California Fast Facts and Key Resources

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

Fast Facts

  • Statehood: 1850First federal census: 1850
  • Available state census: 1852 (1849 for US territory census)
  • Statewide birth and death records begin: 1905
  • Statewide marriage records begin: 1905
  • Public-land state
  • Counties: 58 (27 original counties)
  • Contact for vital records: California Department of Health Services, Office of Vital Records, MS 5103, Box 997410, Sacramento, CA 95899, (916) 445-2684

Key Resources




  • The California Indians: A Source Book edited by Robert Fleming Heizer (University of California Press)
  • California Pioneer Register and Index, 1542-1848 by Hubert H. Bancroft (Janaway Publishing)
  • California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names by Erwin G. Gudde and William Bright (University of California Press)
  • Rush for Riches: Gold Fever and the Making of California by J.S. Holiday (University of California Press)
  • Spanish Mexican Families of Early California by Marie E. Northrop (Southern California Genealogical Society

Archives & Organizations


1542: Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrives in San Diego

Sir Francis Drake lands north of San Francisco and claims the territory for England

Father Junipero establishes California’s first mission, San Diego de Alcala

Russian fur traders found Fort Ross in what’s now Sonoma County

1821: Mexico wins independence from Spain and takes control of California

1846: Americans establish California Republic

1860: The Pony Express arrives in Sacramento

1887: Prohibitionist Horace Wilcox founds Hollywood

1910: Angel Island immigration station opens

1937: Golden Gate Bridge is completed

1967: Up to 100,000 converge on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district for the Summer of Love

1989: The 7.1-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake hits San Francisco

Modern County Boundaries Map



From the January/February 2017 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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