California Archives and Libraries

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Beginning Research
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These archives, libraries, societies, commission, and museums house sources, lists, and indexes, and provide services to help genealogists document their ancestors who lived in California.

Wiki Articles on Major Repositories in California[edit | edit source]

Bancroft Library · California State Library · Sutro Library · California State Archives · California Historical Society · Society of California Pioneers Library · State Lands Commission · California Genealogical Society and Library · Carlsbad City Library · Chinese Historical Society · Fresno City and County Historical Society Archives · Huntington Beach Central Library · Immigrant Genealogical Society Library · Long Beach Public Library · Los Angeles Public Library · Los Angeles FamilySearch Library · Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County · County of Los Angeles Public Libraries · Napa Valley Genealogical Society Library · Oakland FamilySearch Library · Sacramento FamilySearch Library  · Sons of the Revolution Library · Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library · Tuolumne County Genealogical Society Library · National Archives at Riverside · National Archives at San Francisco · Family History Library · Orange County California FamilySearch Library

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Links to online databases and indexes that may include vital records, biographies, cemeteries, censuses, histories, immigration records, land records, maps, military records, naturalizations, newspapers, obituaries, or probate records.

  • The Online Archives of California provides free Internet descriptions (collection guides) of primary resource collections maintained by more than 200 contributing libraries, archives, historical societies, and museums throughout California and by the 10 University of California (UC) campuses. Many of the repositories listed below are included. Most of the collections described are not online.
National Archives at Riverside (Perris, CA)

National Repositories[edit | edit source]

National Archives at Riverside[edit | edit source]

23123 Cajalco Road
Perris, CA 92570
Telephone: 951-956-2000
Fax: 951-956-2029
Internet: Website

Has records of southern California, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada. California Indian enrollments, Asian immigrants, naturalizations, land records, Arizona taxes, sailors, all U.S. censuses, military post returns, Five Civilized Tribes, Revolutionary War, Civil War records, passenger arrival lists, Mexican and Canadian border crossings, passport applications.[1] [2]
Nat'l Archives at San Francisco (San Bruno)

National Archives at San Francisco[edit | edit source]

1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, CA 94066-2350
Telephone: 650-238-3501
Fax: 650-238-3510

Has records of California (north and central), Nevada (except Clark County), Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands, overseas Pacific naval bases, Asian-Pacific immigration, American Indians, and all U.S. censuses, Revolutionary War service records, bounty land warrants, and naturalizations, naturalization indexes for San Francisco, Honolulu, and Reno.[3] [4]
Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley

Bancroft Library[edit | edit source]

University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Telephone: 510-642-6481 Reference desk
Fax: 510-642-7589
Internet: Website

Premier Western Americana, and Latin Americana collections, including Native Americans, Spanish encounter and colonial settlement, exploration of western America, maps and atlases, the Mexican War, westward migration, the Gold Rush, mining, land surveys, religious and Utopian communities, and ethnic communities. This library has more about western North America than any other site.[5] [6]
The nearby Doe Library has a large collection of newspapers on microfilm.

State Repositories[edit | edit source]

California State Library[edit | edit source]

914 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
Mailing address:
P. O. Box 942837
Sacramento, CA 94237-0001
Telephone: 916-654-0261
Fax: 916-654-0241
Internet: Website

California historical newspapers, largest genealogical index, statewide births and deaths, death index 1905-1995, marriage index 1949-1986, censuses, great registers, city directories, genealogical periodicals.[7] [8] A helpful guide to the California State Library is:

  • Gary E. Strong and Gary F. Kurutz, Editors, Local History and Genealogy Resources of the California State Library and Its Sutro Branch (Sacramento, Calif.: California State Library Foundation, 1983). At various libraries (WorldCat). FHL book 979.4 H23c.
Sutro Library at SFSU in San Francisco

Sutro Library[edit | edit source]

(5th and 6th floors)
J. Paul Leonard Library, Rm. 610
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco 94132
Telephone: 415-469-6100
Fax: 415-469-6172
Internet: Sutro Library

The place in northern California for genealogy research. Has an excellent collection of censuses, books, and periodicals for most states, including Great Registers, city directories, DAR California records, California death index 1905-1995, and marriage index 1949-1986.[7] [8]

