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Pedigree Prospects
Following the forty-niners' footsteps to California? Pack our guide to researching in sacramento, and you'll hit the genealogical mother lode.
When James Marshall found gold near a California sawmill on the morning of Jan. 24, 1848, he sparked one of the biggest migrations in American history. In the next two years, 90,000 gold seekers rushed West; by 1854, the stampede had included one in every 90 Americans. Few got rich, and many left in disillusionment, but some stayed to build new lives in towns born from gold fever. Sacramento was one such town.

Situated on the Sacramento River in northern California, Sacramento started as a home base for miners and grew with the gold rush. In 1849 alone, the population leapt from 150 to 6,000. Forces of nature — a flood, two fires and a cholera outbreak — conspired to all but wipe out the new metropolis. But Sacramento remained standing to become the capital of California.

Today, the city holds more gold for genealogists than for prospectors. In fact, hundreds of family historians will strike it rich there this spring, when Sacramento hosts the National Genealogical Society's (NGS) annual conference May 19-22. Aptly themed “A Golden Prospect,” the conference will feature lectures from leading genealogical experts — on topics from reading early American and German handwriting to drawing a land plat to using a digital camera. Learn more from the conference Web site <>.

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