Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find birth, death, and marriage records?

Options for researching vital records in California are as follows:

  • Place of event is known: If you know where the event took place, you may receive quicker service by contacting the County Recorder directly. California Counties' websites are available online.
  • Events after July 1, 1905, place of event unknown: The California Department of Public Health has been filing and indexing copies of birth, death, and marriage records since 1905. For information about obtaining a certified copy of an event which took place after July 1, 1905, contact the California Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Records – MS 5103, P.O. Box 997410, Sacramento, CA 95899–7410 or telephone (916) 445–2684 for information about fees and turnaround times. California Department of Public Health also maintains a website. It is not necessary to know where the event took place since the agency maintains a statewide index.
  • Events before July 1, 1905: For birth, death, and marriage records dating from before July 1, 1905, you must contact the county recorder in the county where the event took place since records are not available at the state level. In addition, many birth, death, and marriage records dating before 1905 have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and should be available through your local LDS Family History Center. The California State Archives maintains only pre–1905 vital statistics from a few counties.

 

Does the California State Archives have old newspapers?

Newspapers are published materials often available through public libraries. The State Archives collects primarily unpublished, state agency records with historical or legal value. The California State Library, California History Room, however, maintains a comprehensive collection of California newspapers including long runs of at least one title from each county. A large portion of the collection is available on microfilm and may be borrowed through interlibrary loan. They may be contacted at P.O. Box 942837, Sacramento, CA 94237–0001, telephone (916) 654–0176 or for more information visit the California State Library website. Some California newspapers can also be accessed online through the California Digital Newspaper Collection.

 

Can the California State Archives help me find a missing person?

While the California State Archives' collections do include some information concerning individuals, we do not possess a personal name index to our holdings. It is difficult for us to assist in locating information about someone without knowing what state agency may have maintained such information. In addition, the records we have are typically older and do not contain current information. There are, however, a variety of resources for finding missing persons available on the Internet. A number of commercial websites offer people search services: Yahoo's People Search, Switchboard, and WhoWhere. In some cases, the Salvation Army Missing Persons Service will assist people in locating family members. The Social Security Administration will forward letters to missing persons; check out Social Security Administration online for more detail.

 

Does the California State Archives have records of military service?

The California State Archives contains State Militia and California National Guard unit records from 1849 to 1945. Most records for U.S. Military service are housed at the National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records), 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132–5100. These records pertain to officers separated after June 30, 1917, and enlisted personnel separated after October 31, 1912. Earlier records are preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration, Textual Archives Services Division, Washington, D.C. 20408.

 

Where can I get a copy of a legislative bill or a law?

Full text of legislative bills as introduced and amended is provided by the California Legislative Counsel's website. Bills are available for the current legislative session and several prior sessions (1993 to present). Copies of laws may be obtained from another Legislative Counsel website (California Codes). Legislative bills and California Codes can also be found at the California State Library, Witkin State Law Library, P.O. Box 942837, Sacramento, CA 94237–0001, telephone: (916) 654–0185, email: csllaw@library.ca.gov, or at many county law libraries and major university libraries. The State Archives no longer maintains a bill service which provides free copies of bills in all their amended forms. However, we can photocopy California Codes and Statutes at a cost of $0.25 per page.