Genealogy in the California History Section

The California State Library houses a treasure trove of genealogical information including census data, obituaries and even portraits! Our vast collections of rare genealogy publications, city directories and unique indexes make this library a must-stop for any genealogist. In addition to our general California history materials, we provide specialized California genealogy resources such the following:

  Indexes

To help our researchers, we have created or obtained a wide variety of indexes that list individuals. You can see the records for many of these by consulting our county genealogy indexes page, as well as our Unique Indexes and Files page.

  Research Guides

The tireless staff in the California History Room have created a set of research guides that will get you started on researching genealogy, including genealogy for specific ethnicities and genealogy for specific locations using our collection of over 200 years of California history!

  Directories

With over 4,500 items covering every county in California, if you are researching a Californian, chances are good their name, address and occupation will appear either in our city and county directories or in our phonebooks! You can search our databases to determine if we have the specific directory you need, and in what format (paper, microfilm or microfiche) it appears.

  Newspapers and Obituaries

Dating back to 1846, our newspaper collection consists of more than 2,200 titles and includes long runs of at least one title from each of the 58 counties. In them, you can find obituaries, birth and marriage notices and much more! You can browse our newspaper holdings by county on our California newspapers page. To obtain obituaries, you can request that one of these newspapers be sent to your local library in the United States or Canada.

  Images

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and there is nothing like the image of an ancestor to draw familial connections. What is more, our massive portrait collection might contain one or two images of your California ancestors. Even if you don’t find that, you might find an image of where they lived. You can find out more about our collection on our California images page.

  Census Data and Vital Records

As an active collector of all things California history, the California History Room features a set of California voter registers and California census data for various dates. We also provide access to death, birth, marriage and divorce indexes for selected dates which you can use to help you request marriage, birth, divorce and death certificates from the Center for Health Statistics and Informatics and various county offices. Please contact us for further details.

All of our branches provide in-house access to a number of databases including genealogy databases.

The California State Library is happy to offer advice on researching family history but we lack the staff resources to provide private family research services. If you are working remotely, we would be delighted to help you access materials through inter-library loan or provide a list of private researchers. Please feel free to ask us a question or visit the library.