Los Angeles, California
First settled on September 4, 1781, Los Angeles grew from a small ranch town established as part of the Spanish mission system to the second largest city in the United States. Spanish rule, followed by Mexican rule in 1821 and then by the United States after 1847 means that the records created and sometimes preserved are very different for each period. For a list of the 44 original settlers click here.
When Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821 Los Angeles had about 650 residents. In 1841 there were about 1680. Oil discovered in 1892 added to the opportunities in the area, in addition to the agriculture and ranching that helped initial prosperity. Population in the 1900 census exceeded 102, 000 people, and the later Depression and Dust Bowl eras brought more people to LA and California. The area had phenomenal growth after the 1945 end of World War II, and by the 2010 census had a city population over 3.7 million people.
- 1 Archives and Libraries
- 2 Biography
- 3 Cemeteries
- 4 Census
- 5 Church Directories
- 6 Church History
- 7 Church Records
- 8 Directories
- 9 Emigration and Immigration
- 10 Funeral Homes
- 11 Jewish History
- 12 Jewish Records
- 13 Land and Property
- 14 Local Histories
- 15 Maps
- 16 Medical Records
- 17 Minorities
- 18 Native Races
- 19 Newspapers
- 20 Probate
- 21 Societies
- 22 Vital Records
- 23 Websites
- 24 References
Archives and Libraries
The Huntington Library maintains the Early California Population Projectwith baptism, marriage, and burial information for Indians, soldiers, and settlers in Alta California until 1850. Be sure to read the Search Tips.
A collection of online biographies, from the Golden Nugget Library is available here.
In the early days of the Los Angeles Pueblo (1781-1820), Angelinos took their deceased ten miles east to the San Gabriel Mission for burial. After construction began for the Plaza Church, the first interment of a settler took place – January 1820 – and the church was completed in 1822. 
Townspeople discussed moving the cemetery to a larger area, and a site was chosen in 1844 for what became Calvary Cemetery. Eventually, that, too, was insufficient, and the New Calvary Cemetery in opened in 1896. For a time, both cemeteries continued operation.
During the Mexican American War, Americans built a fort on a hill overlooking the plaza. An explosion killed four soldiers there in 1847 and it is believed that they were buried in the fort. Called the Fort Moore Cemetery, or the Hill Cemetery, or the Protestant Cemetery, its earliest recorded use is at the end of 1853.
For more information and to see a list of cemeteries click on Cemeteries in the City of Los Angeles.
Padrones (periodic lists) were made of Spanish, Mexican and Indian residents. The one taken in 1790 includes the name of the head of household, his or her age, occupation, previous residence or nativity, marital status, name of spouse, names and number of children and their ages. The one taken in 1839 lists only the name, age, and occupation (FHL 979.4 H25a). There are also lists made in 1836 and 1844 (FHL film # 913156).
Los Angeles was enumerated in the U.S. Federal census starting in 1850 and included every ten years thereafter. Search the FamilySearch collection to see these; many other sites have these records as well.
California took a state census in 1852. This is available as a searchable database on either www.familysearch.org or on Ancestry.
The City of Los Angeles took a census in 1897. These microfilmed records are available through the Family History Library (FHL film # 913157 and 913158).
An 1899 census of Catholic residents was made into a directory. See the following:
- Reardon, Fred L. Catholic Directory and Census of Los Angeles City, and Parish Gazetteer of the Diocese of Monterey and Los Angeles, September, 1899. San Bernardino, California: Diocese of San Bernardino, 1987. Print. At various libraries (World Cat) FHL 979.494 K24.
Founded as part of the Spanish mission work, Los Angeles has a long Catholic history. Later immigrants brought their faith and practices with them.
- Engelhardt, Zephyrin. San Gabriel Mission and the Beginnings of Los Angeles. San Gabriel, Cal: Mission San Gabriel, 1927. Print. At various libraries (World Cat) also FHL 979.494 K2.
For Congregationalists (anecdote has it that Congregationalism came to California when a Yankee missionary discovered more heathens in San Francisco than Hawaii's Kingdom of the Sandwich Isles.):
- Davis, Royal G. Light on a Gothic Tower: First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, 1867-1967. Los Angeles: First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, 1967. Print. At various libraries (World Cat)
- Marquis, Neeta. Immanuel and the Fifty Years, 1888-1938. Los Angeles: Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 1938. Print. At various libraries (World Cat)
For Latter-day Saints:
- Orton, Chad M. More Faith Than Fear: The Los Angeles Stake Story. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1987. Print. At various libraries (World Cat).
Church RecordsEarly original Catholic records (1826 to 1920) are on microfilm. These are baptisms, FHL film # 2537 through 2542, marriages FHL film # 2543, and burials FHL film # 2544 and 2545.
- Church Records of Catholic Church. Our Lady Queen of the Angels (Los Angeles, California). Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1946. Print. At various libraries (World Cat).
