Orange County, California Genealogy

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Orange County
Guide to Orange County, California ancestry, family history, and genealogy birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.
Huntington Beach Pier, Orange County, California
Dates for major county records [1]
1889-present 1889-present 1889-present 1889-present 1889-present
For earlier dates, try...

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Orange County, California
Map of California highlighting Orange County
Location in the state of California
Map of the U.S. highlighting California
Location of California in the U.S.
Founded March 11, 1889
County Seat Santa Ana
Santa Ana, California, 92701
(657) 622-6878
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County Courthouse (Superior Court)

Orange County Courthouse
12 Civic Center Place
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Phone: 714.834.2500
Old Orange County Courthouse

County Recorder has birth, marriage, death and land records
County Clerk has divorce, probate and court records from 1964


Orange County Clerk-Recorder, 630 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701.
(714) 834-2500[[Image:]](714) 834-2500. Holdings include birth, death and marriage certificates
(1889-current) and property records (1954-current).


County History

European Discovery and Mission Period

Gaspar de Portola and a party of sixty-two men first entered what is now Orange County on July 22, 1769.[3] Orange County’s only mission, San Juan Capistrano, was founded in 1776. During the Mission Period the area was under the military jurisdiction of the presidio at San Diego and under the rule of Spain. The Mission Period ended following the Secularization Act of 1833 and, while most of the mission communities disintegrated rapidly, the village of San Juan Capistrano survived. [4]

See the wiki article California Land and Property for help with locating records from this period.

Rancho Days

The only Spanish grant in what is now Orange County was Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. This grant to Antonio Yorba and Pablo Peralta was a very large grant made in 1810 covering the areas to the east and south of the Santa Ana River.[5] Spain’s authority ended in1821 and grants made after this were by the Mexican government. For a detailed description of the method of land granting by the Mexicans see “Land Grant Policies an the Ranchos” by William McPherson[6] The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in January 1848 ended the war with Mexico and the United States acquired California along with much other territory. The United States agreed to honor the many existing Mexican land grants but many had unclear title. The Americans wanted land and some of it was purchased and some taken. [7]

See the wiki article California Land and Property for help with locating records from this period.

Formation of Orange County

When California became a state in 1850, the area of what is now Orange County became part of Los Angeles County. As the area grew, dissatisfaction with the distance from the governing seat of Los Angeles grew as did interest in separating from Los Angeles County. In 1889, at the time of creation of the county, there were only three incorporated cities, Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Orange.[8]  Oranges were not common in this county at the time that the suggestion of Orange County was made in 1871. “…to encourage immigration, the area was boomed by real estate promoters as a semi-tropical paradise—a place where anything could grow… The name orange has a Mediterranean flavor about it, so for that reason it was selected to suggest our climate…By 1889, after a devastating blight wiped out the grape industry, oranges had indeed become our most promising crop, even if they were not responsible per se for the county’s naming” [9]

Historical Facts

Parent County

1 August 1889: Orange County was created from Los Angeles County, per Orange County Archives. County seat: Santa Ana [10]

Orange is the third largest county by population, preceeded by (1)Los Angeles and (2)San Diego Counties, according to the California State Association of Counties


The county was named for the orange. The county seat Nevada City and the county was created March 11, 1889. The County is located in the southwest area of the state.[11]

Boundary Changes

For animated maps illustrating California county boundary changes, "Rotating Formation California County Boundary Maps" (1850-1925) may be viewed for free at the website.

Records Loss

There is no known history of courthouse disasters in this county.


Populated Places

Anaheim, the home of Disneyland, is the most populated city in Orange County. It was first settled by Germans in 1854 who named the city. It was incorporated in 1857. The name refers to the fact that it is the "home" of the Santa "Ana" River. The northern part of the county is heavily populated and the southern area is growing rapidly.

  • Coto de Caza - unincorporated
  • El Modena - unincorporated
  • City of Rancho Santa Margarita
  • Rossmoor - unincorporated

Neighboring Counties

Los Angeles San Bernardino San Diego


Bible Records



Cemeteries of Orange, California online and in print
Tombstone Transcriptions Online
TombstoneTranscriptions in Print (Often more complete)
List of Cemeteries in the County
See California Cemeteries for more information

The following web sites may have additional information on Orange County cemeteries.


The first census in which you will find Orange County is the 1900 US Population Schedule. Orange County census records include 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940.

Cities and unincorporated areas in present-day Orange County are included with the County of Los Angeles for the US Population Schedules 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880.

Industry and Agriculture Schedules exist for Los Angeles County including the areas of Orange County for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880.

Mortality Schedules also exist for Los Angeles County including the areas of Orange County for the years 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880.

The state of California took one state census in 1852 which includes the areas of Orange County as part of Los Angeles County. This census images are available through ($) and a name index is avaliable through, California, State Census, 1852.

For tips on accessing Orange County, California Genealogy census records online, see: California Census.

Church History and Records

Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage information and maiden names; and death date. For general information about California denominations, view the California Church Records wiki page.

