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Revision as of 21:22, 5 August 2014

United States Gotoarrow.png California Gotoarrow.png Vital Records

Template:Adoption CA State Genealogical Alliance

Introduction to Vital Records

Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on researching and using vital records. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the California Vital Records State Department of Health or the County Clerk's office of the county where the event occurred. See also California Statewide Indexes at the Family History Library.

CSGA CA Research Aid - Birth and Marriage Records

CSGA CA Research Aid - Death Records

Vital Records.jpg

Birth Records Marriage Records  Death Records
1905 - 1995 $ 1960 - 1985 $ 1940-1997

California Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online

The following is a list of online resources useful for locating California Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths. Check California Vital Records Online for more information about the resources listed below. Most online resources for California Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:

Birth Records

Early - 1905

California church records provide the earliest evidence of births and deaths. County recorders eventually kept vital statistics. Monterey County, for example, recorded a few births as early as 1824. Most clerks kept better records in the decades following the Gold Rush.

1905 - Present

The Family History Library has been acquiring microfilmed copies of the original records from many counties. For example, the Family History Library has 81 microfilms of births from Los Angeles (1905-19, indexed 1905-23), and deaths (1877-1905, indexed 1873-1920). You can also write to each county clerk for information.

Delayed registration of births began in 1943. These records are kept by each county. You can write to the County Recorder for information.

The Family History Library has microfilmed copies of delayed birth records for many counties, such as Los Angeles, for the years 1943 to 1964.

The statewide registration of births and deaths began in July 1905, and was generally complied with by 1920.

Birth Indexes

For additional information (including the mailing address) on ordering birth, marriage and death certificates from the state of California visit: A comprehensive resource for locating vital records.

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:

Information in California Birth Records
Types of Information early - 1905  1905 - present
Name of Child  
Parents' Names    
Date & Place of Birth    

Adoption Records

Adoption records in California are available to the adoptee who is age 21 or older, the birth parent of an adult adoptee, and in some circumstances, the adoptive parent of an adoptee who is under age 21.

An adult adoptee, 21 or older, may obtain identifying information on their birth parents if the birth parents have provided written consent to have the information released. The birth parents may request identifying information on the adult adoptee, age 21 or older, if the adoptee has given written consent to have the information released. [1]

The original birth certificate is available only by order of the court.

Marriage Records

Early to 1905

When the county was formed county clerks were assigned to record marriages.

The first law that required the recording of marriages was passed in 1850. Each county usually kept these records as soon as it was organized.

There is no residence requirement to be married in California. Couples can get a marriage license in one county and get married in another, unless one of the parties is underage. For a time, couples had to get their marriage license in the county where the ceremony was to be performed.

The Family History Library has copies of the marriage records for many counties. For example, Los Angeles County marriage applications (1850-1905) and certificates (1851-1919) are available on 120 microfilms.

1905 - Present

The statewide registration of marriages began in 1905. The state records are indexed.

The Family History Library has copies of the marriages for many counties. For example, Los Angeles County marriage applications (1850-1905) and certificates (1851-1919) are available on 120 microfilms.

The index for 1960 to 1985 is available at the Family History Library [2]The Family History Library has not obtained copies of the actual certificates from the state office. Write to the Office of Vital Records and Statistics or the County Recorder (if the county is known) for further information.

Marriage Indexes

California State Registrar California marriage records indexes, 1960-1985. FHL Collection

Information in California Marriage Records
Types of Information early - 1905  1905 - present
Name of Bride/Groom  
Date of Marriage    
Location of Marriage    
Presiding Official    
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Residence at Time of Marriage

Divorce Records

Divorce records have been kept by the superior court in the county where the divorces were granted. You can write to the clerk of the court for information. You can also write to the State Department of Health for records since 1962.

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

California Divorce Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)

Death Records

Early to 1905

The Family History Library has been acquiring microfilmed copies of the original records from many counties. For example, the Family History Library has microfilms of death records (1877-1905, indexed 1873-1920). You can also write to each County Recorder for information.

