California Genealogy and History Guide

California Genealogy Resources:

General Resources:



California quick facts:

  • Statehood:
    September 9, 1850
  • State Capital:
  • State Nickname:
    the Golden State
  • State Flower
    Golden Poppy
  • State Bird:
    the California quail
  • State Song:
    "I Love You, California"
  • State Motto:

California Genealogy Research Guide:

Census Records:

California became a state in 1848, the first California Federal Census was taken in 1850, and every ten years thereafter. The 1890 Census was lost due to fire and water damage, but there are other means of finding ancestors from that era. One of these is called the Great Register, a list of all voters mandated by California's Registry Act of 1866.

Federal Census records include:

  • Agriculture Schedules
  • Industry Schedules
  • Mortality Schedules
  • Population Schedules
  • Slave Schedules
  • Union Veterans Schedules

A state census was taken in 1852 and has added info showing prior residence. A few Missions, cities, and towns have taken special censuses. The California State Archives has this list and the microfilmed records.

The California State Library, California State Archive, and the California Genealogy Society have microfilm copies of Federal Censuses.

  • Free Census Extraction Forms - Form formats changed as the years went by. Extraction forms allow you to record information in the same format as the year it was taken.

Ethnic Groups and Church Records:

California has deep roots in the Spanish / Mexican (Hispanic) culture as it was once part of Mexico. Gold hunters who poured in from other countries and settled in California make this a very ethnically diverse state. Some cities such as San Francisco still have ethnic divisions such as "Chinatown" where the culture of the motherland is still remembered and followed. Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California

Military Records:

Vital Records:

Counties kept marriage records better than birth and death records before 1905. Early Birth records and the California Death Index (1940-1997) kept by the state are online at Divorce records can be obtained from the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where the suite was filed.

California Genealogy Subscriptions Online:

Many websites with genealogy resources for California are available on the Internet. Some offer free databases and other information for the online researcher, but the subscription websites hold a more consistent amount of quality data and offer free trials to that data.

Golden PoppyCondensed History of California:Golden Poppy

California history has been shaped by Spanish explorers looking for the golden city of El Dorado or the Northwest passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. They opened the way for others who built Franciscan Missions along the coast from San Francisco to San Diego Many of the indigenous tribes were converted to Roman Catholicism and taught about farming and other means of support.

California was perfect for large cattle ranches or "ranchos" built like small communities. The land owner or "Hidalgo" was usually a wealthy Spaniard, and was the person of authority in these communities, answering only to the Spanish government. Most of the Ranchos were so large the distance to a town made going to church very hard. A traveling priest made circuits of the communities on a regular schedule.

After the discovery of gold in 1848, the United States bought all the land from the Texas border to the ocean which includes today's California, Arizona, and New Mexico in the Guadalupe - Hidalgo Treaty. Only two years later California was granted statehood. With the influx of thousands of gold hunters from other countries, California became a mixture of different cultures, a large percentage of which was Chinese. The Chinese were a major factor in the development of the railroad that joined California to the East Coast. They worked for lower wages and in worse conditions than many of the other cultures would, even though this made them a target for hate crimes which would not be tolerated today.

The First Californians: Native Cultures showcases the different California Native American Indians which made homes in different geographical areas.