San Mateo County, California Genealogy

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Dates for major county records 
1857-present 1857-present 1860-present 1856-present 1857-present
For earlier dates, try...
  • Parent county (before 18 February 1856 ): San Mateo County was created from San Francisco County, with additional territory added in 1868 from Santa Cruz County.
  • San Mateo County, California residents may also have records in
    Neighboring Counties: San Francisco | Santa Cruz | Santa Clara |                             
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San Mateo County, California
Map of California highlighting San Mateo County
Location in the state of California
Map of the U.S. highlighting California
Location of California in the U.S.
Founded February 18, 1856
County Seat Redwood City
Address Hall of Justice and Records
400 County Center
Redwood City, California, 94063
650) 363-4711
Named for: Saint Matthew
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Historical Facts

Wikipedia has more about this subject: San Mateo County, California

Parent County

18 February 1856: San Mateo County was created from San Francisco County, with additional territory added in 1868 from Santa Cruz County. County seat: Redwood City [1]

Boundary Changes 

1868 - Land from Santa Cruz County

Record Loss




Populated Places (Official city and town websites)

Neighboring Counties


Bible Records


Cemeteries & Mortuaries

California Genealogy and History Archives - Links to  pictures, indexes and more

SFGenealogy  San Mateo and San Francisco Cemetery links to indexes and more

Golden Gate National Cemetery
1300 Sneath Lane
San Bruno, CA 94066

BillionGraves Photos, Google map, transcriptions, GPS location of headstones in this cemetery.

Layng & Tinney Mortuary Files Index : 1900’s

CSGA Research Guide - San Mateo County Death Records

Union Cemetery, Redwood City BillionGraves

A wiki article describing this collection is found at:

California, San Mateo County, Colma, Italian Cemetery Records (Family Historical Records)


Church History and Records

LDS Ward and Branch Records

  • Burlingame
  • Redwood City
  •  San Mateo

Roman Catholic - Archdiocese of San Francisco

Court Records

CSGA Research Guide - San Mateo County Court Records

Crime and Criminals


Ethnic, Political, or Religious Groups





In 1856 the city and county of San Francisco was incorporated within its present borders, the land down the peninsula that was not included in the incorporation became San Mateo County A portion of the bill that established the county required the election of county officers and the naming of a county seat on the second Monday of May of the current year (1856). Three well known but not very ethical politicians, Bernard and Billy Mulligan and Chris Lilly, arranged to gain control of the new county’s government. The resulting vote was proof of corruption. The Laguna area reported 297 votes with a voting population of 25, Colma had a return of 500 with 50-60 eligible voters. In Belmont witnesses were not allowed to monitor the vote. In all 1800 ballots were cast in an area with a total population of only 2500 at a time when only adult males were eligible to vote.

Fortunately not all of those who were elected were corrupt. The post of County Judge was won by Benjamin I Fox of Redwood City. It was his court, sitting in the temporary quarters at Angelo's Hotel in Belmont (the town named county seat in the election) which presided over the suits resulting from the election. As the trials went on, earlier misdeeds caught up with many of the accused. The majority fled the area for parts unknown. Others, however, were caught, tried and at least one, James Casey, was hung.

Stating that an election that took place before the Consolidation Act that necessitated it took effect on July 1, could not be legal, the California State Supreme Court threw out the entire election in October of 1856. The officials who were in place, however, continued to function as San Mateo County's governing body until a true and legal election was held in 1857. When the legislature officially recognized San Mateo County in 1857 they named Redwood City as the capitol.

The rich resources of the area and the mild climate have been instumental in the settlement of San Mateo County. The early Ohlone Indians were hunters and gatherers, living under some of the huge oak trees that still dot the area. Spanish explorers, padres and ranchers used the area for food production. Anglo settlers came in at the time of the gold rush. Although little if any gold was found in the county, they stayed establishing a thriving lumber community and numerous dairy farms.