Roman Catholic

The first Catholic missions were organized in 1769. Most of the mission records begin in 1770 and are on film. The Family History Library and the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley have extensive collections of the early records. For the index to these records, see:

Temple, Thomas W. An Alphabetical Listing of the California Mission Vital Records. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1985. FHL Collection 1307621 item 4; fiche 6047009

The following sources may help you find Catholic mission records:

Weber, Francis J. A Select Guide to California Catholic History. Los Angeles, California: Westernlore Press, 1966. FHL Collection 979.4 K21c
Bowman, J.N. "The Parochial Books of the California Missions, 1961," The Quarterly (Historical Society of Southern California)], Vol. 43, No. 3. FHL Collection 979.4 B2s
Barton, Noel R. "Genealogical Research in the Records of the California Missions," Genealogical Journal, Vol. 4, No. 1. FHL Collection 973 D25gj v. 3-4 (1974-1975)

Many original mission records and other Catholic records have been gathered into central repositories. These include:

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens website features the Early California Population Project (ECPP) which provides public access to all the information contained in California's historic mission registers. Records include baptism, marriage and burial records for each of the California missions including the San Juan Capitstrano Mission in Orange County. Records include information on Indians, soldiers, and settlers of Alta California from 1769-1850.

The Diocese of Orange
2811 East Villa Real Drive
Orange, CA 92867-1999
Phone: (714) 282-3000[[Image:]](714) 282-3000

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 14195
Orange, CA 92863-1595

Court History and Records

Orange County Clerk-Recorder, 630 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701.
(714) 834-2500[[Image:]](714) 834-2500. Holdings include birth, death and marriage certificates
(1889-current) and property records (1954-current).

See also: Orange County Archives

The main criminal courthouse is at 700 Civic Center Drive, Santa Ana, California. There are three branch courts but even more locations. North Court is in Fullerton. West Court is in Westminster. Harbor Court has locations in Newport Beach, Laguna Niguel and Laguna Hills. The Lamoreaux Justice Center is in Orange.

Crime and Criminals


Ethnic, Religious, or Political Groups




Local histories are available for Orange County, California Genealogy. County histories may include biographies, church, school and government history, and military information. For more information about local histories, see the Wiki page section California Local Histories.

The greatest repositories of Local Histories are at the Orange County Family History Center, 674 South Yorba, Orange, California, and the collection of the Orange County Genealogical Society, located at the Huntington Beach Public Library, 7111 Talbert Avenue, Huntington Beach, California. Also noted is the Orange Public Library and History Center, 407 East Chapman Avenue, Orange, California (714) 288-2400[[Image:]](714) 288-2400

  • The History of Orange County California with Bigraphical Sketches; Samuel Armour, supervising Editor; Historic Record Company,Los Angeles, CA, 1911 (FHL US/CAN Film 1000115 Item 1)
  • History of Orange County California; Mrs. J.E. Pleasants; J.R. Finnell & Sons Publishing Co, Los Angeles, CA; 1931 (FHL US/CAN Fiche 6209824 )


Naturalization records, 1889-1944 Orange County (California). County Clerk, at

California, Southern District Court (Central) Naturalization Index, 1915-1976 at

Also see information in the  California Emigration and Immigration wiki article.

Land and Property

Land and property records can place an ancestor in a particular location, provide economic information, and reveal family relationships. Land records include: deeds, abstracts and indexes, mortgages, leases, grants and land patents.

See California Land and Property for additional information about early California land grants. After land was transferred to private ownership, subsequent transactions were usually recorded at the county courthouse and where records are currently housed.

See the wiki article California Land and Property for help with locating records from the early period of the area of Orange County.

Orange County, California, declarations of homesteads, 1889-1926 ; index, 1890-1926 through


{{CA Neighboring Counties Intro|county=
Los Angeles CountySan Bernardino CountyRiverside CountySan Diego CountyCA ORANGE.PNG
About this image


Military History and Records

Civil War

World War II

Vietnam War

Naturalization and Citizenship


Additional newspapers abstracts can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Orange County, California Genealogy newspapers in online catalogs like:

The County is served by:

There are many community based newspapers as well some of which are available at Chronicling America. Orange County area newspapers are also available at Chronicling America for the years prior to 1900 under Los Angeles.

Saddleback News index to microfilm – Birth, marriages and deaths in south Orange County from 1969 – 1989: Indexed by the South Orange County Genealogy Society (2013 - 2014).  The images of the Saddleback News newspaper (no longer being published) are available on microfilm at the Mission Viejo, CA city library.

An excellent archive of newspapers is available at the Orange County Archives.
Newspaper holdings at the Orange County Archives
Fullerton newspapers (1909-1925)
Huntington Beach News (1908-1956)
Laguna Life (1936-1938)
Laguna Beach (News) Post (1949-1988)
Santa Ana Journal (1935-1938)
Santa Ana Register (1925-1929, 1936-1939)
South Coast News (1930-1967)
Laguna Hills Leisure World News (1965-1987)
Other South Orange County newspapers (1965-1988)



Probate Records

The county clerk is usually the custodian of probate records. The records include wills, fee books, claim registers, legacy records, inheritance records, probate ticklers, and dockets.

