Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Finding records for living persons

In her presentation "Digging Up the Un-Dead" last month for CVGS, Joan Lowrey gave some practical advice for finding living people using online resources. She briefly mentioned online databases for City or County court, probate and land records.

For San Diego County, the County Recorder and Assessor office provides minimal property information online. For land records, the web site is You can use the Search box (use last name first) to find the type of transactions (e.g., trust deeds, deeds, reconveyances, notices to creditors, tax liens, etc) and document numbers for property transactions. With the document number, you can order the document for a fee.

For probate records, the San Diego County Probate Court web site is here. On this page, put "Court Index" in the right hand search box and then select a "Party Name Search." If you input a surname, you get a list of the Probate Court cases on file between 1974 and 2007. Clicking on the Probate Case number gives you some information about the case - the type of case, the case category, the date filed, and the case file location. There is a link that tells you the physical location of the case file. In San Diego, most of them are in the Madge Bradley Building at 1401 4th Avenue in downtown San Diego.

Civil, criminal and domestic court records can also be found at the San Diego County Court web site. You get essentially the same information as for a probate case. The records are stored in a different location than the probate court records.

But you can find more information about property records by going to one of the Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk locations - there are five locations in the county (downtown San Diego, Kearny Mesa, Chula Vista, El Cajon and San Marcos). The offices permit public access to computers with several databases on them. For instance, there is an index of current property owners and the tax assessments on those properties. By inputting a surname, or a surname and given name, you can find the properties they own, the property assessment value, the tax assessment, and a mailing address for the owner. You can also input a street address or a property identification number. This database is fairly difficult to use because it is function key driven, not mouse driven. But it is extremely useful.

The Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk offices also have an index of San Diego county marriages from about 1960 to 2007. The information is sparse - names and date of marriage - but it can be very useful.

All of these records are records that can be accessed by the public. To obtain the actual record, you need to go someplace to obtain it, but a committed researcher, or any person, can find them and obtain them.

That brings up the issue of "should a genealogist help a customer, colleague or correspondent find records such as these?" I'll discuss this in a later post.

Do you have "living persons" to research? Have you checked the Vital Records system, Court system records,and the Property records system in the place where they live? If so, tell me about your successes and failures.

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