For the First Baptist Church a history is available on Ancestry ($): Our heritage and our hope : the history of First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, California, 1874-1974.
For the First Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, the original records for 1879-1915 are on microfilm. Filmed at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. FHL film # 1436383.
Early LDS records and brief summary history of the branch:
- Record of Members, 1896-1925. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1954. Print. At various libraries (World Cat) FHL film # 1887.
For more church records, contact the congregation to which your ancestors belonged, or see the selections on the FamilySearch Catalog at www.familysearch.org.
The first Los Angeles city and county directory was published in 1872. A reproduction of that is available.
*Ritchie, Ward. The First Los Angeles City and County Directory. Los Angeles, California: Ward Ritchie Press, 1963. Print. At various libraries (World Cat) also at FHL 979.493 E4.
The Family History Library has microfilmed LA city directories for most years between 1873 and 1935. For 1873 - 1882 see FHL film # 1376980. For later years, check the catalog on www.familysearch.org.
The Los Angeles Public Library has an extensive collection of directories. See their index here. Search tip: try looking for city OR county, but not both.
Emigration and Immigration
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
Funeral records may include name, age, birthplace and address of the, deceased, names and birthplaces of parents, date and place of death, cause of death, physician, name of person or persons ordering services, name of spouse, date and place of funeral and of burial. Also included on some records are descriptions of funeral services and who officiated.
Pierce Brothers' mortuaries purchased Cunningham and O'Connor, Lincoln Heights, Jones and Hamrock, Crane and Eberlee, and Godeau Martinoni Mortuary. The records they acquired, plus their own records are available on microfilm. These begin in 1898 and continue to 1991. Check the FamilySearch Catalog on www.familysearch.org for the film numbers.
The Hebrew Benevolent Society of Los Angeles was founded in 1854. Today it is known as the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles.
The first synagogue in Los Angeles was built by Congregation B'nai B'rith, formed in 13 July 1862 under the spiritual guidance of Rabbi Abraham W. Edelman. The synagogue was completed in 1873 and used until 1896 when plans for a larger building came to completion. The old synagogue was razed in 1896 to become a business block.
- Pioneer Jews of Los Angeles in the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology of Articles, Presented Over the Past 38 Years in the Western States Jewish History Journal. Los Angeles: Western States Jewish History Association, 2006. Print. At various libraries (World Cat)
This anthology includes biographies of Henry Wartenburg (also at FHL 973 F25w), and Rabbi Edelman (also at FHL 973 F25w) as well as other articles.
The JGSLA also has the Spiszman Traveling Library available at most meetings. A catalog of those works is here.
Land and Property
The California State Archives in Sacramento has microfilmed copies and original records, including some probate files, deeds and naturalization records.
The State Lands Commission also has land records for early California. The Commission published a book Grants of Land in California Made by Spanish or Mexican Authorities which is available online here. The rancho information is organized by the current California county and includes some maps.
For records after 1850, see Los Angeles County.
Several local histories provide insight into the area and biographies of prominent citizens. Among them are these:
- Guinn, J M. Historical and Biographical Record of Southern California: Containing a History of Southern California from Its Earliest Settlement to the Opening Year of the Twentieth Century. Chicago: Chapman Pub. Co, 1902. Print. At various libraries (World Cat) also at FHL 979.493 H2.
For an online index of the names in this work, click here.
Available on microfiche is the 1920 census map for Los Angeles, including the enumeration districts.
That's Bridwell's map of the city of Los Angeles, 2 microfiche FHL # 6117545.
There are several online maps and collections:
LA Mapped is a Library of Congress collection which includes a 1639 map showing California as an island, as well as recent maps. LA Mapped
An 1880 hand drawn map of the LA Basin made by the California State Engineer is in the David Rumsey collection: Los Angeles 1880
Part of the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the U of Texas are Los Angeles maps for the eastern area (1900) the western area (1902) and the city electric rail lines for 1906. California Maps
There are also many online maps on the LA City webpage. Map Gallery
Dr. William G Parker in Los Angeles, California kept records of patients, births, and deaths; attendants at accidents, court appearances in accident cases, prescriptions, daily calls, etc. These records have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library or any branch family history center.
The microfilm of births and deaths from 1910 to 1923 is FHL 982364, and that film also has a record of accident attendance, court appearances, prescriptions, daily calls, etc. 1876-1892. Film 982365 and 982379 also have records from Dr. Parker.
Italians and Germans were among the early explorers and settlers of California.  Several Italians resided along the pueblo plaza, including Battisto Leandri who arrived in 1823.  For a fine collection of early photographs and other information, contact Italian American Museum of LA, 125 Paseo De La Plaza, Los Angeles 90012 (213) 485-8432.
Hispanics were the majority residents of early Los Angeles, and have become the majority again. The Genealogical Society of Hispanic America, Southern California, hosts Hispanic Saturdays at the Los Angeles Public Library on the third Saturday of the month. On the first Wednesday, they hold Hispanic Wednesdays at the Los Angeles FamilySearch Library For more information, see their FaceBook page: Genealogical Society of Hispanic America.
