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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Story on Every Page

Jean Ann Carroll
2 Jan 2019

SMCGS members are transcribing the mortuary records of Valente, Marini, Perata and Co; a (by my estimate) 95% Italian Mortuary in North Beach, San Francisco.  Every entry tells a story:  about origin, cause of death, relatives.  As we move into the 1930s, we get compelling stories of the Great Depression.  Every death has costs; some more elaborate than others.  Some simple, as for infants and young children. 

Valente, Marini and Perata management seems to have had a compassionate policy for young children.  The costs were minimal, far below a normal charge for service.  For example, here is a record for an adult, Consolvo Arvedi, age 50, funeral cost $328.10, paid in full within the month.

Now look at the bottom of the page at the entry for Joseph Bedini:

Full service, costs $38.  Date:  April 7, 1931.  Look at the payment record.  For 1931, the parents paid $19.  For 1932, $30.  For 1933, $8.  Lower costs, yet the payment is spread out over three years.

After transcribing dozens of entries when the payment was weekly and/or monthly in very small amounts, I wondered how traumatic it would be for a parent to walk into the mortuary office and hand over $1 week after week; month after month; year after year.  How can you ever process the loss of a child when you have this financial burden you can’t pay.

I called the Valente, Marini and Perata  4th generation person who had turned the records over to the Colma Museum.  I asked him about the payments.  He said, you have it wrong.  People didn’t come in to make the payments. It was up to the newest person on the staff (all relatives of the owners) to take the 3x5 index card file and walk the neighborhood; knock on doors; collect the money.  Week after week; month after month; year after year.


As the database grows we continue to update the file available online.  This month we also have begun digitizing the oldest books, those buried in Washington Park to save them from the fires following the earthquake of 1906.

If you have some free time and would like to help index or film these records email 
Publications @ 

1 comment:

Maggie said...

What a nice story Jean Ann!