California Great Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: California Great Registers, 1866-1910 .
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Record Description

This FamilySearch online collection includes records from 1866 to 1910. The collection consists of County Clerk voting registers from most counties in California. The registers were created every other year. The time period varies by county. Records in this collection without a specifc registration year will be displayed as "Registration Date Year Range." For these records, the "Event Date" is the median year.

History of the Great Registers

The first voter registration records were county poll lists. In 1866, poll lists were replaced by voter registers known as the Great Registers. Each voter was required to register with the county clerk. An 1872 law required all counties to print an alphabetical list of voters every two years. Since 1895, data on voters has been more detailed.


Record Content

California Great Registers DGS.jpg

The early great registers are arranged in columns and give the following information:

  • Full name of each voter (only men could vote)
  • Age
  • State or country of birth
  • Occupation
  • Address
  • If naturalized, the name of the granting court and the date of naturalization

How to Use this Record Collection

To begin your search you will need to know the following:

  • Name of the ancestor
  • Residence

Complete the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information of these individuals to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may provide new biographical details that can lead to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.

Tips and Strategies in Using California Great Register Records

The electoral registers may help you determine the residence of an individual and how long that person lived there. They may also help you locate other records in which that person might appear.

You may also find the following tips helpful:

  • Use the name, residence, or birth date to locate your ancestor in church, land, and census records.
  • Use ages to determine approximate birth dates.
  • Use the naturalization information to find immigration and naturalization court documents.
  • Information on occupations may lead to occupational records, or other related records, such as business or military records.
  • Search for records of other people in the county who shared the same surname. These people may have been the couple’s parents, uncles, or other relatives.
  • When searching for a person with a common name, look at all entries for the name before deciding which is correct.

Also keep in mind:

  • Some counties were subdivided or the boundaries may have changed. Consider searching neighboring counties as well since that courthouse may have been more convenient for the person.
  • The information in voter registrations in usually very brief so it is easy to confuse individuals with similar names.
  • Only men were allowed to vote.

If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • Check for indexes.

Related Websites

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.


Citation for This Collection

 The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Records collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

"California, Great Registers, 1866-1910." Index. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.