California County Resources

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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
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


The following is a listing of the extant vital, land, probate, and court records for each county. Some counties encompass land settled in the eighteenth century; their records pre-date county formation. Land transactions and vital records recorded in the county are at the county recorder’s office. The county clerk generally has probate books and files from the county’s superior court, civil court records, and naturalizations. Divorces may be in either place, depending on how they were filed.

The California State Archives and the FHL both have microfilms of selected county records. Current information for county offices can be found at www.state.ca.us/state/portal/myca_hompage.jsp and the California Association of Counties website at www.csac.counties.org.

California’s records are fairly complex, due in part to the nature of how counties were formed. Land was often added to the different counties several times for years after a county was formed. It is therefore an extremely subjective process to determine a beginning date for California’s early records, a process that is complicated by the changes in jurisdiction during the territorial period, Mexican period, and the Spanish period, which all generated records. The result is that any inventory of beginning dates for county records will vary depending on how a county record is defined.

To address this problem, several published sources and Internet sites were consulted and compared to verify the county list that follows, including the following references:

  • Coy, Owen C. California County Boundaries: A Study of the Division of the State into Counties and the Subsequent Changes in Their Boundaries. Berkeley: California Historical Survey Commission, 1923.
  • ———. Guide to the County Archives of California. Sacramento: California State Printing Office, 1919.
  • Sperling, Muriel. Sources of Genealogical Help in California. Burbank, Calif.: The Southern California Genealogical Society, 1990. Reprinted 2000.
  • Nicklas, Laurie. The California Locator: A Directory of Public Records for Locating People Dead or Alive in California. Modesto, Calif.: Nicklas Publishing Co., 1996.


Map County County Address Date Formed Parent County(ies) Birth Marriage Death Land Probate Court
D6 Alameda 1221 Oak St Ste 536, Oakland 94612-4224 1853 Contra Costa/ Santa Clara 1873 18531859185318531853
D4 Alpine 99 Water St/ P.O. Box 158, Markleeville 91620-0158 1864 El Dorado/Amador/ Calaveras/ Tuolumne 1873 18641864186418641864
C8 Amador 500 Argonaut Lane, Jackson 95642-6470 1854 Calaveras/El Dorado 1873 18541873185418541854
Land from El Dorado was added in 1855 and again in 1857 and 1863
Branciforte (renamed Santa Cruz in 1850) original
C2 Butte 25 County Center Dr, Oroville 95965-3316 1850 original 1859 18511859184618501850
C8 Calaveras 891 Mountain Ranch Road, San Adreas 95249-9713 1850 original 1858 18541858185018661850
A6 Colusa 546 Jay St, Colusa 95932-2400 1850 original 1873 18731873184418511851
Attached to Butte County for administration until it was organized in 1851. Land was later added from counties Yolo (1851), Butte (1856) , and Sutter (1856) .
D6 Contra Costa 651 Pine St. Rm 106, Martinez 94553-1229 1850 original 1850 18501850185018501850
A1 Del Norte 555 H St, Crescent City 95531 1857 Klamath 1873 18571873185318481848
Land was later added from counties Siskiyou (1887) and Humboldt (1901) .
B8 El Dorado 330 Fair Lane, Placerville 95667-4103 1850 original 1878 18511907185118501850
Land from Placer County was added in 1863
G3 Fresno 2281 Tulare St, Fresno 93721 1856 Mariposa/Merced/Tulare 1873 18561873185618801856
Land was later added from counties Merced (1856) and Tulare (1856)
C2 Glenn 526 W Sycamore St, Willows 95988-2746 1891 Colusa 1895 18911891189118911891
Land from Mendocino County was added in 1907.
A1 Humboldt 825 Fifth St, Eureka 95501-1153 1853 Trinity 1873 18641873187418531853
Land was later added from counties Mendocino (1860), Klamath (1875), and Del Norte (1901) .
G6 Inyo 168 N Edwards St, Independence 93526 1866 Tulare/Mono 1905 18731905186618661866
Land was later added from counties Mono (1870) San Bernardino (1872) , and Kern (1872) .
H5 Kern 1115 Truxton Ave, Bakersfield 93301-4617 1866 Tulare/Los Angeles 1850 18501850185018661866
Land from San Luis Obispo was added in 1866.
G4 Kings 1400 W Lacy Blvd, Hanford 93230-5905 1893 Tulare 1893 18931893189318931893
Land from Fresno County was added in 1909.
Klamath 1851 Trinity
Abolished 1874; parts annexed to Humboldt and Siskiyou.
C1 Lake 255 N Forbes St, Lakeport 95453-4759 1861 Napa 1867 18671867186718671867
Land was later added from counties Mendocino (1864) and Calusa (1868).
A3 Lassen 221 S. Roop St, Susanville 96130 1864 Plumas/Shasta 1864 18641874185718641863
Land from Plumas County was added in 1872.
J5 Los Angeles 500 W Temple St, Los Angeles 90012-2713 1850 original 1849 18501874185018501850
Land was later added from counties Mariposa (1851) and Santa Barbara (1851) .
F4 Madera 209 W Yosemite Ave, ,Madera 93637-3534 1893 Fresno 1883 18931892189318931893
D1 Marin Civic Center, Rm 329, San Raphael 94903 1850 original 1868 18571873183418501850
E4 Mariposa 5100 Bullion St, Mariposa 95338 1850 original 1873 18511873185018501850
C1 Mendocino 501 Low Gap Rd, Ukiah 95482-3734 1850 original 1859 18591859185218541858
Attached to Sonoma County from administrative purposes until 1859 .
F3 Merced 2222 M St, Merced 95340-3729 1855 Mariposa 1873 18551889185618551855
A4 Modoc 204 Court St, Alturas 96101 1874 Siskiyou 1894 18741882187418741874
E5 Mono P.O. Box 715, Bridgeport 93517 1861 Calaveras/Fresno/Mariposa 1873 18621877186118641864
Land from Amador County was added in 1866 .
G2 Monterey 240 Church St, Salinas 93901-2695 1850 original1824 188718871850*18501850
*Alcalde records from 1781. See Land Records. Land from San Luis Obispo was added in 1863 and 1872 .
C6 Napa 1195 Third St Rm 310, Napa 94559-3035 1850 original1868 18501873184818511849
Land was added from counties Lake (1872) and Solano (1855)
A8 Nevada 950 Maidu Ave, Nevada City 95959-8617 1851 Yuba1873 18561873185618561856
Land was added from counties Yuba (1852) and Sierra (1856) .
K5 Orange 10 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana 92701-4017 1889 Los Angeles1887 18891889188918891889
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