03 August 2013

San Francisco Chinatown Bubonic Plague Records

Toy Vendor, Chinatown, San Francisco [c1 by ralphrepo, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  ralphrepo 

I should win a prize for finding a most obscure group of records in the most unlikely place.

The place:  Special Collections at the Holt-Atherton Library, University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, California  (209) 946-2404.  

The records:  San Francisco Chinatown Residential Inspection Records from 1904.

I know, who would have thought to look in Stockton for San Francisco records!

About the records, why they were created:

Called the "Barbary Plague," San Francisco was hit with an epidemic of the bubonic plague 1900-1904.  An autopsy on a deceased Chinese man by a city health officer in 1900 reported that the man had died of the plague.  The anti-Chinese sentiment of the day caused officials to quarantine Chinatown.  After objections of the Chinese community and threatened with lawsuits, the quarantine was lifted after just a few days.  In its place, health officials ran door-to-door inspections of all the homes in Chinatown.

The 4 volumes have about 300 pages each.  Volume 1 is arranged by addresses. It describes rooms, number of inhabitants, toilets, conditions of kitchen and toilets, arrangement of rooms, entry access, stairways, etc.  The other 3 volumes are an alphabetical listing of names, addresses, occupations, children and their ages.

These records could very well be the only census type record ever taken of San Francisco Chinatown and will be a goldmine of information for anyone doing Chinese research.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress


  1. You definitely should win a prize for finding this odd collection!

  2. Luckily researching these records doesn't spread the disease!

  3. Sheri,
    You get a gold star from me, my friend! Thanks so much for sharing this. Wish we had known for last week's Chinese Research workshop. I will be sure to spread the word.

  4. Thank you! Great find indeed!!! I will be working with the latest group of CGS Chinese American Family Researchers with some follow up sessions. I will send this link out to the group today. and add it to my presentations. I'll send to our our SoCal Chinese Research counterpart too. I often search for records without using a location but had not through to do so with "bubonic plague". Awesome! Thank you so very much for sharing.Chinese researchers will take all the help we can get.

    Kay Speaks, CGS, L-AGS, etc.
    Chinese American Researcher

  5. So how on earth did you find these volumes, Sheri, and what else is "lurking" in that library that is pre-1906 San Francisco?

  6. Happy Blogiversary!

    Regards, Grant


  7. Hi Sheri,
    Excellent find! Thank you so much. Wonders never cease. Sounds very detailed.
    Jeanie Low