report on the Gaslamp” refers to? I believe it must be some sort of architectural analysis of the Gaslamp area. Were you, by chance, sitting at the desk when I visited? I am researching a San Diego “City Father” who turns out to be a first cousin, as well. His name is William Augustus Begole.
    Hope you can help.
    Thanks so much

  11. Kathy Mcelfresh

    I am desperately searching for the obituary for James mark Derrigan, all I know is he died Jan, 2009 in canon Sande ago County. I know he has two daughters. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME FIND IT???MY EMAIL ADDRESS IS I would be so very greatful foe anyone’s help,thanl

  12. Nadia King Provencio

    Looking for the obituary of Malcom Russel King. Died in January 1973 in Oceanside California.
    If found please email me, thank so much

  13. 19/04/2018

    Hi Nadia, you need to send an email to the San Diego Public Library: The staff will look it up for you. –Rick

  14. nadia king Provencio

    Thank you so much Richard!!

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