There is also a Chicano Resource Center at the East Los Angeles Library, 4837 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90022 (323) 264-0155.
The California African American Genealogical Society, Inc. offers research help in the Los Angeles area. There is also a Black Resource Center at the A C Bilbrew Library, 150 E. El Segundo Blvd., Los Angeles 90061 (310) 538-3350.
Chinese immigrants to Los Angeles arrived by 1852 and the city has had a Chinatown since 1870.  The Chinese Historical Society of Southern California has a Chinatown Heritage Center which is the premier source of information pertaining to the history of the Chinese in Southern California. See the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, 411 Bernard Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (323) 222-0856 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also the
Chinese American Museum, 425 N Los Angeles St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 485-8567.
In the 1890s Japanese began moving to Los Angeles. For more information contact either the Japan America Society of Southern California, 1411 W. 190th Street, Suite 380, Gardena, CA (310) 965-9050
Japanese American National Museum, 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 625-0414 or (800) 461-5266.
There is also an Asian Resource Center at the Rosemead Library, 8800 Valley Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770 (626) 573-5220.
Native Americans of the Los Angeles area have been described as the Tongva, called Gabrieleño because they were close to the San Gabriel Mission, and the Chumash who lived along the coast.
An early description is Hugo Reid's Account of the Indians of Los Angeles Co., Cal. written as a series of letters and published in the Los Angeles Star newspaper in 1852. Hugo Reid was a Scotsman who settled in California and married a Gabrieleño woman in 1832. The text of the book is available on Ancestry.com ($).
There is an American Indian Resource Center at the Huntington Park Library, 6518 Miles Ave. Huntington Park, CA 90255 (323) 583-2794
The Los Angeles Public Library has made available on its website an index to newspaper and periodical articles containing obituary information on renowned actors, authors, journalists, and librarians. You can search the database by name, occupation, date of death, and cause of death. The data fields in the results returned may include full name, including married name, maiden name, and nickname; sex, occupation, death date, age, place of death, and information source.
The Los Angeles Times offers a historical archive search online, The earliest date is 4 December 1881, and the latest date offered is 31 December 1988. There is also a current newspaper search option which begins in 1985. To see both options, click here.
There are also newspapers intended for certain groups, like these:
- Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
3580 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1510
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 368-1661 – http://www.jewishjournal.com
- Rafu Shimpo
Los Angeles Japanese Daily News
259 S Los Angeles St
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3704
(213) 629-2231 - http://rafu.com/family-tree-project/
To see abstracts of some early Los Angeles wills click here.
For wills and probate after 1850, see the county of Los Angeles. Before the county was formed, inheritance proceedings were handled by Spanish and Mexican law.
Los Angeles City Historical Society
Box 862311, Los Angeles, CA 90086
Southern California Genealogical Society
417 Irving Drive, Burbank, CA 91504
The state of California began keeping vital records in 1905, and copies of those records are available from either the state or the county where the event occurred. Anyone can get “informational” copies, but only close family and some others can get a certified copy.
The City of Los Angeles has birth records from 1879 – 1905 and death records from 1877 - 1905. The birth records are microfilmed and available at the Family History Library or any of the branch Family History Centers. Early death records are available on CD from the Southern California Genealogical Society.
Family Search has the collection California, County Birth and Death Records, 1849-1994 available to browse here.
- Los Angeles Times Obituary Search
- California RootsWeb databases
- Los Angeles GenWeb Project
- Western States Marriage Index
- Southern California Genealogical Society
- Los Angeles Almanac, http://www.laalmanac.com (accessed 27 June 2014).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Los Angeles" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles (accessed 13 June 2014).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Los Angeles Plaza Historic District" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Plaza_Historic_District (accessed 13 June 2014)
- Paul R. Spitzzeri, "Boyle Heights History Blog" at http://boyleheightshistoryblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/evergreen-cemetery-first-private.html (accessed 13 June 2014)
- Fort Moore Hill Cemetery entry in Find A Grave(accessed 13 June 2014)
- Morgan, S. P. (1998). California 1790 census: Cities of Los Angeles, Monterey, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Barbara. West Jordan, Utah: Genealogical Services. At various libraries (World Cat) FHL 979.4 X29
- Germans in California at German American Pioneers (accessed 30 June 2014)
- Italians in Los Angeles at Southern California Historical Society (accessed 30 June 2014)
- Old Chinatown Los Angeles (accessed 30 June 2014).
- Wikipedia contributors, History of the Korean Americans in Los Angeles in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 30 June 2014).
- History of the Japanese in Los Angeles in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 30 June 2014).
- Clifton L. Holland, The Native American Community, at http://www.prolades.com/glama/la5co07/native_american_indian_community.htm (accessed 27 June 2014).