Find of the Month: What Became of Mary?

Family historians wondered: What became of Mary Gardner? She was last seen as a young woman in the 1860 U.S.census living in Santa Clara County, California, with her parents.

Family believed she may have married Leonard Reynolds because a deed in family files showed he bought land in Santa Clara County with Mary’s brother, Daniel Gardner. An 1862 marriage record of a Mary Gardner and Leonard Reynolds was located in another county but the information was not conclusive. Searches of census, death and cemetery records provided no additional information.

Since land was probably involved, the Grantor index for the time period was searched at the Santa Clara County Recorder’s office. An on-site visit was necessary because these records were not online and not available on microfilm. The early index and deed books have been scanned in ‘Digital Reel’ format which allows for easy computer access within the Recorder’s office.

A document was quickly located showing: “Daniel Gardner and Mary Matteson (formerly Mary Reynolds) and Frances Matteson – husband of Mary Matteson” conveying land in Santa Clara County in 1867.

Source: Daniel Gardner etals to J. M. Kenyon, Indenture, Deed Book 8, pg. 14, Santa Clara County Recorder, San Jose,CA.

Note: Probate case of Leonard Reynolds (d. 1864) was later found in County Archives. 

Although old handwriting can be a little hard to make out, it was worth the time to examine the writing. This document gives direct evidence of Mary’s second marriage and also indirectly references her first marriage and relationship to Daniel Gardner. What a ‘goldmine’ of information on the first page!

Further research uncovered the marriage record of Mary Reynolds and Frances Maddison [sic] in Santa Clara County. His residence was shown as Contra Costa County. With that clue, a search of Contra Costa County records led to discovering the probate file of a Mary Mattison [sic]. She died in 1893 leaving an estate but no children. Her brother Daniel Gardner was mentioned in the documents.

Local land records often contain more information beyond the usual property descriptions and names of parties. And, sometimes, they could offer clues to other record sources. If you have examples about researching land records in California, please share them on this blog!

Further information about the repositories mentioned:
Santa Clara County Recorder:
Santa Clara County Archives (some databases online):
Contra Costa County History Center:

For additional resources and other counties, click on county map at:California State Genealogical Alliance

To check for microfilm of local land records in California, go to  and enter county name, then look for ‘Land.’
Note: There are not many California counties with microfilmed land records available.

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