San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Looking Across The County Line

Barry E. Hinman


As genealogists we know the importance of familiarizing ourselves with the geography of the area we are interested in. Where is that county in the state? What are the neighboring counties? Where exactly is our town of interest situated and is it near a county line?

We also know that we need to have at least a general knowledge of the history of the area, so that, for example, we know when records of various types begin.

All of this information we can gather from The Handy Book for Genealogists or usgenweb. But what we usually can’t find in such sources as those is the institutional history of the area, which can have a great impact on our ancestors’ daily lives and the decisions they made.

To apply this specifically to San Mateo County and Redwood City, here are two examples. Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City opened its doors for the first time on 25 Oct 1950. Prior to that time, there was in the county only Mills Hospital in Burlingame. Seven miles south, however, just across the creek dividing San Mateo County from Santa Clara County to the south, was Palo Alto General Hospital. Obviously it was much closer to Redwood City than Mills, and it was there that large numbers of Redwood City families went when they had occasion. For that reason, the births of many children who lived in Redwood City are not found in San Mateo County records but in Santa Clara County records.

The old Palo Alto General Hospital building still exists on the Stanford campus, easily visible from El Camino Real, lying just to the south of the front parking lot of the Stanford Shopping Center. Today it is called the Hoover Pavilion located at 211 Quarry Road.

Hoover Pavilion - Hoover Medical Campus
As with birth, so with death. Many Redwood City residents will have died not in San Mateo County but in Santa Clara County prior to 1950. To this day many will be buried in that county as well. Union Cemetery in Redwood City was closed to most burials except those of paupers in 1918, and Holy Cross Cemetery in Menlo Park was for Catholics only. Once again, for those living in southern San Mateo County, the nearest institution was south, across the county line, in Santa Clara County—Alta Mesa Memorial Park at 695 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto. It was much closer than the cemeteries of Colma, and, of course, the climate was much better.

So if you have not found births or deaths or burials of residents of Redwood City or southern San Mateo County look south across the county line.

Santa Clara County Birth Certificates
Santa Clara County Death Certificates

California State Birth Index 1905-1995
California State Death Index  1905-1939 1940-1997

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