As easy as it was to find the burial location for Leon Bean during our San Jose trip almost two weeks ago, it was not so easy to find another relative: the mysterious Laura Carrier.
If you remember, Laura Carrier is a new name to me. I found it by accident while reveling in my new-found historic newspaper resources that opened up the journal on late 1800s northern California cities. While searching for Leon’s sister, Blanche, I had uncovered a mention of her “cousin” in a funeral announcement.
While I knew that Blanche had married Harry Griswold Watrous, and that their family was now living in San Francisco, I had no idea she had a cousin with a surname Carrier. Actually, I still don’t know about any cousins for Leon or his sister Blanche because I know nothing of either of their parents’ siblings. Each of that older generation, as far as I can tell, had come to San Francisco from Maine, alone. Not until that recent research trip to San Jose did I even know where in Maine they might have originated.
There were several logical steps to take to ferret out some information on this Laura Carrier. First, of course, was to contact the cemetery listed in the newspaper clipping. This was simple: I had been to Cypress Lawn, the cemetery mentioned in Laura’s announcement, since I had attended the funeral and burial of a friend’s father there just last fall. Locating the cemetery information online, I gave them a call in preparation for my upcoming trip to the San Jose area, since the cemetery would be a short distance up the peninsula. I could go there and photograph the headstone myself—if there was a headstone.
Naturally, I also was eager to inquire as to whether Laura was buried in a family plot. This information might open up several other research possibilities, and provide clues as to how, exactly, Laura and Blanche were cousins.
The response to my phone call to Cypress Lawn, however, did not bode well for me. Transferred to a department which landed me on a voice mail recording, I left my message with doubts as to whether a long distance return call would even happen.
With my trip now only a day or so away, I decided to call back and see if a second approach would yield better results. With much apologies and promises, another employee handled my request. While she was certainly gracious, it turned out I wasn’t to appreciate her answer any more than the first response.
Laura, it turns out—at least according to the cemetery’s records—was not buried in Cypress Lawn.
I hurried back to my online resources to check whether there might have been two cemeteries with the same name. I checked to see when the cemetery I contacted had been established (the dates matched up).
Granted, after seeing mistakes in almost every type of written record I’ve ever consulted—from newspapers to death certificates to even headstones—I was willing to allow that the San Francisco Call had gotten it wrong, and listed the cemetery in error.
My next step could be to try to get a copy of Laura’s death certificate, but since I’m returning to the Bay Area soon, I don’t exactly have the luxury of such a wait.
I wondered who might currently have the records for the mortuary—since, by this time over one hundred years later, it would be unlikely that the company is still in existence. First, to be sure, I checked to see if I was searching in the wrong city. The funeral was to take place on Mission Street, so naturally I had originally assumed that referred to the Mission Street in San Francisco—but since Laura actually died in Oakland (across the Bay), it occurred to me there might be a Mission Street in Oakland, too.
A quick check to the 1895 city directories at Ancestry.com revealed three things:
- No listings for any Carrier family in Oakland
- No listing for a Mission Street in Oakland
- No listing for a funeral home by the name shown in the newspaper article.
Well, if not in Oakland, then was it in San Francisco? After all, that was the home city for the newspaper carrying the announcement. I had to look at the 1896 directory for San Francisco, as Ancestry.com didn’t have a volume for the year of Laura’s death. Of course, there was no need to inspect the city street listings for a Mission entry—I was already sure of that. It was reassuring to see entries in the San Francisco directory for a few others with the Carrier surname, plus another spelling variant. As far as the name of the business, I was pleased to find my confirmation: the name as the newspaper reported it, plus the location at that same address, 946 Mission Street.
What was the possibility that that business would still be in existence today? I took my chances and made the entry in Google™. Keying in “Halsted and Company” along with the name of the city and the type of occupation, I hit the right result at the top of the listings. There still is a Halsted funeral home in San Francisco—albeit merged with some other company names.
Could it possibly still have the records I’m seeking? Though I’ll give it a try, I doubt it. Keep in mind the one cataclysmic event standing in between Laura’s passing and our modern times: the 1906 earthquake. According to the company's website, in the aftermath of the earthquake, the original Mission street location was completely burned.
And the records, I presume, as well.