California State Archives[edit | edit source]

1020 "O" Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone: 916-653-7715
Fax: 916-653-7363
Internet: Website

Censuses, California county records 1850-1987, mental health records, military records, prison records, Supreme and appellate court records, and school reports.[9]
California Historical Society in San Francisco

California Historical Society[edit | edit source]

North Baker Research Library
678 Mission Street
San Francisco, California 94105
Telephone: 415-357-1848
Fax: 415-357-1850
Internet: Website

California economic, social, political, and cultural heritage, including 50,000 books, and 500,000 photos. State, county, and local histories, early California immigrants' overland and sea diaries and letters, ethnic histories, Mexican California early fort, presidio, and mission life, Mexican War, Gold Rush diaries and guidebooks, logging, mining, rare books, and women.[7] [10]

Society of California Pioneers Library[edit | edit source]

101 Montgomery, Suite 150
Presidio of San Francisco, CA 94129
Telephone: 415-957-1849
Fax: 415-957-9858
Internet: Website

Please telephone for an appointment, but both the library and the museum are free. Collection has Spanish and Mexican eras materials, pioneer travels overland and around the Horn, the Gold Rush and later mining ventures, urbanization and the construction of the railroads, 1906 earthquake, biographical information and county files and indexes on early pioneers and notables, local histories, directories, diaries, papers, maps, newspapers, periodicals and California history to 1900.[7] [11]

State Lands Commission[edit | edit source]

100 Howe Avenue. Suite 100 South
Sacramento CA 95825-8202
Telephone: 916-574-1900
Fax: 916-574-1810
Internet: California State Lands Commission

Land surveys, titles, property boundaries, school lands, maps and plats, Mexican land and rancho grants.[7]

Regional Repositories[edit | edit source]

California Genealogical Soc and Library[edit | edit source]

California Genealogical Society and Library
2201 Broadway, Suite LL2
Oakland, CA 94612-3031
Telephone: 510-663-1358
Fax: 510-663-1596
Internet: Website

California Names Index with 350,000 entries from state, county, and local sources; genealogy collections for California and whole USA, but focused on San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, including California vital records, pre-1906 San Francisco births, marriages and deaths, manuscripts, newspapers, obituaries, cemeteries, funeral home records, selected naturalization and passenger arrival lists.[7] [12]

Carlsbad City Library[edit | edit source]

1250 Carlsbad Village Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Telephone: 760-434-2931
Internet: Website

One of the largest genealogy collections in southern California including programs by the North San Diego Genealogical Society. City directories, county histories, atlases, state censuses, and computer database subscriptions.[13]
Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) in San Francisco. 美国华人历史学会

Chinese Historical Society of America Museum[edit | edit source]

Chinese Historical Society of America Museum
(Chinese: 美国华人历史学会; pinyin: Měiguó Huárén Lìshǐ Xuéhuì; abbreviated CHSA)
965 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Telephone: 415-391-1188
Fax: 415-391-1150
Internet: Website

Oldest and largest organization for documentation, study, and presentation of Chinese American history, including immigration, early communities, and labor history (for example railroads).[14] [15]

Fresno City & County Historical Society Archives[edit | edit source]

Fresno City and County Historical Society Archives
7160 West Kearney Boulevard
Fresno, California 93706
Telephone: 559-441-0862
Internet: Website

By appointment only. Central Valley early farmers index, biographies, manuscripts, photos, oral histories, newspaper clippings, and school yearbooks.[7] [16]
Huntington Beach Central Public Library

Huntington Beach Central Library[edit | edit source]

7111 Talbert Ave
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Telephone: 714-842-4481 x5549
Internet: Genealogy Resources

Includes 19,000 books, periodicals, and microfilms of the Orange County Genealogical Society, and online genealogy databases including HeritageQuest.[7] [17]

Immigrant Genealogical Society Library[edit | edit source]

1310-B W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91506
Telephone: 818-848-3122
Fax: 818-716-6300
Internet: The Immigrant Genealogical Society Homepage

Largest genealogical collection for German immigrants except for Salt Lake City. About half of the library holdings cover German speaking areas of Europe, and half cover America.[7] [18]

Long Beach Public Library[edit | edit source]

