Obituaries and Death Notices

The best way to obtain copies of obituaries or death notices from the San José Mercury and the San Francisco Chronicle is to do it yourself by going to the King Library in San Jose for the Mercury or the San Francisco Main Library for the Chronicle. Click on the links for these libraries to see how to get there.
* San José Public Library
* San Francisco Public Library

You can also order obituaries or death notices to be sent to you as follows:

* San José Mercury and/or San Francisco Chronicle
Obituary Order Form - : $20.00 per name per paper *
Details are in the System Reference Center fee description.

* San José Mercury and predecessors
Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society - $10 per name. Its .PDF order form is under “Research Services” on its web site -

* San Francisco Chronicle

Before you go to the library or order a search, you should always verify the name and date of death in the California Death Records (1940-1997) and the Social Security Death Index. Sometimes the record will be in only one of these.

* California Death Records

* Social Security Death Index

Other San Francisco Bay Area Localities

San José   Santa Clara County  California State Resources  Alameda County  
San Francisco City and County  San Mateo County  Commercial Sites

Resources in San José

The California Room at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in San José has a wealth of resources about the history of San Jose and Santa Clara County. Its database has information on prominent Santa Clara County people from the 19th and early 20th centuries. California Room Librarians do not search for obituaries other than those appearing in their database.

To contact the California Room directly, use the following address:
California Room
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
150 E. San Fernando Street
San Jose, CA 95112-3580


Santa Clara County and City

The Santa Clara City Library is the local genealogy library for Santa Clara County. Volunteers maintain the genealogy section. They offer to give more research help than San José Public Library can provide and they carry death indexes that cover earlier dates than the San Jose Public Library. They charge a fee that benefits the society. To see the types of research available, go to the website or contact them by mail:

Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society
Santa Clara City Library
2635 Homestead Road
Santa Clara, CA 95051-5387
Voice Mail Messages 408-615-2956

The Santa Clara City Library has additional information –
Mary Hanel, Heritage Pavilion Librarian & Staff Liaison to the Genealogy Society, 408-615-2909

The Mercury papers have been the long term papers in Santa Clara County for many years. However, there are other cities in Santa Clara County and other newspapers. It is possible that the obituary for your person appeared in a different paper. Death indexes for other cities are listed on the San José Public Library California Room web page. These indexes have been compiled by organizations because the newspapers did not have obituary indexes until about 2004.

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Santa Clara County Mortuaries and Funeral Directors

It is possible that a mortuary or funeral director may be able to give you the information you seek. The Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society has posted a list of mortuaries. Lima Family, Oak Hill, and Darling-Fisher are the biggest.

Santa Clara County Towns

In the 1990’s, some local papers started putting their obituaries online. Here are some examples.

Los Altos Town Crier - Obituaries start on May 22, 1995. Browse Archives by year, then date, then under “People.”

Mountain View Voice - Obituaries start on January 28, 2000. Browse Archives by year, then date.
Mountain View Public Library maintains a database of deceased Mountain View residents.

Palo Alto Weekly archives -
Obituaries start in 1994. Browse Archives by year, then date.
Palo Alto Public Library Obituary Index. Obituaries prior to 1994 to the present.


State Library, State Department of Health and Human Services and Other Counties

The California State Library
If you wish to do your own search, you can request through your own library to borrow newspaper microfilm. Your library may borrow it from the San José Public Library or from the California State Library. Neither library lends to individuals directly. To view the microfilm or print from it, your library must have the proper equipment. Your local library must make a request for the dates you need at the address below:

California State Library
Attn: California History Section
P.O. Box 942837
Sacramento, CA 94237-0001

Web information for your library about interlibrary loan:

The California State Library will not perform obituary searches. However they will send a list of private researchers who will perform searches for a fee. You may contact them at the address above.

State of California - Department of Health Services - Center for Health Statistics - Vital Records

The Vital Records office of the State of California also has copies of birth, death, marriage and dissolution of marriage certificates. There is a delay for that agency to make these certificates available because it must wait for the California counties to submit records. Researchers may obtain informational copies for a fee. Death Certificates


If you are a California resident, the reference librarians at your local public library may be able to work through their system reference center to obtain an obituary for you.

