Mining Old Issues of Ancestors West

Before the days of the internet and genealogical databases, the volunteers of many genealogical societies worked hard to transcribe books, cemetery inscriptions, tax lists, court records, and many other groupings of names, dates, and places. Their contributions were enormous, and you can see these early efforts in any local genealogical newsletter from the 1990s going backward.

The volunteers at the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society were no different, and they published pages and pages of solid data in our newsletter Ancestors West, published since 1974. You can find these issues on the library shelves, but should you happen to be working at home and need some facts, you can search all the issues online here.

You start with the Google search box there and enter your search term. Pay close attention to the top few articles that may come from sources other than SBGEN.

Searching Names

A surname search is a natural way to start.

A search on the old Santa Barbara Romero family might give me a lot of hits, and it did, including a typed list of birth records from 1886, marriage records from 1872, and voting registration from 1916 (Ancestors West, Vol. 16, No. 3, September 1990).

Using this search box searched all of our website and publications, not just Ancestors West, and so one other item came up which was a list of Calvary Cemetery Interments 1913-1927, a 32-page table created by a volunteer with hundreds of entries. That list can also be found on our cemeteries web page.

Searching Topics

You can research subjects, as well as names. A search on “Sloyd School” (which later became Santa Barbara Teaching College) serendipitously led me off-topic to a scanned and corrected page from the Santa Barbara High School magazine Olive and Gold (Ancestors West Vol. 22, No. 3, Spring 1996). What I found on that page was a wealth of information about alumni. Each former student was named by their graduating year, their current occupation, if known, and, a bonus to people researching women, the maiden and married names of the female students. The Sahyun Library has most of the SBHS Olive and Gold yearbooks from 1906-2019, but they are not digitized. So how handy was it that I stumbled on this series of articles with transcriptions?

Ancestors West is a great source for genealogical education as well as ideas for future articles. There are many “how-to” articles, from using census sheets to deeds. I searched “land records” and found a handy article called “Units of Land Measure” by Norman E. Scofield. If you are considering writing an article for Tree Tips or Ancestors West, check out your topic and see if someone has written on it already.


Instead of a specific search, you can browse individual issues one by one. This is one of my favorite pastimes when I am doing locality research. You never know what you will find, and serendipity and an open mind bring fruitful results. I decided to take a random look at the September 1976 issue. Scrolling through I came across the work of another dedicated volunteer: a transcription of the 1852 California census for Santa Barbara County. Of course, you can find this information nowadays on, and it is important to see the original document–in this case, the actual census page. But a researcher of Santa Barbara history might find this list and remember, “Looking at that census was on my list of things to do” or “I never knew this census occurred!” And I lucked out because there are those Romeros again!

Happy Searching!

Laurie Hannah, Sahyun Library Director

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