The California State Archives is a rich resource for those who are researching their family history. Many records exist that can provide information about individuals. Please note that while the State Archives is not the official repository for vital records in California, those are kept both the County and the California Department of Health, the California State Archives does have a limited amount of vital records from a limited set of counties that are available for research. For more information on accessing birth, death or marriage records in California see our Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

Those County records, as well as a variety of state agency records, are excellent resources for the family historian. Our collections contain microfilmed copies and original records from 28 of California's counties including probate, marriage, birth, death, and naturalization records.

State agency collections of interest to genealogists include records of the California National Guard (1849–1942), Folsom and San Quentin Prisons (1850–1945), early California Youth Authority records (1891–1932), Yountville Veteran's Home Registers (1884–1910), and various professional and vocational licensing boards (1885–1968).

Census books in the California State Archives' stacks.

Also housed at the Archives is the genealogy library of the Root Cellar–Sacramento Genealogical Society, which is open to the public and staffed by volunteers several days each week.

Records marked with an asterisk (*) may contain restricted documents. Please consult the Reference Archivist for more information. Records more than 75 years old are open without restriction.

You can also view talks from our archivists on African American Genealogical Records at the California State Archives at the bottom of this page.


Census Schedules 1852 State, 1860 and 1880 Federal

Filed alphabetically by county name. Includes name, age, sex, occupation, birthplace and last residence. Indexes available.

County Records 1850–1987

Includes probate court case files, wills, naturalizations, deeds, homesteads, and vital records for 28 counties. Not all records are available for all counties.

View our Local Government Records at the California State Archives video that describes different types of local government records and their digitization on the website.

Mental Health Records* 1856–1934

Records may include patient registers and case files for Agnews (located in Santa Clara), DeWitt (located in Auburn), Mendocino, Modesto, Sonoma and Stockton State Hospitals. Some indexes are available.

Military Records 1850–1942

Includes organization papers, muster rolls, and other records relating to Independent Militia Units, Indian Wars, Civil War, Spanish–American War, World War I and II. Name indexes available for Independent Militia Units, 1851–1866 and Civil War Volunteers, 1861–1867. For United States military records contact the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

View our video: Military Records at the California State Archives (1850-1940) to learn about how to search for military records at our archives. 

Prison Records* 1850–1979

Includes San Quentin and Folsom prison registers, inmate photographs, inmate case files (samples only) and pardon files. Name indexes, 1850–1979. Also available are Youth Authority registers and some case files for Whittier (1891–1948), Ventura (1909–1963, girls), and Preston (1894–1914); names indexes are available for records dated through 1930.

Supreme and Appellate Court Cases 1850–1970

Filed numerically by case number. Includes briefs, transcripts and opinions. Plaintiff and defendant name indexes, 1850–1930, are available.

Common School Reports 1862–1960

Filed chronologically by school year and then alphabetically by county name. Includes school districts, student attendance figures, grade taught, length of school year, school finances, names of teachers and condition of schools.

Articles of Incorporation 1850–1959

Filed alphabetically by company name. Includes company name, purpose, place of business, names of officers and amount of capital invested.

Trademarks 1861–date

Filed numerically by trademark number and chronologically by date of filing. Includes name of claimant, type of product, label specimen or written description and occasionally business address. Claimant and trademark name indexes available.

Department of Professional and Vocational Standards/Consumer Affairs – Licensing Files* 1885–1968

Filed by type of profession and then alphabetically by name. Includes biographical data, letters, photographs, newspaper clippings relating to: Architectural Examiners, 1901–1947; Civil and Professional Engineers, 1930–1966; Cosmetologists, 1928–1960; Dental Examiners, 1885–1959; Medical Examiners, 1902–1981; Pharmacy Board, 1894–1994; Chiropractic Examiners, 1928–2000; and Social Work Examiners, 1940–1967.

African American Genealogical Records at the California State Archives Talk

This presentation was originally recorded for the 2022 African American Family History Seminar sponsored by the Greater Sacramento African American Genealogy Society.

  1. African American Genealogical Records at the California State Archives - part 1
  2. African American Genealogical Records at the California State Archives - part 2
  3. African American Genealogical Records at the California State Archives - part 3
  4. African American Genealogical Records at the California State Archives - part 4