California Archives, Libraries, and Societies

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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford, Thelma Berkey Walsmith, and Nell Sachse Woodard in 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

California State Archives, Office of Secretary of State

1020 O St., Rm. 130
Sacramento, CA 95814

The collections in the California State Archives are indicated in various sections in the preceding pages and in the California County Resources section (see page 79). The website has a link for family history resources.

California State Library

Library and Courts Bldg. 1
914 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814

The library’s website provides access to its catalog and electronic databases and a “California Library Directory” that draws from academic, special, state, state agencies, public, and county law libraries. In addition to the materials already described above, its genealogy collections include:

Pioneer Record File: biographical material on Californians who came before 1860—information submitted by the actual pioneers or by their descendants. Biographical files: California artists, authors, actors, and musicians along with material on California political leaders. Directories: a large collection of city, county (from the 1850s) and telephone directories (from 1897).

Sutro Library

California State Library (Sutro Branch) 480 Winston Dr. San Francisco, CA 94132 This branch of the California State Library differs from the main library in Sacramento in its major focus on genealogical research, including material beyond California. See the main website above.

California Historical Society

678 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94105 Some of the extensive collections on California history are described above, including the quarterly publication California History. California Genealogical Society and Library 1611 Telegraph Ave., Ste. 100 Oakland, CA 94612-2154 The society’s library resources are extensive for California as well as for other states. The website has current links to genealogy societies and research libraries throughout the state.

University of California

Bancroft Library Berkeley, CA 94720 The vast manuscript collection includes considerable material on California’s history.

Los Angeles Public Library

History and Genealogy Department 630 W. 5th St. Los Angeles, California 90071 With more than 40,000 volumes, including 10,000 genealogies, the library’s website includes a family name index to the History and Genealogy collection.

Chinese Historical Society

965 Clay St. San Francisco, CA 94108 Dedicated to the study and preservation of Chinese American history, the society offers a learning center, programs for children, and an extensive calendar of activities related to cultural history.

Two additional sources are the Family History Centers, branches of the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Centers in Los Angeles (10741 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, CA 90025 <>) and in Oakland (Temple Hill Family History Center, 4766 Lincoln Ave., Oakland, CA 94602 <>) are among the largest libraries within the FHL system. Collections include material not at the FHL in Salt Lake City.