Monday, June 13, 2011

Searching Records in Downtown Los Angeles

The fabulous Jamboree of the Southern California Genealogical Society in Burbank, Calif. is over.  I had a wonderful time attending lectures, looking at the exhibits, attending the day-long Family History Writers' Workshop, eating delicious food, and best of all -- meeting fellow Geneabloggers in person.  They have speedily and beautifully written about the Jamboree, and I can only sigh, wishing I was so organized and disciplined as to write so soon and in such detail about the amazing past days. 
    Sooo.... I'll try to write more about the Jamboree later... Now, before I forget, I want to write about what happened today.   I checked out of the Marriott Burbank and checked into the less costly Ramada Burbank.  With much trepidation, I tried to plan my route to downtown L.A. - only about 12 miles away - but dreading the freeways and traffic of the Civic Center.  Despite having a GPS, I sought out the nearest AAA office and used the GPS to drive there.  After nearly an hour there pouring over maps and getting advice, I got into the car and disregarded everything but the GPS.  I cannot look at maps or routes while driving the freeways.  The GPS proved so wise and easily whisked me past Warner Bros. Studios, NBC, ABC, Disney Studios, Yahoo, Technicolor, and Griffith Park getting to I-5.  Then it was past Dodger Stadium and into Chinatown on Hill St.   I'd done alot of searching to find where the old divorce records are kept  In about 20 minutes I was at Hill & Temple where the records were supposed to be - at the Los Angeles County Hall of Records (222 N. Hill St).  There was a nearby and easily accessible Public Parking, so I parked and was dumbstruck when the price was $25 for the day. Then I wandered around trying to actually find the building.  The "N" in 222 N. Hill St is the key, it means North so don't walk South! 
    Divorce record books are kept in the basement, along with Probates and Civil cases


       There are boxes and more boxes lining the paint-peeling hallways, stuffed full of records.  Thoughts of flooding and fires gave me the chills.  Finally I got to the right counter and the clerk started pulling those BIG old record books - one at a time.  I was looking at books from 1914 to 1930 .  Then, for some reason, he got tired of doing that kind of "business" and ignored me completely.  Luckily they have no feelings of needing to put the old books away, and after being ignored, I searched the books on the table from other earlier patrons, and discovered three more divorces of my grandparents!  Yes, my mother 's parents each married four times.  I also found my great-aunts' divorces - they married three times each.
    Next, I had to go up one basement level to Room 111 - the Microfilm Library.  After waiting 2 1/2 hours, my number was called and the lady said I should have placed an X in the "machine" column because they will only copy up to two cases, and I'd have to  find and copy the microfilm images myself.  She said it would have been alot faster!  If only I'd known!!  I can do my own microfilm copying - I know how!!   Some had been waiting four hours for a copy of one case.   I had only enough time until their 4:30 pm closing to copy the pages of the divorce of the Bagleys in 1938.  My grandmother divorced for abandonment, desertion and non-support.  No wonder no one ever talked about him.  It costs 50 cents a page for non-certified documents.  I copied 17 pages, and had to pay them exact change because they'd closed.  Normally, one returns to the Archives Room (212) and can pay by check at the cashier, then return upstairs to pick up the copies.  Quite a burdensome route for the physically disabled.  I saw one man punch the walls and swear because he didn't have the cash and had to return tomorrow.    I'll have to return to the Hall of Records tomorrow to make more copies.  You only gets 30 minutes at the microfilm reader/copier, then you have to go back at the end of the line to wait.  There are six machines.
   It only took 30 minutes to return to Burbank on I-5 from the Civic Center.  The GPS did an amazing job, and I'm still amazed I survived the day.  I hope to leave early enough from the Hall of Records tomorrow to have time to visit the SCGS Library in Burbank... they're open until 9 pm on Tuesdays, and I want to have plenty of time to look at their terrific research room.

1 comment:

Heather Rojo said...

You have included some great details here for anyone else researching in the same facility. I don't have ancestors there, but if I did I'd know now to bring a GPS, quarters, patience and someone strong to do all the heavy lifting!