California Death Index 1905-1939 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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California, Death Index, 1905-1939 .
This article describes a collection of records at
California, United States
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Location of California
Record Description
Record Type Death Index
Collection years 1905-1939
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of digital images of the California Death Index for the years 1905 to 1939. The index is arranged alphabetically by the name of the deceased and includes: initials of spouse, social security number (if known), code number of county where death occurred, date of death, registrar number and state file number. The code for the age unit is listed as follows:
1 - Years
2 - Months
3 - Days
4 - Hours
5 - Minutes
A - 100 years or over
[blank] - Unknown

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

Place of death or county where death occurred is given in code as listed in the following chart. Larger cities have the following separate codes: 60 Alameda, 70 Los Angeles, 80 San Diego, 90 San Francisco.

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

These indexes are also found in the Family History Library Catalog "California death indexes, 1905-1988 ; 1940-1994" with digital images available for the years 1905 to 1939 under File Notes section by clicking on the camera icons.

To Browse this Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for California Death Index, 1905-1939.

Collection Content

Sample Image

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

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 Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know at least some of the following:

  • The name of your ancestor.
  • The approximate death date.
  • The place of death.
  • The names of relatives or a spouse.

Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information in the list to what you already know about your ancestor to determine if it is the correct family or person. You may need to compare several persons in the list before you find your ancestor.

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Pagethen:
⇒Select the appropriate "Year Range"
⇒Select the appropriate "Surname Range"

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

What Do I Do Next?

Whenever possible, view the original records to verify the information and to find additional information that might not be reported. These pieces of information can lead you to additional records and family members.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use the death date, place, and certificate number listed to obtain a death certificate from the County recorder.
  • Use the residence to find the family in census records which can identify more family members.
  • Use the social security number, if given, to locate social security documents which may give the name of a spouse or birthplace.
  • 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 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.
  • Remember that indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

I Can’t Find Who I’m Looking for, What Now?

  • Try viewing the original record to see if there were errors in the transcription of the name, age, residence, etc. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • Collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you identify possible relations that can be verified by records.
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby locality in an area search.
  • Standard spelling of names typically did not exist during the periods our ancestors lived in. Try variations of your ancestor’s name while searching the index or browsing through images.
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names. Try searching for these names as well.
  • Search the indexes and records of California, United States Genealogy.
  • Search in the California Archives and Libraries.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"California Death Index, 1905-1939." Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2017. 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.

Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for California, Death Index, 1905-1939.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

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