California Vital Records

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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/Will 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.

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.

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

Adoption Records

Open / closed/ state statutes

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 [1]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

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.

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.

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

1 Alameda 13 Imperial 25 Modoc 37 San Diego 49 Sonoma Cities
2 Alpine 14 Inyo 26 Mono 38 San Francisco 50 Stanislaus 60 Alameda
3 Amador 15 Kern 27 Monterey 39 San Joaquin 51 Sutter 70 Los Angeles
4 Butte 16 Kings 28 Napa 40 San Luis Obispo 52 Tehama 80 San Diego
5 Calaveras 17 Lake 29 Nevada 41 San Mateo Cities 53 Trinity 90 San Francisco
6 Colusa 18 Lassen 30 Orange 42 Santa Barbara 54 Tulare
7 Contra Costa 19 Los Angeles 31 Placer 43 Santa Clara 55 Tuolumne
8 Del Norte 20 Madera 32 Plumas 44 Santa Cruz 56 Ventura
9 El Dorado 21 Marin 33 Riverside 45 Shasta 57 Yolo
10 Fresno 22 Mariposa 34 Sacramento 46 Sierra 58 Yuba
11 Glen 23 Medocino 35 San Benito 47 Siskiyou 59
12 Humboldt 24 Merced 36 San Bernardino 48 Solano

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. [3]

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 Family History Library 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 Family History Library 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. Family History Library fiche 6332554—.
  2. Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at (accessed 8 January 2011).
  3. Volume II, Deaths, San Francisco, California: Historical Records Survey, 1941; Family History Library book 979.4 V2h; film 897426 item 5.