California State Census, 1852 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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California State Census, 1852 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
California, United States
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Flag of California
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Location of California
Record Description
Record Type State Census
Collection years 1852
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites



What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of a name index of population schedules listing the inhabitants of the state of California in 1852.

The first federal census of California was taken in 1850. However, many of the residents had come to California because of the Gold Rush and were continually on the move. This made the accuracy of the 1850 census questionable. In addition, the records for the counties of Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Santa Clara were lost or destroyed. As a result, the State of California conducted its own census in 1852. This is the only state census for California.

The census was compiled to obtain an accurate count of the population of the state. Accuracy of the information in the census is determined by the accuracy of the knowledge of the informant, which could have been any member of the family or even a neighbor. As stated in Collection History, some information in this census was deliberately falsified.

Collection Content

The biographical information found in this census is the following:

  • Date and place of census
  • Name of each person
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Place of birth
  • Estimated year of birth
  • Whether or not a citizen
  • Number of Whites by gender and if over 21
  • Number of Negros by gender and if over 21
  • Number of Mulatos by gender and if over 21
  • Number of Domesticated Indians by gender and if over 21
  • Number of Foreign Residents by gender and if over 21

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • Name of your ancestor
  • Identifying information such as age, birth date or birth place

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information 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 compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor. 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 video at FamilySearch Search Tips.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor in the census, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. For example:

  • Use the age listed to determine an approximate birth date. This date along with the place of birth can help you find a birth record. Birth records often list biographical and marital details about the parents and close relatives other than the immediate family.
  • Use the race information to find records related to that ethnicity such as records of the Freedman’s Bureau or Indian censuses.
  • Use the citizenship and last residence information to find their naturalization papers in the county court records. It can also help you locate immigration records such as a passenger list, which would usually be kept with records at the port of entry into the United States.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Birthplaces can tell you former residences and can help to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • Occupations listed can lead you to employment records or other types of records such as school records; children’s occupations are often listed as “at school.”
  • It is often helpful to extract the information on all families with the same surname in the same general area. If the surname is uncommon, it is likely that those living in the same area were related.
  • Be sure to extract all families before you look at other records. The relationships given will help you to organize family groups. The family groupings will help you identify related families when you discover additional information in other records.
  • Married family members may have lived nearby but in a separate household, so you may want to search an entire town, neighboring towns, or even a county.
  • You may be able to identify an earlier generation if elderly parents were living with or close by a married child.
  • You may be able to identify a younger generation if a young married couple still lived with one of their sets of parents.
  • Additional searches may be needed to locate all members of a particular family in the census.
  • You should also be aware that the census may identify persons for whom other records do not exist.

What If I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for another index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • 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.
  • There is also the possibility that a family was missed in the census.

For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records).


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 State Census, 1852." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing Legislature. State Archives, 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 State Census, 1852.

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.