Content: Probate Records may give the decedent's date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their place of residence.

You can obtain copies of the original probate records (such as wills and estate files) by writing to the county clerk at the county courthouse.

The FamilySearch Catalog lists films of probate records. To find the records for this county, use the Place Search for California - Orange - Probate records.

Online Probate Records


Archives, Libraries and Museums

For records prior to 1960:

Orange County Archives
Old Orange County Courthouse Room 101
211 W. Santa Ana Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA, 92701
(714) 834-2536[[Image:]](714) 834-2536

Huntington Beach Central Library
7111 Talbert Ave
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Phone: (714) 842-4481[[Image:]](714) 842-4481, Ext. 2227
The Library’s collection of over 18,000 genealogical books is maintained by the Orange County California Genealogical Society (OCCGS). The Genealogy collection is housed at the Central Library and is for reference use only (items cannot be checked out). The public is welcome to attend general membership meetings which are held the first Saturday of each month (except for June and December) at the Central Library. For more information, please visit

Anaheim Heritage Center
241 S. Anaheim Blvd

Jane K. Newell,
Heritage Services Manager

digital ANAHEIM

County Courthouse

The Courthouse (Superior court) is not a recommended source for Genealogical Data.

The County Recorder is where most vital record and land records are housed, but most of the vital records are now protected by California law, and the Recorder would be of little help except to immediate relatives.

Orange County Clerk-Recorder, 630 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701.
(714) 834-2500[[Image:]](714) 834-2500.

For records prior to 1960:

Orange County Archives
Old Orange County Courthouse Room 101
211 W. Santa Ana Blvd.
Santa Ana, California, 92701 (714) 834-2536[[Image:]](714) 834-2536

Family History Centers

Family history centers provide one-on-one assistance and free access to premium genealogical websites. In addition, many centers have free how-to genealogy classes. See family history center for more information. Search the online FHC directory for a nearby family history center.


Genealogy and Historical Societies

A digital archive of nearly 2,000 photographs of the City of Anaheim. [1]

The Anaheim Historical Society


California tax records complement land records and can supplement the years between censuses. There may be gaps of several years in the tax records of some counties. For more information, see the wiki page California Taxation.

Vital Records

Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. See the CDC Where to Write website for information on acquiring copies of these records. The State office has records since July 1905. For earlier records, contact the County Recorder.

Due to identity theft, California Law now restricts vital records access to immediate family. The Orange Regional Family History Center has access to state-wide databases of Births, Deaths, Marriages and voter registrations. These were compiled before the change in California law, and are not complete. Birth is available to 1986 Death to 1993 Voter registration to 1993 There are also marriage records available at The Western States Marriages at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

  • $ has the following collections of vital records that include Orange County.
  • California Birth Index, 1905-1995
  • California Marriage Index, 1960-1985
  • California Death Index, 1940-1997

Voter Registration

1890: The California 1890 Great Register of Voters Index, compiled by the California State Genealogical Alliance, is available at the Orange County Family History Center

Also available on fiche at the same location are:

  • 1993 Orange County Voters Index
  • 1996 Orange County Voters Index
  • 1981-1982 Ownership Index
  • 1989-1990 Address Register
  • 1991-1992 California Property Owners

Available at ($)

California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968

Genealogy Societies, Archives and Libraries

Orange County California Genealogical Society
c/o Huntington Beach Central Library
7111 Talbert Avenue
Huntington Beach, California 92648
Phone: 714-536-5549

P.O. Box 706
Yorba Linda, CA 92885-0706

Orange County California Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 1587
Orange 92668

Orange County Historical Commission
2002 North Main
Santa Ana 92706

Orange County Historical Commission
211 West Santa Ana Blvd
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Phone: 714-973-6609

Orange County Jewish Genealogical Society
Telephone: 949-423-3746
PO Box 7141
Newport Beach, CA 92658



  1. Eichholz, Alice Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Pub., 2004), 68-83. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27rb 2004.
  2. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Orange County, California. Page 86 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  3. Cramer, Esther R. A Hundred Years of Yesterdays: A Centennial History of the People of Orange County and Their Communities. (Santa Ana: Orange County Centennial, Inc.,1988), 19
  4. Cramer, A Hundred Years of Yesterdays, 21-23
  5. Cramer, A Hundred Years of Yesterdays, 25.
  6. Cramer, A Hundred Years of Yesterdays, 24-30
  7. Cramer, A Hundred Years of Yesterdays, 28-30
  8. Cramer, A Hundred Years of Yesterdays, 36-37.
  9. Cramer, A Hundred Years of Yesterdays, 39.
  10. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).
  11. Wikipedia contributors, "Orange County," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,,_California 05/04/2017.