101 Pacific Ave.
Long Beach CA 90822
Telephone: 562-570-7500
Fax: 562-570-7408
Internet: Long Beach Public Library

California, rancho and Mexican era history, computer indexes to statewide records, Great Registers, military records, miners, and early settlers, Long Beach obituary searches, Long Beach History Index, Long Beach newspapers,, African Americans, American Indians, and published genealogies.[7] [19] [20]
Los Angeles Central Public Library

Los Angeles Public Library[edit | edit source]

630 W. 5th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Telephone: 213-228-7000
Fax: 213-228-7069
E-mail:Contact form
Internet: Genealogy at the Los Angeles Public Library

The place for research in Southern California. Good genealogy collection and biographical indexes. Key online database subscriptions, censuses, vital records indexes, 10,000 family histories, 5,000 U.S. city directory microfilms, heraldry, how-to guides, selected passenger arrivals including San Pedro/Wilmington/Los Angeles for 1907-1948, local histories, maps, military records, newspapers, obituaries, and periodicals. [7] [21]
Los Angeles California FamilySearch Library

Los Angeles FamilySearch Library[edit | edit source]

10741 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90025
Telephone: 310-474-9990

One of the largest Family History Centers in America, including 86 public computers, 56,000 microfilms, 40,000 microfiche and 6,000 books. Censuses, vital records from many states, genealogies, and histories, immigration, naturalizations, passenger arrivals, with especially strong United States and British collections.[7] [22]
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County[edit | edit source]

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Telephone: 213-763-DINO
Internet: Website

Western Americana, California Indians, pre-1900 southern California newspapers, southern California and Los Angeles history, Spanish and Mexican period history, seafarers, including manuscripts, books, maps, and photos.[7] [23]

County of Los Angeles Public Libraries[edit | edit source]

California history, culture, and ethnic studies. Also a list of local libraries that might have obituaries. [7] [24]

Marin County Genealogical Society and Library[edit | edit source]

P.O. Box 1511, Novato, CA 94948-1511


Internet: Website

Facebook: Homepage

Napa Valley Genealogical Society Library[edit | edit source]

Napa Valley Genealogical Society Library
1701 Menlo Avenue
Napa, California 94558
Telephone: 707-252-2252
Internet: Research Library

Good genealogy collection with emphasis on the Napa Valley and New England, including family histories, vital records, atlases and maps, Napa County marriages, censuses, voters, churches, and cemetery records, Hartford Times index, American State Papers, a manuscripts room, and computers.[7] [25]
Oakland California FamilySearch Library

Oakland FamilySearch Library[edit | edit source]

4766 Lincoln Avenue
Oakland, California
Telephone: 510-531-3905

Over 9,000 books, periodicals, family histories, county and local histories, city directories, plus over 37,000 reels of microfilm and 9,000 microfiche containing millions of local vital records and censuses from all over the world. [7]
Sacramento FamilySearch Library

Sacramento FamilySearch Library[edit | edit source]

2745 Eastern Ave.
Sacramento, California
Telephone: 916-487-2090

Over 6,000 books, periodicals, family histories, county and local histories, city directories, including an extensive German collection plus over 6,000 reels of microfilm and 10,000 microfiche containing millions of local vital records and censuses from all over the world.

Santa Cruz Public Library Downtown[edit | edit source]

224 Church Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Telephone: 831-427-7707 ext. 5794
E-mail: E-mail reference service form
Internet: Website

Holds the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County's library, including the Tina Brayton Collection which is equivalent to the Draper Manuscript Collection but larger and with a better index, and many compiled genealogies of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia families.[26] [27]

Sons of the Revolution Library[edit | edit source]

600 South Central Ave.
Glendale, California 91204
Telephone: 818-240-1775
Internet: Website

25,000 titles regarding Colonial and early American military records and battle histories, family genealogies, U.S. censuses, local histories, and vital records for the entire USA, some records for Canada and Britain, and early California.[7] [28]

Southern California Genealogical Society & Family Research Library[edit | edit source]

Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library
417 Irving Drive
Burbank, CA. 91504
Telephone: 818-843-7247
Fax: 818-843-7262
Internet: Website

