Shar Mansukhani and John Hilbert of Heir Hunters International Explain The Pleasure of International Heir Hunting in San Francisco at Civic Center Plaza
One of the great pleasures in being an international heir hunter is the opportunity to travel. At last count, Shar Mansukhani and I have visited fourteen different countries and nearly every state on heir finding trips, whether to meet “missing heirs” or to conduct genealogical research. Adding to our total, later this year we are scheduled to visit Cuba, Budapest, Frankfurt, and Bucharest.
One of our favorite destinations is the City of San Francisco, which we revisited in May. Everyone knows that San Francisco offers world class tourist amenities for all, but it is especially hospitable to genealogists.
The Civic Center of San Francisco
For convenience sake, San Francisco stands out above all others. All of your research venues are centered around a public square known as the “Civic Center,” and each are within walking distance of the others. Located in the very heart of the city, the Civic Center square can be reached via the Bay Area Rapid Transit System or “BART,” as it is universally known. A BART station serves the Civic Center.
Since both San Francisco International and the Oakland airport have BART stops, you can search for the cheapest flight into either. Also, multiple hotels surround each airport, most offering free shuttle buses to and from the airports and hotels.
If, however, you are feeling a little bit more adventurous, we recommend reserving a hotel on Union Square which we often do. From Union Square, you can walk to the Civic Center area in about fifteen minutes along Market Street. Far from a dull stroll, Market Street is lined with many shops, restaurants, and businesses, such as the international headquarters of Twitter.com.
We highly recommend utilizing the BART website before you venture onto the subway to familiarize yourself with the stops, but, just in case you get confused or lost, a map of the entire system is prominently displayed in each train car. Also on the BART site you can calculate the price of a ticket, with prices set on the distance you travel.
Civic Center / UN Plaza
Situated around the Civic Center are: (1) the San Francisco Public Library; (2) the San Francisco County Superior Court; (3) the County of San Francisco Department of Public Health Office of Vital Records; and (4) San Francisco City Hall. All of the sites hold important resources for any genealogical research.
The San Francisco Public Library
Our first stop on a genealogical research trip is, more often than not, the San Francisco Public Library. The library’s address is 100 Larkin Street, and, like the other three buildings, it’s main entrance fronts on Civic Center square. The San Francisco History Center is located on its 6th floor. The library staff is very helpful and will take the time necessary to guide you to your relevant sources.
The San Francisco County Superior Court
To review probate files, you must visit the San Francisco Superior Court. The Superior Court is located at 400 McAllister Street. If you cannot travel to the court house, we highly recommend using the San Francisco Superior Court website which is, we believe, the finest court website of them all, and Heir Hunters International researchers have utilized hundreds of court websites. Best of all, the website is free!
County Department of Public Health Office of Vital Records
To obtain a vital record not more than three years old, you must visit the San Francisco County Department of Public Health Office of Vital Records. The Vital Records office is at 101 Grove Street, Room 105.
One of the great joys of conducting family history research in California is the availability of vital records. Unlike so many states, copies of California vital records are not restricted to designated family members, but are made available to all who ask. Officials take special care to redact sensitive information, such as social security numbers, and each record is stamped with the admonition, “Informational, not a valid document to establish identity.”
San Francisco City Hall
Vital records older than three years are obtained from the Office of the City Clerk located in Room 162 of San Francisco City Hall. Even if you do not have to obtain a vital record, you would be remiss in not exploring City Hall, which is a strikingly beautiful building. City Hall’s most prominent feature is its domed roof, which is the fifth largest in the entire world.
As noted earlier, rather than staying near the airports, we opt to reserve a hotel on or near Union Square. Although at first glance accommodations can be somewhat pricey, by utilizing travel websites, such as priceline.com, we have always gotten a very good rate, and, by using its “name your own price feature,” we have stayed at several smaller boutique hotels that would normally be off our travel radar.
When staying near Union Square, we always take time to leisurely wander through China Town. Adjacent to the area, China Town is worthy of a few hours of your time. There are hundreds of restaurants and shops, all featuring, of course, Chinese food and exotic goods.
Over twenty-five years ago on our first genealogical research trip to San Francisco, by accident we stumbled into the restaurant Lefty O’Doul’s, and we have returned to enjoy it on each successive trip to the Bay area. Located next to Union Square at 333 Geary Street, the restaurant celebrates the San Francisco Giants.
Even if not a baseball fan, one must visit “Lefty’s” simply to revisit an earlier era in American history.
Making genealogical research trips to San Francisco has always been a wonderful experience for the reasons set forth above, but like Shar Mansukhani and me, each time you visit you will find another reason to return to the City.