Posted by Jeanie Croasmun on October 30, 2010 in Collections

I’m not exactly sure what it is about these records that fascinates me – they’re simple typed cards with info about death – but the new California Mortuary and Cemetery Records (1801-1932) do just that.

I don’t have any relatives in there, at least not that I know of. But I still wound up spending more time than I care to admit looking at these brief moments in history.

Maybe it’s that the first record I found was of a woman who died in the 1870s of “exhaustion acute melancholia.”

Or the next one I viewed, for a doctor whose grave is now marked with a pine.

But more likely it’s the following two that reeled me in:


Each Halloween, my family and I go to the creepiest cemetery in town, where actors portray the dead, telling their stories and offering details about the events that ultimately took them out. Since it’s an old mining town, we hear tales of gun play, brothels, scuffles with the law, mining accidents, cold winters, bar fights and plenty of long-gone diseases.

For me, the California Mortuary and Cemetery Records are almost as great as being at these cemeteries, too – focused on Northern California, casualties of mining days are included as are other hazards faced by the eclectic mix of people California has always attracted. While no actors play the roles on these cards, the details tell the story. See for yourself – even if your family didn’t head west

Jeanie Croasmun

Jeanie Croasmun has been working at while futilely attempting to prove the horse thief story in her family history for over seven years. During that time, she learned enough about her family to determine that the story is likely a great work of fiction. But the search continues ...


  1. Linda Deppner

    No doubt there were many deaths resulting from bar fights, as mentioned in your title; however, “Whiskey Bar” on the index card shown in your article was the name of a mining camp.

  2. Jo

    Off topic post — I can’t log in to this morning, all morning. I can log in to FB & Rootsweb, can access all other sites, just not Anyone else having this problem? It’s not the “you’re logged in at 2 different places” problem where they tell you to wait 30 minutes, it’s connection timed out, problem loading page. Tried FF & IE8.

    Anyone else having trouble signing in?

  3. worshacf

    It could be due to a problem with your server being too busy.

    I’ve been on the site all day, working on three different family trees, without any problem, everything working perfectly.

  4. Arthur Granbury

    Ms. Croasmun, I find it very disrepectful that you refer to the circumstances of death and sacred places of burial as mere entertainment to “reel you in”.

    Do you refer to the resting places of your parents, grandparents, etc., as creepy cemeteries? When someone in your family dies, do you regale absolute strangers in stories of the intimate details of what “took them out”?

    These people are all someone’s family, and not “simple typed cards”. Shame, shame, shame on you for your calloused and unemotional attempt to trivialize our history.

    Arthur Granbury

  5. Mary

    Thanks so much for this source. I am working with a group of early CA settlers and wagon trains. Many of the individuals that I looked at in these records were from the 1850’s and this helps provide clues for those early settlers. Combining this, the 1852 CA census, and U. S. County Land Ownership Maps 1860-1918 has been very helpful.

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