Five public computers, family histories, and books about every state. Alabama Records, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Pennsylvania Archives, Michigan Pioneer collection, French-Canadian Heritage Society of California collection (Tanguay, Red Drouin, Blue Drouin, PRDH, Loiselle), German Genealogical Society of America collection, Genealogical Society of Hispanic America collection, Los Angeles City Historical Society collection, Cornwall England collection, Massachusetts town vital records, Connecticut Barbour Collection, Filby's passenger lists, Boston Transcripts (early Boston newspaper genealogical column), Joseph Brown Turner collection of northeastern states and New England, California Death and Marriage Indexes.[7] [29]
Southwest Museum in Los Angeles

Southwest Museum Braun Research Library[edit | edit source]

Southwest Museum Braun Research Library
PO Box 41558
234 Museum Dr
Highland Park, CA 90065-5030
Telephone: 323-221-2164 ext. 256
Internet: Website

Includes the Monk Library of Arizoniana, California and Arizona history, and records of southwest American Indians. This includes books and serials on tribal histories, government, and social life and customs of native peoples.[30]

Tuolumne County Genealogical Society Library[edit | edit source]

Tuolumne County Genealogical Society Library
158 West Bradford Ave
Sonora, CA 95370
Telephone: 209-532-1317
Internet: Website

Emphasis is on the Gold Rush district, including the "Gone West Index" of early miners and California settlers, photos, church records, cemetery records, vital records, voter registrations, censuses, over 1000 books about all states and some nations, family histories, school yearbooks, and some periodicals.[7] [31]

Guides[edit | edit source]

Two helpful guides to California archives and repositories are:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Welcome to the National Archives at Riverside in National Archives (accessed 30 October 2013).
  2. Genealogy Research in Riverside in National Archives (accessed 30 October 2013).
  3. The National Archives at San Francisco in National Archives (accessed 29 October 2013).
  4. Genealogy Research in National Archives (accessed 29 October 2013).
  5. Collections in The Bancroft Library Internet site (accessed 26 October 2013).
  6. William Dollarhide and Ronald A. Bremer. America's Best Genealogy Resource Centers (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1998), 19 and 21. At various libraries (WorldCat). FHL Ref Book 973 J54d.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 Dollarhide and Bremer, 19 and 21.
  8. 8.0 8.1 California Genealogy Resources in California State Library (accessed 8 November 2013).
  9. Family History Resources in Collections - California State Archives (accessed 8 November 2013).
  10. Collection Overview in California Historical Society (accessed 9 November 2013).
  11. Library and Special Collections in Society of California Pioneers (accessed 9 November 2013).
  12. Research in California Genealogy Society and Library (accessed 9 November 2013).
  13. Genealogy in City of Carlsbad, California (accessed 8 November 2013).
  14. Contact Us in Chinese Historical Society of America (accessed 11 November 2013).
  15. Museum Visitor's Guide Internet site (accessed 11 November 2013).
  16. Collections in Fresno Historical Society (accessed 9 November 2013).
  17. Genealogy Resources in Huntington Beach Public Library (accessed 9 November 2013).
  18. Homepage in The Immigrant Genealogical Society (accessed 9 November 2013).
  19. Research Location - Long Beach Public Library in Association of Professional Genealogists (blog) (accessed 9 November 2013).
  20. Obituary Requests in Long Beach Public Library Website (accessed 9 November 2013).
  21. Genealogy in Los Angeles Public Library (accessed 9 November 2013).
  22. Genealogy Research at the Los Angeles FamilySearch Library (Internet site) (accessed 9 November 2013).
  23. History Collections in Natural History Museum Los Angeles County (accessed 9 November 2013).
  24. Hours and Locations in County of Los Angeles Public Library (accessed 9 November 2013).
  25. Research Library in Napa Valley Genealogical Society (accessed 9 November 2013).
  26. Dollarhide and Bremer, 113.
  27. The Tina Brayton Collection in Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County (accessed 3 January 2014).
  28. Sons of the Revolution Internet site (accessed 10 November 2013).
  29. Library Collection Highlights in Southern California Genealogy Society and Family Research Library (accessed 10 November 2013).
  30. Dollarhide and Bremer, 15.
  31. Tuolumne County Genealogical Society Home in Tuolumne County Genealogical Society (accessed 10 November 2013).