All posts tagged "obituaries"

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Question of The Week: How Can I Find A Biography?

portraitQuestion: How can I find a biography?

Answer: You could find biographical information on a person by using our online catalog or databases or both.


Example: a quick catalog search on Albert Einstein yields more than 300 sources in various formats such as books, eBooks, articles, etc.


To focus on articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers, you could explore our databases collection, especially under the category History and Biography.  Here you could find Biography Article Search, Biography in Context, and History Reference Center.


To find biographies for school assignments in different levels, you could try our For K-8 Students databases, which contain Kids Search (Grades K-5), World Book InfoFinder (Grades 4-12), World Book Kids (Grades 1-3), and World Book Timelines (Grades 4-12).


Other databases to consider:

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Question of the Week: Obituary Searching

The library often receives requests from people who would like to obtain a copy of an obituary for a loved one who passed away locally. These requests come from all over the world!  For over 150 years, obituaries have appeared in the San Jose Mercury News. Some requests are for those doing genealogical research, and know that many obituaries contain detailed information about long lost family members that can be hard to find elsewhere. Others simply want a record of the death of their parent, aunt, or cousin.


Unfortunately, we realized a number of years ago that we were unable to keep up with the many requests for these sometimes time-consuming searches, so we turned it over to an outside agency that provides this research for a fee.  As it states in our policy, if patrons live in the area, they are welcome to come to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and search the San Jose Mercury News themselves on the Lower Level. We have the Mercury News on microfilm going back to 1861! And we have staff there that can assist patrons with the microfilm reader/printer.


If they are not able to come in (many people call from out of state), we refer them to the System Reference Center, where the staff can search for the obituary for a fee.

There are several factors involved in searching for obituaries:


  • Unless the deceased person was prominent or well-known, previous to 1985 there is no way to know if an obituary was published except by searching the microfilm. We recommend that researchers peruse the newspaper up to 10 days following the death of the person.
  • If the deceased passed after 1985, researchers may search the Mercury News through our online database. The database is accessible from home with your San Jose Public Library card, or from any San Jose library.
  • An exact date of death is necessary for any request sent to the System Reference Center, or realistically, for anyone attempting to find an obituary. If you don’t know when the person you are seeking died and you believe it was between 1940-1997, you may check for the deceased on the California Death Index.
  • If you are doing genealogical research and believe your ancestor may have been a prominent member of San Jose society, do search the California Room Index. The California Roomis a special collection of books and research materials focusing on California and local history. It is located on the 5thfloor of the King Library. There you will find numerous resources which will assist you in finding relevant information about older obituaries.


Please feel free to ask a librarian if you have further questions about obituary searching!


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Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos


I lifted the rifle again and swung the tip of the barrel straight up into the air.  I figured I could gradually lower the barrel at the screen, aim, and pick off one of the Japanese troops.


BLAM!  The rifle fired off and violently kicked out of my grip.


"Jaaaack!"  I heard my mother shriek and then the screen door slammed behind her.


"If I'm not already dead I soon will be," I said to myself.


She pounced on me.  "There's blood!  You've been shot!  Where?"  Then she gasped and pointed directly at my face.  Her eyes bugged out and her scream was so high-pitched it was silent.


Fictional autobiography, Hell's Angels, history, mystery, comedy, death, horror...Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is all and more.  Full of eccentric characters, this novel follows the life of author Jack Gantos during one action-packed summer in his hometown.  Meet Miss Volker, who is trying to revitalize a dying town.  Meet Mr. Spizz, who polices the town on his adult-sized tricycle.  Meet Jack's mother, who believes in bartering jam rather than paying cash.  Meet Jack's father, who worries about the "commies" in  town and who wants to build a runway in the backyard.


In addition to having a town full of loveable characters, Jack also suffers from nosebleeds that can be triggered by any excitement or surprise.  Is it hemochromatosis, like Hemingway?  Ugh!  This is problematical, of course, since he is helping Miss Volker to write all of the obituaries. 


Finally, a whole-summer grounding dampens his summer plans when he mows down a cornfield.  How does he get out of it?  Who is killing all of the senior citizens?  Will he have to move to Florida?  Read this extraordinary novel to find out!

Christopher Hitchens: 1949-2011

Cover image of book Arguably by Christopher HitchensIf you have ever read Christopher Hitchens' work you likely couldn't agree with a fair percentage of his observations and opinions, but you also couldn't help but feel utterly convinced by his capacity as a writer. This man wrote with a passion for words and his abilities to frame arguments and essays in such convincing and erudite capacities was legendary. We have a sizable oeuvre of his work to admire, but sadly, his death cut short the life of an author who would have likely always found something at once stimulating and provocative (feel free to add your own appropriate adjectives) to write about.


For starters you might want to take a look at The Trial of Henry Kissinger or his anti-religion work God is Not Great, which, like most of his writing takes on some fairly controversial topics and expresses ideas and observations that could only come from the sharp and unforgiving, albeit brilliant, mind Mr. Hitchens was known to possess. You don't need to support his views or agree with anything he expresses, but you will almost certainly be impressed with his chops as a man of letters. Personally, I have my name on the waiting list for his 2011 collection of essays, Arguably.


Christopher Hitchens died today at the age of 62.

Obituaries Research

How to search or locate obituaries using library resources?

If you are researching obituaries in Bay Area or Silicon Valley, you have a variety of selected resources at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and in the Web. Here are some useful resources from the library and Internet resources:


- San Jose Mercury News Website


- San Jose Mercury News Microfilm


- San Francisco Chronicle Website


- San Francisco Chronicle Microfilm


- Santa Clara County, California Obituaries


- Santa Clara Country Library


- SVLS System Reference Center

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