The wealthy of San Francisco opened summer homes on the Peninsula. In the early days it was a full days trip to get from San Francisco to those homes. But first the railroad and later improved roads and cars opened up the possibilities and the inhabitants of San Francisco moved permanently into San Mateo County. The 1906 earthquake displaced many people in San Francisco. After relocating in San Mateo County, many never moved back into San Francisco. World War I brought industrial growth to the areas around South San Francisco and with it an influx of residents. No longer did residents have to travel to work in San Francisco, they were employed in masses on the peninsula. There are many books available on the history of San Mateo County and it's individual cities.

Land and Property

The Spanish and Mexican Governments distributed the bulk of San Mateo County lands to those who had served the government or military. Most of the Rancho owners also had residences around Mission Dolores in the current San Francisco. See California Land and Property  for more information.

With the collapse of the Bear Flag Republic and the end of the Mexican War, California was ceded to the United States and the federal government was given control of all California lands. Rancho owners and those who had bought land from them, were required to petition for the lands they already held. See United States Deeds for more information.

The resulting patents have been recorded in San Mateo County in Patent Books 1-3. Those books are currently located in the Recorder's Office offsite repository and have been indexed by SMCGS.

The Recorder's Office also has Deed Books, Mortgage Books, Official Records and Miscellanous records in the offsite repository. Many of the earliest books have been indexed by SMCGS volunteers. For links to San Mateo County Land Records check the CSGA Research Guide - San Mateo County Land and Maps.

California, San Mateo County Records, 1856-1967 are free to browse at FamilySearch Historical Records. For a description of the records, see California, San Mateo County Records (FamilySearch Historical Records).

Current Records and microfilms of old deeds are available in the County Recorder's Office in Redwood City. Start by searching for the current address at one of the available computers. You will find the current owner and also links to maps related to the property including original rancho maps and maps showing the first subdivision of the land. There are more maps available in the record repository, some show the early landowners in various areas throughout the county.

The index books have been scanned and you can search through them just as you would the original indexes, but without the weight. This can be a busy office so if you need help navitating through the system be patient. It is possible to get every deed for a property and printouts of the maps with a few hours research and a few dollars. 

A wiki article describing this collection is found at:

California, San Mateo County Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)


CSGA Research Guide - San Mateo County Land and Maps

County of San Mateo - Mappery


Military History and Records

CSGA Research Guide - San Mateo County Military 

The History of Camp Fremont
Few of today’s San Mateo County residents know exactly where Camp Fremont once stood, but for about 18 months, from July 12, 1917 until it was dismantled in early 1919 it was a teeming World War I Training Camp. At it’s peak nearly 27,000 personnel were resident on the base . In all more than 43,000 soldiers passed through the little town of Menlo Park (former population 2300).

Country living was disturbed by the sounds of guns, canon and grenades exploding as troops trained for their eminent war duty. Menlo Park was chosen as the training site due to it’s similarity to the French terrain where troops were supposedly heading.

Located from the El Camino Real to the Alameda de Las Pulgas and from Valparaiso to the San Francisquito Creek , Camp Fremont covered approximately 25,000 acres (15 Square miles). Besides calvary and infantry there were nearly 10000 horses and mules which were housed further east at a re-mount station on Ravenswood, near the camp hospital. Of the 16 training centers erected by the War department, Camp Fremont was the largest east of the Mississippi.

Every idle carpenter on the peninsula was put to work. In all more than 700 men were put to work turning over 100 railroad cars of lumber into temporary buildings. Barracks consisted of wooden floors and sidewalls topped with canvas tents. Camp Fremont’s tent city covered more than 1000 acres. 150 Southern Pacific workers laid spur track from the main line to the middle of camp. El Camino Real was paved to accommodate the increased traffic, and Menlo Park became known as one of the worst traffic bottlenecks on the peninsula.

