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The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 ranks as an unparalleled disaster in the history of San Francisco. More than four and one-half square miles of San Francisco burned and crumbled into a windswept desert of desolation. Nearly 200,000 people out of San Francisco's population of 450,000 were left homeless by the disaster. The Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads immediately closed their ticket offices and threw wide the gates so all who chose could ride away from the scenes of destruction and desolation. They were carried free of charge to every section and corner of the United States. Over 100,000 refugees were handled out of the Oakland offices alone. Trains were so crowded and heavy that they could not be moved by less than three engines.

Because of government and financial interests of the time, the official San Francisco death toll has always been extolled as remarkably small. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors official count in 1907 was only 478. It was thought that a high death toll would hamper the rebuilding and repopulation of the city.

For many years I did extensive research on the 1906 Earthquake Dead using the dates of death between April 18, 1906 - May 19, 1906. I have since learned from Dr. Donald Cheu of the Governor's Earthquake Task Force that an earthquake death is defined as "… an immediate fatality resulting from an earthquake or an earthquake-caused injury or illness that becomes fatal within a period of ONE YEAR following the earthquake." I realized hundreds had been excluded.

Now I am again looking to you for help. In response to repeated requests through our website my team and I are setting out to compile an accurate account of those effected by the 1906 earthquake. This time we are looking for information on everyone who was here at the time, both survivors and those who perished. It doesn't matter if they were killed instantly, were uninjured, stayed to help rebuild, left on the first boat or refugee train. All of their stories are important. We know that many places along the entire West Coast felt the impact of this earthquake. If your ancestors were in an outlying area and you know the story, please let us include them.

Your family's oral histories are full of valuable information. You have all of the space you need in the boxes provided on each questionnaire to give as many details as you possibly can. Every detail is important to us. Please take the time to share them with us and acknowledge your ancestor's accomplishments.


Gladys Hansen
San Francisco City Archivist Emeritus


Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco || Great Earthquake & Fire of 1906 || 1906 Earthquake Photographs || Great Register 1906 List of Dead and Survivors

Special Note: Our entire budget comes through donations. In order to keep this project alive any donation you could possibly make would be greatly appreciated. Please go to our main website at for more information about sustaining this valuable part of San Francisco's history Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco || Great Earthquake & Fire of 1906 || 1906 Earthquake Photographs || Great Register 1906 List of Dead and Survivors