1542-1812: Spain, Mexico, England, and Russia made various claims to California, but most settlements were Spanish.
1769: The first permanent settlement was made by the Spanish in the San Diego Bay area.
1821: Spain granted Mexico its independence. California was included with Mexico.
1841: Americans began traveling overland to California.
1846: War broke out between the United States and Mexico. U.S. settlers in California set up a republic.
1848: Mexico ceded California to the United States. Gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill.
1849: The Gold Rush attracted over 100,000 people to California.
1850: California became the 31st state
1869: Completion of the transcontinental railroad gave California a direct connection with the East. Great numbers of Chinese were imported to work on this railroad.
1872: The Modoc War on border between Oregon and California, between the U.S. and the Modoc tribe led by Chief Kintpuash (Captain Jack), the tribe had ceded their land in 1864, they were sent to the Klamath reservation, in 1870 they returned to their old land. 1873 the remaining tribal members sent to Oklahoma.
1884-1885: A railroad rate war (1884) and a California real estate boom (1885) caused a new wave of overland immigration.
The Family History Library has numerous state and local histories by James M. Guinn and other authors. Sources for studying the history of California include:
Bancroft, Hubert H. ed. History of California. Six Volumes. San Francisco, California: A. L. Bancroft and Company, 1884-90. (FHL book 979.4 B4b Volumes 1-6; film 982473 items 1-2, Volumes 1-2; items 3-5, Volumes 4-6; film 1321070 item 4, Volume 3.) There is an index in 979.4 B4b which covers 1542 to 1859.
Chapman, Charles E. A History of California: The Spanish Period. New York, New York: Macmillan, 1921. (FHL fiche 6051216.)
Hunt, Rockwell Dennis. California and Californians. Four Volumes. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company, 1932. (FHL book 979.4 H2h; film 1000092 items 1-4.) Volumes 3 and 4 contain biographical material. All four volumes are online at www.ancestry.com. ($)
A bibliography of local histories for California is Margaret M. Rocq, California Local History: A Bibliography and Union List of Library Holdings, Second Edition. (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1970; FHL book 979.4 H23r; supplement, 1961 to 1970, is 979.4 H23r Supp.; 1950 ed. is on film 1000136 item 3).