Thursday, October 1, 2015

Finding Old Probate Files in San Diego

I wonder what the story is behind this?  Arthur, son of my 3rd great grandfather, Henry Charles Tibbetts, was appointed a guardian in San Diego in 1892, even though his father didn't die until 1902.  What, if anything, did Arthur and his siblings get when their father did die?  If I could look at H.C.Tibbetts' will/probate, if there is one, I might find out.  from "Local Intelligence. In General," San Diego Union, 2 Jul 1892, pg 5, col 1; digital image, accessed 1 Oct 2015 from

San Diego County appears to be completely absent from the recent Ancestry Probate and Wills recent release.  Since I have numerous direct ancestors who lived and died in San Diego since the early 1880's, this is a problem, and my hopes that the release would include those are dashed.

According to FamilySearch, San Diego probate records began to be recorded in 1855, and that San Diego probate records are available at the Main County Courthouse.  I discovered that the older records ("case indexes dating from 1880 to mid-1974") are available at the Central Division Records:

Older/Archived records for the Central Division are housed in Central Records. Central Records also houses more recent Civil, Domestic, Criminal, Mental Health, Habeas Corpus, Deposited Wills, and a few Probate cases. In addition, Central Records has some sealed records. (A court order is needed to view any sealed document or file by a person that is not specifically authorized by the court order.)
Case indexes dating from 1880 to mid-1974 are available on large, hardbound books located at:
Central Courthouse Older Records
220 West Broadway,
Basement, Room 042
San Diego, CA 92101
Mon-Thurs: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Fri: 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Older records are microfilmed and available to view and copy. The court does not accept fax and telephone requests for copies. The cost to copy is 50¢ per page. Certification is $15.00 per document. Copies can be made up until 3:30 p.m.
There is no cost for telephone requests for searches up to 10 minutes. If the request will take longer than 10 minutes, the cost is $15.00.  
I'm not sure what the availability for probate files between 1855 to the early 1880's is?  I am assuming that the "older records" may be those that are microfilmed.

 An alternate to a field trip to Downtown San Diego would be to order FHL microfilm from FamilySearch:

I live in San Diego and have no excuse, except that I hate parking Downtown.  But no more excuses!  I'll park at Horton Plaza, get a refreshing caffeinated beverage, and walk the measly 2 city blocks to the office.
How lazy am I?  Only a 17 minute drive away and I still haven't done this.

Edited to add:  The California GenWeb San Diego site has a page outlining probate holdings at the San Diego History Center's library HERE.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.


  1. Hi Christine,

    I completely understand, I haven't done this either, and I need to do it. I haven't looked at the 1880-1920 probate records on FHL microfilm either.

    Then there's deeds, probably at the County Administration Building on Pacific Highway. Procrastination is my middle name, I fear.

    I'll race you to the probates...

    Cheers -- Randy

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has been procrastinating! Yeah, I'm probably going to end up bouncing back and forth between the courthouse and the county admin building, since those types of records inform one another.