California, Death Index, 1905-1939 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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Record Description

This Collection will include records from 1905 to 1939.

The collection consists of digital images of the death index located at the Office of the State Register, Sacramento, and the Butte County Courthouse, Oroville. The index is arranged alphabetically by the name of the deceased.

The counties included in this index as well as their codes are listed in the following chart. They are also found in the Catalog section "California death indexes, 1905-1988 ; 1940-1994".

Code County Code County Code County
Alameda 21 Marin 41 San Mateo
02 Alpine 22 Mariposa 42 Santa Barbara
03 Amador 23 Mendocino 43 Santa Clara
04 Butte 24 Merced 44 Santa Cruz
05 Calaveras 25 Modoc 45 Shasta
06 Colusa 26 Mono 46 Sierra
07 Contra Costa 27 Monterey 47 Siskiyou
08 Del Norte 28 Napa 48 Solano
09 El Dorado 29 Nevada 49 Sonoma
10 Fresno 30 Orange 50 Stanislaus
11 Glenn 31 Placer 51 Sutter
12 Humboldt 32 Plumas 52 Tehama
13 Imperial 33 Riverside 53 Trinity
14 Inyo 34 Sacramento 54 Tulare
15 Kern 35 San Benito 55 Tuolumne
16 Kings 36 San Bernardino 56 Ventura
17 Lake 37 San Diego 57 Yolo
18 Lassen 38 San Francisco 58 Yuba
19 Los Angeles 39 San Joaquin

20 Madera 40 San Luis Obispo

Use these codes for the following larger Cities: 60 Alameda, 70 Los Angeles, 80 San Diego, 90 San Francisco.

California began indexing death records from various counties before July 1905. California became a state in 1850 with 27 original counties. Although the state ordered the keeping of records, this order was NOT enforced and each county kept records according to the notion of the local County Recorder. Today, there are 58 counties from that original 27. Thus, some counties will have records from an earlier date than others. Very few records, if any, are available before the 1860s.

CODES for Age Unit:
1 - Years
2 - Months
3 - Days
4 - Hours
5 - Minutes
A - 100 years or over
[blank] - Unknown

Caveat: Some of the pages in the index, did not get filmed or were missing when the index was originally filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1990.

Record Content

The California Death Index record may include:

  • Name of decedent
  • Initial(s) of spouse
  • Age (coded Units of Age)
  • Sex
  • County of death (coded by County and larger Cities)
  • Date of death
  • Date of registration
  • State file number

An explanation of the information found on the index, including the keys to the codes used for the units of age and place of death, can be found at this link.  NOTE: Some county codes erroneously include their larger city code. For example: Alameda (County) should be 01; Alameda (City) is 60.

How to Use the Record

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • Name
  • Identifying information such as age or death date and place

Search the Collection

To search the collection fill in the requested information in the boxes on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at the information on several individuals comparing the information about them to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names, or variations of their name, throughout their life.
  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

To search the collection image by image select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page:
⇒Select the appropriate "Year Range"
⇒Select the appropriate "Surname Range" which will take you to the images.

Search the collection by image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

Using the Information

When you have located your ancestor’s death record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. For example:

  • Use the death date to obtain a death certificate.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find or verify their birth records and parents' names.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents (if the deceased is a child) to locate church and land records.
  • Use the parents' birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • The name of the undertaker or mortuary could lead you to funeral and cemetery records, which often include the names and residences of other family members.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the deceased who may have died or been buried in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • Remember that indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
  • Occupations listed can lead you to employment records or other types of records such as military records.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

Known Issues with This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

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How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citations for this Collection

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information; that is, cite your sources. This will help people find the record again and evaluate the reliability of the source. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records. Citations are available for the collection as a whole and each record or image individually.

Collection Citation:

"California, Death Index, 1905-1939." Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2015. Citing Department of Health Services. Vital Statistics Department, Sacramento.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for California, Death Index, 1905-1939.


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  • This page was last modified on 7 October 2015, at 02:19.
  • This page has been accessed 68,324 times.