1905 - Present

 Death Indexes

The death index includes: Deceased's full name, date of birth and country or state of birth, death date and death place in California, Social Security Number, and mother's maiden name.

California State Registrar. California Death Index 1905-1988, 1940-1994 FHL fiche 6332560

Wiki articles describing an online collection is found at:

Information in California Death Records
Types of Information
before - 1905
1905 - present
Name of Deceased


Date of Death

Place of Death

Date of Birth/Age

Place of Birth

Place of Burial

Parents' Names/Maiden

Occupation of Deceased

Marital Status

In the statewide indexes prepared by California each county was assigned a number. The chart below will assist you in utilizing the indexes.

Vital Records Code - California-County and City

Click the icon to sort by code or name.

Code Name County/City
60 Alameda County
Alameda City
2 Alpine County
3 Amador County
4 Butte County
5 Calaveras County
6 Colusa County
7 Contra Costa County
8 Del Norte County
9 El Dorado County
10 Fresno County
11 Glenn County
12 Humboldt County
13 Imperial County
14 Inyo County
15 Kern County
16 Kings County
17 Lake County
18 Lassen County
70 Los Angeles County
Los Angeles City
20 Madera County
21 Marin County
22 Mariposa County
23 Medocino County
24 Merced County
25 Modoc County
26 Mono County
27 Monterey County
28 Napa County
29 Nevada County
30 Orange County
31 Placer County
32 Plumas County
33 Riverside County
34 Sacramento County
35 San Benito County
36 San Bernardino County
80 San Diego County
San Diego City
90 San Francisco County
San Francisco City
39 San Joaquin County
40 San Luis Obispo County
41 San Mateo Cities County
42 Santa Barbara County
43 Santa Clara County
44 Santa Cruz County
45 Shasta County
46 Sierra County
47 Siskiyou County
48 Solano County
49 Sonoma County
50 Stanislaus County
51 Sutter County
52 Tehama County
53 Trinity County
54 Tulare County
55 Tuolumne County
56 Ventura County
57 Yolo County
58 Yuba County

Inventory of Vital Records

You can learn more about the history and availability of vital records in Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in California. [4]

Destroyed, Lost and Missing Records

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake resulted in significant record loss. 

Substitute Records

These links will take you to wiki pages describing alternate sources for birth, marriage and death records.

  • Church Records: Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
  • Cemetery Records: Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information.  These records may also reveal family relationships.
  • Census Records: Census records are a valuable source for birth and marriage information. You may also determine approximate time of death when the individual disappear from the census. This is a good place to begin a search.
  • Newspapers: Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices.  Also check newspaper social columns for additional information. 
  • Periodicals: Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
  • Military Records:  Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information,  In addtion, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
  • Probate Records: If no death record exists, probate records may be helpful in estimating when an individual has died. Probate records in the 20th Century often contain the exact death date.
  • History:  Local histories, family histories and biographies can all be sources of birth, marriage and death information. Often this information is found in county-level records or in surname searches of the FamilySearch Catalog.

More Online Links


  • Information listed on vital records is given by an informant.  Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record.  The closer the relationship of the informant to the subjects(s) and whether or not the informant was present at the time of the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the record.
  • If you are unable to locate vital records recorded by governments, search for church records of christening, marriage, death or burial.  A family Bible may have been used to record family births, marriages and deaths.
  • Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records.  Copies of some vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailable to anyone except a direct realative.
  • If the survival of a baby was in question, the birth may not have been recorded. If the child survived search for a delayed birth cetificate.
  • Search for Vital Records in the FamilySearch Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records.  Search for California to locate records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by that county.

Archives, Libraries and Societies

California Archives and Libraries

California Societies


  1. Adoption.com California Laws
  2. Family History Library fiche 6332554—.
  3. Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at http://www.arleneeakle.com/wordpress/2007/02/19/have-you-searched-and-searched-for-the-marriage-without-finding-it/ (accessed 8 January 2011).
  4. Volume II, Deaths, San Francisco, California: Historical Records Survey, 1941; Family History Library book 979.4 V2h; film 897426 item 5.