Census Records 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
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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
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California Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
California Archives, Libraries, and Societies
California Immigration
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Ethnic Groups of California
California Gold Rush
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Map of California


Population Schedules

• Indexed'1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930

• Soundex'1880, 1900, 1910 (Miracode), 1920

Industry and Agriculture Schedules

• 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Mortality Schedules

• 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

The California State Library is a repository for the microfilm of California original federal censuses. The California State Archives (see California Archives, Libraries, and Societies) holds the original state copies for the federal 1860 and 1880 population schedules. Both repositories and the California Genealogical Society have microfilm copies of the state's federal censuses.

Missing from the 1850 federal census are the population schedules for Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties, making the 1852 state census (see below) even more useful.

Mission and State

Censuses were taken for the following missions: San Carlos (1796), San Luis Obispo (1797, 1798), San Antonio (1798), and Soledad (1798). They are all in original form at the California State Archives. They have been reprinted in Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, volumes 41'43.

The California Constitution of 1849 provided for a census of the state population in the years 1852 and 1855 and each succeeding ten years thereafter. The census of 1852, similar to the 1850 federal census but using an additional column showing the prior residence of each person, was the only one actually taken. The original returns for 1852 are in the California State Archives with microfilm at the California State Library and the FHL. The constitution was altered in 1879 to provide for the use of the federal census in the matter of apportioning the state for legislative representation.

A few cities and towns have special censuses for California through the twentieth century. The California State Archives has a listing of its holdings in this category.

Voter Lists

At Ancestry.com, subscribers can access a list of voter registrations at California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968.

External Links

  • California Census Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing California census records. Identifies federal, state, and territorial censuses, as well as substitute records (FamilySearch Research Wiki).