Background Sources for California

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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford, Thelma Berkey Walsmith, and Nell Sachse Woodard for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
California sil.png
the California Family History Research series.
History of California
California Vital Records
Census Records for California
Background Sources for California
California Maps
California Land Records
California Probate Records
California Court Records
California Tax Records
California Cemetery Records
California Church Records
California Military Records
California Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
California Archives, Libraries, and Societies
California Immigration
California Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of California
California Gold Rush
California County Resources
Map of California

  • Bancroft, Hubert Howe. The History of California: 1542'1880. San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft and Co., 1884'90. These classic volumes in California history have been republished several times by several publishers. The companion volume, California Pioneer Register and Index, 1542'1848, Including Inhabitants of California, 1769'1800 and List of Pioneers, extracted from Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of California (1884'90; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1964) is a handy reference to history and early settlers.
  • Beals, Kathleen C. A Useful Guide to Researching San Francisco Ancestry. Oakland: California Genealogical Society, 1994. This guide helps to circumvent the record loss in San Francisco County due to the 1906 earthquake and fire.
  • Close, Barbara Ross, comp. California Surname Index: Biographies From Selected Histories. Oakland: California Genealogical Society, 2000. This work indexes 18,000 biographical sketches of early Californians found in forty-two works in the California Genealogical Society's George R. Dorman Genealogical Collection.
  • Fusaolnada, Lawson, ed. Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. San Francisco: California Historical Society and Heyday Books, 2000. This work documents the history of Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor when 100,000 West Coast residents were uprooted from their homes and banished to internment camps.
  • Harlow, Neal. California Conquered: The Annexation of a Mexican Province, 1846'1850. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. The author documents the end of Mexican rule in California and the beginnings of American rule.
  • Northrop, Marie E. Spanish-Mexican Families of Early California: 1769'1850. Vol. 1. Burbank, Calif.: Southern California Genealogical Society, 1986.
  • ________. Spanish-Mexican Families of Early California, 1769'1850. Vol. 2. Burbank, Calif.: Southern California Genealogical Society, 1984. These are two excellent genealogical volumes to the early Hispanic families in Spanish California.
  • Parker, J. Carlyle. Index to Biographees [sic] in 19th Century California County Histories. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979. An excellent cross index to a large number of California's county histories.
  • Ryskamp, George R. Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. Riverside, Calif.: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984. An excellent text for tracing Hispanic ancestry including insights on early California residents.
  • Strobridge, William F. Regulars in the Redwoods: The U.S. Army in Northern California, 1852'1861. Spokane, Wash.: Arthur H. Clark, 1994. A history of the U.S. Army in Northern California between the Gold Rush and the Civil War.
  • Stein, Walter J. California and the Dust Bowl Migrations: Contributions in American History. No. 21. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973.