California Genealogy Resources

California History Timeline

  • 1769 – A small group of military men and missionaries, sent by the Spanish crown, arrived at what was to become San Diego. Alta (Upper) California, as it was known during the Spanish and Mexican eras, was inhabited at that time by various indigenous tribes.  They built missions a day’s journey apart on El Camino Real (the King’s Highway) in fertile valleys beside permanent streams. 
  • 1800 – The Russian American Fur Company of Alaska had loaned twenty Aleut natives to a New England ship captain to engage in the illegal but highly successful hunting of sea otters off the California coast. The Russians followed and built Fort Ross about eighty miles north of San Francisco Bay. Some of their descendants are living in the area today.
  • 1812 – A severe earthquake struck and several missions were destroyed. However, construction continued until 1833.
  • 1833 – The Mexican government secularized the mission holdings and the land passed into private ownership. Citizens of Spain and Mexico occupied the costal area between San Diego and the San Francisco Bay.
  •  31 July 1846 – over 200 Mormons from New York landed in San Francisco after sailing around Cape Horn. These mormons decided to stay on the Coast and work in lumber camps on the Marin Peninsula across the Golden Gate from San Francisco.
  • 1846-1848 – The Mexican War was an armed conflict betwen the United States and Mexico.  A border skirmish along the Rio Grande started off the fighting and was follwed by a series of U.S. victories. When the dust cleared, Mexico had lost about one-third of its territory, including nearly all of present-day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. 
  • 24 January 1848 – Gold was discovered in California by James W. Marshall.
  • 9 September 1850 – California  obtained statehood.
  • May 1869 – the completion of The Central Railroad (later Southern Pacific).
  • 18 April 1906 – The most severe earthquake in California’s recorded history occurred in San Francisco.

California Vital Records

  • Vital records have been kept by the state registrar of vital statistics in Califonria since 1 July 1905.
  • Earlier vital records are entered in the county where the event took place. Pre-1905 records in the counties may be quite slim. In Sacramento County, for example, only three births were entered for the period between 1858 and 1874, and only forty-three deaths between 1858 and 1864.

California Census Records

Federal Population Schedules

  • Indexed—1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940.
  • Soundex—1880, 1900, 1910 (Miracode), 1920 ((You can find definition of Soundex at wiki at
  • Missing from the 1850 federal census are the population schedules for Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties, making the 1852 state census  even more useful.

Industry and Agriculture Schedules 

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Mortality Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Mission and State

Censuses were taken for the following missions. They have been reprinted in Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, volumes 41-43:

  • San Carlos (1796)
  • San Luis Obispo (1797, 1798)
  • San Antonio (1798)
  • Soledad (1798)

Although the California Constitution of 1849 provided for a census of the state population in the years 1852 and 1855 and every ten years after, the census of 1852 was the only one taken.

California County Map

California Counties Map
California Counties Map

California Resource Links – California Online Genealogy

California State Library

California Secretary of State

The Ancestor Hunt

California Genealogy and History Research Guide

Genealoger – California Genealogy Resources – California Data Collections

Genealogy Branches – California Vital Records Indexes

California Genealogical Society & Library

Source: Third Edition Red Book, American State, County, and Town Sources, Edited by Alice Eichholz Ph.D., C.G., Ancestry Publishing,The Generations Network, Inc.1989, 1992, 2004. Now digitized online at Rootsweb wiki:,_County,_and_Town_Sources.