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Contributed: pre-2006

The California Room

Contributed by Sandra Harris

California State Library California Room

Located at 9th and N Streets (Downtown Sacramento)

First, make yourself a plan of action with the earliest yeared names at the top and proceed down to the latest. Eg. Andy, in 1858, goes first, Sally, in 1950, should be in the middle, and Tom, in 1990, should be at the bottom of the list.

When you go to the CA Room bring this list of look-ups on a paper or in an open notebook or binder. They do not allow zippered notebooks, briefcases, computer cases, etc. No purses either. All must be locked up in their little square lockers. You can hang your coats up on the coat rack.

Also, make sure you have a document to identify yourself - a driver's license is fine. They will register you when you first come in and from then on they use your registration to allow you to access the various fiche and books that they need to page for you.

Be sure to bring at least one quarter to use in the locker. Others are recommended if you want to copy anything. They will only cash $5.00 a day into quarters for you and sometimes you need MORE! (If you are lucky <G>)

Bring a check if you think you might want material they will have to copy for you. They will not take cash, only a check and the 'cover charge' is $1.50, but the copies are just .25 per page. A good idea is to mass a bunch of requests so your cover charge covers more than just one copy. They do have a limit on copies as well, ten copies, I believe. Also, if you need to have the material mailed to you it will be an additional $5.

Bring pencils, only, no pens. A magnifying glass will also help on some hard to read material. I find a tiny stapler is also convenient to carry to link loose pages. A small calculator is good to use to figure dates.

I wear an outfit with LOTS of pockets so I have places to stash all the stuff I need like an extra pencil, magnifier, etc. They also allow clear plastic bags and even clear plastic cases - note the clear plastic requirement. In fact I was lucky to find a clear plastic backpack and am using that now to carry my pencils, papers, stapler, magnifying glass, etc.

When you get to the CA Room it is arranged so the older records are to the rear and left side of the room. The indexes to the 1850/1852, 1860 and 1870 census records are located in this area. The 1870 is especially nice since it lists the names AND the information, not just the index of the names. There are several county census books also shelved with the state census records.

The 1852 state census is here in two sections, one is just the index while the other notates the entire entry. The microfilm of this census is in the microfilm room if you want to actually view it, although the DAR book that lists the entries is very useful.

Also in this back area are the DAR and the NDGW indexes and other interesting items like DAR cemetery records, DAR books, index to SF newspapers before 1901, older Who's Who books, many county cemetery records and the famous California Information File.

A tip: If you find something in the information file, be sure to write it all down exactly as the card reads, the numbers, the author, the title of the book, the page numbers, etc. You have to give all these items to the library staff to be able to get the book or pioneer card or whatever the card refers to.

If necessary, you can take the entire box to the desk for them to interpret it. Some of these cards refer to the newspapers on microfilm in the microfilm room. Those you don't ask for, you just go and get those yourself. Other cards will require you ask for the librarian to page them for you. These will get you the books or periodicals that are cited. Also cited are the county histories, and those you can normally find for yourself either in the alcove or free-standing bookshelves.

The county histories (some of them) are also in this area and so are many city directories in book form. They can be very helpful in tracing your relations. It is worthwhile to check them out if you have an idea where your people might have lived.

The marriage records from 1949-1959 for both brides and grooms are located in the central area of the main room, right by the microfiche readers. Also, the books containing the death index for 1905-1929 and 1930 to 1939, plus the 1950 to 1959 death index are there.

Some of the county histories are also in both book and film form. Many times the helper will suggest you look and copy from the film since the book is rare and only the library can copy from that. (at a higher cost).

I try to find all the pre-1940 stuff (or thereabouts) in this area and then proceed to the central area of the room where there are tables and microfiche readers.

If you want to look up deaths between 1940-1995 you have to fill out a form with the person's last name, time frame (like 1940-1949). This will give you access to the microfiche with that information. However, recently the CA Room has obtained two computers with internet access and you can search the CADI online right from the room. I frequently hop on the internet to check when I discover a name I hadn't been aware of prior to finding an obit listing it. The computers are also hooked up to printers so you can print out something if you need to in order to help you research more.

Marriage records require the same form as the death index and so do property record and phone book requests. Also here are the microfiche for the Sacramento Bee index and the Fresno Bee index, plus an index for the San Francisco paper. Maps are also filed here, but the file box to tell you what they have is located by the entry door to the microfilm room to the left of the glassed-in rare book room.

A recent holding is the 1880 census from the Family History Center that allows you to search the entire United States. The index disk has to be checked out from the librarian.

After I have covered all that could be of value in this area I go to the microfilm room. Here is where the film is stored for the county newspapers and the 1880/1900/1910/1920 soundex indexes. Also here are the census records. The Native Daughters of the Gold West books, Sanborn maps, county histories on microfilm and the city directories are also in this area.

Try to get a printing reader if you plan to copy items like obituaries, census records and news articles. There are five print-readers by the door to the right as you walk into the film room. Another one is 'hidden' behind the door to the left of the entry, there are two in the side aisles and there are three more on the side of the room where the clock is located. I like the one that is nearest the clock and to the right. It gives you lots of space to spread out your papers while you run through the film. Don't leave your papers there, though, I did it once and was just lucky that Bill (the librarian) found them and kept them for me.

When you copy obituaries, be sure to write what date and what paper you copied them from. This is helpful when you are putting the information into your databases. There is a strategy to finding obituaries, but I will write more about that another time.

IF none of the printing readers are available (and that happens sometimes), there is a nice non-printing reader closest to the files ~ I like this one because it has variable speeds to advance the film. The other mechanical ones are uncomfortable for me to use, I have to crane my neck, so I skip them unless that is all that is left. There are also some of the 'you-do-it' winders. Those are the ones that I (lazy me) use at last resort or only use when I find a metal reel that has to be rewound onto a plastic one. You are not supposed to use a metal reel on the printing readers, so if you find one you either request the librarian to rewind it on to a plastic reel or do it yourself.

The clock in the microfilm room is set about ten minutes ahead of time so when they come in to tell you the library is closing you still have a couple of minutes to continue your searching or to gather up your materials.

I haven't covered one other computer in the main room ~ it that has Melvyl on it and that is accessible online, so I usually don't use it. However, you can check it out BEFORE you go and it will tell you what books you may want to look at while you are there. Be sure to mark down the isbn number or any number that it gives you. Those are essential for the library staff to be able to locate your material. There are also two computers that have the more current Sacramento Bee on CDs and these can be searched by key words to find articles.

Hope you can stop by and check out this wonderful resource.

BTW it is open from 9:30 to 4:00 M-F except for Federal Holidays. There is a parking lot about a block and a half away and parking for the day is reasonable. You can park on the street for a two-hour limit but I don't suggest that. They frown on meter feeding and you could end up with a fine if you get caught. Besides, it isn't really fun clock-watching to be sure you can run down to feed the meter.

=Sandra in Sacramento=