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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

SMCGS Databases Online: County Poor Farm

This listing of Inmates and Patients at the San Mateo County Poor/ Relief Farm was created from a variety of sources.  There were three registers, the earliest dating from the opening of the farm in 1876.  That first register was relatively well maintained and for many individuals gave quite a bit of information including age, birthplace, how long they had lived in California and how long in the county. Some entries included the reason for the admission, the town where they had been living and their next of kin.  Unfortunately, that wealth of information was not carried forward in the later registers.

Besides the three registers, there was a bath list and a series of monthly reports that filled in or supplemented the sparsity of records for the early twentieth century.  Gaps still exist.  The two later registers, were most likely copied from other records.  The handwriting is often close to illegible and the lack of consistency in spelling creates a feeling of basic illiteracy.  Census records were also used to provide more information on individuals, in a few cases individuals listed on the farm in the census were not found in any other records.

Many patients were admitted for just a few days.  Others were residents for a long time, a few for decades.  Many were discharged and readmitted a number of times.  This lists tries to give the first date of admission and the last known discharge date or the death date.  When it is not clear that two entries are for the same person they were not combined even though it seems likely they were in fact the same.

Many of those who are shown as deceased in this list and in the registers were in fact never residents of the farm, or not so at the time of their death.  The farm's cemetery was used as a pauper's burial ground, and those buried there were entered in the register on the date they were buried.  An effort was made to find all those who were deceased in the early county death records, the state death index and/or the coroner's index to verify that they were in fact deceased. That the earliest deaths were not found was expected, however, there were death's after 1906 that were not found.  It is possible that they died outside the county, and even more likely that the names were so badly spelt that they weren't found, although a search was made in most cases just by death date (but only in San Mateo County).

Annual Reports and ledgers provide some insight into the income and expenses of the poor farm, mainly in the early part of the twentieth century.  The Income and Expense reports and the Contracts are located in the County Record Repository at Tower Road in Cabinet RC5B1 drawers 5, 26 and 27.

Employee lists were culled from Census records (families living on the farm are included) and entries in ledgers held by the San Mateo County Historical Association Museum.  Judging from the turnover of cooks and nurses in the records found, the list should probably be much longer.  If further sources are located names will be added to the list.  
 For  a list of sources used to compile the Poor Farm database see:
Additional information was culled from newspaper articles.  They are identified when used.  The early San Mateo Times Gazette is not currently easily accessible in a searchable format.  When it becomes available information on the workings of the poor farm should be uncovered.  An additional resource that has not yet been located would be the minutes of the Board of Supervisors. 

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