Suddenly every available store front was occupied by merchants from throughout the Bay Area. A movie theater, post office, church and library were built. Beltramo’s Winery and every tavern within 5 miles of the base were declared dry by order of the army and the county.

Sequoia High School opened a branch on the base offering classes in English, arithmetic, shorthand, typing and accounting but low attendance caused the program to fold. Stanford University, worried about the proximity of so many men to their co-eds, stopped their objections when two companies of soldiers were assigned to the duty of making sure that no soldiers invaded Stanford’s borders and no Co-eds infiltrated Tent City.

Shortly after the building started the war department halted the effort for three months . The original troops were moved east at one point, but then the 8th Division, Regular Army was transferred in and remained until the dismantling. The troops which had trained to join the war efforts in France never did reach Europe. Some 5000, however, did serve time in Siberia. Michael Svanevik’s article When ‘The Forgotten Army’ Went to Siberia, The San Mateo Times, Friday, Aug 19, 1988 pg B3, tells a little of the tale of the
Siberian intervention.

Before it was ordered closed in December 1918, just one month after the armistice was signed 43,000 men had been trained . So, just 18 months after it was erected Camp Fremont was abandoned and the land reverted to it’s previous owners. But due to the efforts of the 8th Army Corp of Engineers the once rustic town of Menlo Park now had paved roads, water and gas services. Other legacies were
the more than a million pounds of lead that were removed from the hills as they were developed. Today a few remainders of the 1000 plus Camp buildings dot the landscape of Menlo Park. The popular McArthur Park restaurant and the Oasis Beer Garden are housed in remnants of the vast camp and the Veterans Center on Willow Road was the base hospital.

Many of the 43000 men who served at Camp Fremont were recent emigres to the United States. In accordance with legislation passed at the time of the Civil War, the naturalization process was changed to honor their efforts for their new country. In all nearly 3200 men took advantage of the opportunity to become United States citizens before the base closed.  

See Naturalization Records below for a Link to the Camp Fremont Naturalization Index.

Naturalization and Citizenship Records

All naturalization records produced by San Mateo County Courts are held by the San Mateo County Recorders Office.  This appears to be a complete set of all the Declarations of Intention to become a citizen and Petitions for the entire time the local courts handled naturalizations.  The last record is from the year 1983.  The earliest records are in an envelope file, and many records have Declarations attached which were filed elsewhere.

The San Mateo County Genealogical Society has indexed these volumes through 1945.

SMC Naturalization Indexes

There are references to early naturalizations in the Court Docket books which are located in the San Mateo County Historical Society Archives.  All names found in these volumes are also found in the Records office records.

The Naturalizations for Camp Fremont are contained in volumes dated May 1917 to March 1918. The special military naturalization required no Declaration of Intention, therefore the complete record will be contained in one volume.  Naturalized soldiers were from all over the United States. Originals are located in the SMC Recorder's Office offsite storage facility. SMCGS has also indexed those volumes.

Camp Fremont Naturalization Index

Naturalizations filed by San Mateo County in the California Northern District court are located at the National Archives in San Bruno. 

SMCGS also transcribed a card file of naturalized voters, which is also located in the Recorders Office.

Naturalized Voter Card File

All Naturalization Records after 1906 can be ordered from USCIS


CSGA Research Guide - San Mateo County Newspapers




CSGA Research Guide - San Mateo County Court Records


Archives, Libraries and Museums

CSGA Research Guide - San Mateo County Libraries and Archives

County Courthouse

Family History Centers


Sequoia High School - Redwood City - 1st High School in County



Vital Records

You can get informational copies of birth and death certificates from the San Mateo County Clerk. Print and complete an Application for Certified Copy of Vital Record.  As with other California counties, requests for an Official Certified Copy of either birth or death records must be notarized.  Requests for an Informational Certified Copy do not need to be notarized.





Voting Registers



California, San Mateo County, Colma, Italian Cemetery Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

  1. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).