Holbrook was Catherine's married name and we didn't know her maiden name.
We decided to look for a California Death Index and so we went to the rootsweb Searches page. In the "Records from Federal and State Resources" section at the top of the page we clicked "California" in the Death Records category.
We found a California Death Index (1940 thru 1997) and searched for both Catherine and Katherine Holbrook but didn't find anyone, born in the 1870s, in the database. So we decided to look for other possible spelling variations for Catherine and Katherine.
We entered Holbrook and no first name and then we looked at all first names that began with a "c" but we didn't find a Catherine who was born in the 1870s. Next we looked at all the first names that began with a "k" and found a "Katherin" born in 1880 - her mother's maiden name was listed as "Dunn" but there was a "blank" listed for her father's last name. She died in Los Angeles on February 8, 1964. We also found a "Kathrine", born in 1877, and her mother's maiden name was listed as "Hinchli" but there was a "blank" listed for her father's last name. She died in San Francisco on December 12, 1962.
We next searched online for 1962 California obituaries for San Francisco but couldn't find anything for Catherine Holbrook. So we searched for 1964 California obituaries for Los Angeles but didn't find anything.
We decided to try and find Catherine Holbrook in the Census records and so we went to Ancestry.com to search for both Catherine and Katherine with the year of birth as 1877 with a + or - 2 years. We didn't have any luck and so we searched again without the year of birth. We found a Katherine Holbrook who appeared to be the one who died in San Francisco in 1962 and we were able to determine from the 1920 and 1930 Censuses that her parents were George and Martha Kishbaugh.
We next decided to see if we could find a George and Martha Kishbaugh who had daughters named Catherine and Sarah. In the 1880 Census we found the four of them living in Pittston, Pennsylvania and according to the Census record Catherine was born in Pennsylvania in about 1877. According to the 1880 Census George and Martha Kishbaugh as well as their daughter Sarah were also born in Pennsylvania.
See the Case Study using Online US Federal Census for additional information.
Sometimes you know an ancestor's death date but don't have access to a newspaper that probably printed the ancestor's obituary.
You might try an organization such as a university or college from which your ancestor graduated. Many alumni magazines have published alumni obituaries and many of these previously, published magazines are available and free online.