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Other Counties Served by the System Reference Center

This section is under construction. More libraries, counties, and newspapers will be added.

Alameda County

From the Alameda County Library:

"If the deceased resided in one of the parts of the County served by Alameda County Library, the Alameda County Library will try to locate an obituary for you by checking our local papers. The parts of the County we cover are: Albany, Castro Valley, Dublin, Fremont, Newark, San Lorenzo, Union City and other unincorporated areas. Please note our newspaper holdings listed above to see which areas are covered by each. Generally, the Alameda County Library has archives back to the 1960's. For earlier dates, some of the city libraries may be able to help. Oakland Public Library has an especially strong local history collection in their Oakland History Room 510-238-3222.

"There are a number of city libraries that are not part of Alameda County Library. These independent city libraries are:

Alameda City Library

Alameda County Library
Albany, Castro Valley, Dublin, Fremont, Newark, San Lorenzo, Union City and unincorporated areas

Berkeley Public Library

Hayward Public Library

Livermore Public Library

Oakland Public Library

Pleasanton Library

San Leandro Public Library

"If the deceased resided in one of these cities, you may want to contact the city library directly to obtain information regarding local files they maintain and whether they conduct obituary searches. The following information is critical to a successful obituary search:

Full Name
Date of Death
Place of residence
Place of death

"You should consider obtaining a death certificate before asking for an obituary if you do not have the above information. Alameda County Clerk-Recorder has death certificates from 1960 to present.

"Prior to 1960, Alameda County death certificates may be obtained from the State of California - Department of Health Services - Death Certificates.

"You may be able to find recent obituaries by checking Internet sites."

How to reach the Alameda County Library

Alameda County Library's Genealogy Links


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San Francisco City and County

The San Francisco Public Library has a San Francisco History Center in its Main Library. A helpful guide to finding San Francisco resources is the Center's Pathfinder to Vital Records

San Francisco Public Library - Policy on obituary searches

San Mateo County Towns

The Almanac - Obituaries start on March 4, 1998. Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside.

Online archives for other San Mateo County newspapers and the San Francisco Examiner.
List as of April 2008.

The South San Francisco Public Library will search for obituaries and death notices published in San Mateo County newspapers and the San Francisco Chronicle. Fees, payable in advance, are $10.00 for California residents and $20.00 for out-of-state residents. Searches are free for San Mateo County residents who have a library card from any library in the Peninsula Library System. Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The fee is for the time is takes the librarians to search, whether they find anything or not.


Commercial Sites for Obituaries and Death Notices
You may search for someone in several newspapers simultaneously. The site has a list of newspapers. Searching is free, but there charges for copies.'s Obitfinder
Searches about 200 U.S. newspapers and the Social Security Death index starting as early as February 2001. Searching is free. You may view an archived notice and sign the guest book for one day for $2.95. and CemeteryJunction provide cemetery records.


Professional Researchers


Form Letter - Genealogy Request
This form letter can be used to contact a local library for an obituary search, with the exception of the San Jose Public Library. Searches for obituaries and death notices must be done through the System Reference Center, below.

System Reference Center fee description
The cost is $20.00 per name per paper. For example, to search for a person's obituary in the San Jose Mercury is $20.00. To then search for the same person in the San Francisco Chronicle would cost another $20.00. We use Pay Pal to process these orders. The cost, which is for the search time, is the same whether we find anything or not.

The System Reference Center will search the San José Mercury or San Francisco Chronicle search for seven days after the date of death. We look for obituaries, funeral announcements, and death notices. We look for spellings that we can find associated with the name. Many people who die do not have obituaries or death notices in the newspaper, since this practice is voluntary. Generally, the local paper will publish a free death notice or funeral announcement. Family and friends pay for the obituaries.

However, the best way to obtain copies of obituaries or death notices from the San José Mercury and the San Francisco Chronicle it to do it yourself by going to the King Library in San José for the Mercury or the San Francisco Main Library for the Chronicle.

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