California Research Tips and Strategies

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Research Tips and Strategies

California Research Strategies

Below are links to different research strategy pages to help you locate your ancestors in California:

California Online Genealogy Records
How to find California Birth Records
How to find California Marriage Records
How to find California Death Records

California Research Tips

These tips will help you as you research your ancestors in California.

  • Birth information: Birth records in California start on the county level in 1905 - although not all counties complied with the law. The best substitute record for locating birth information is death records (the majority of death records will list the date of birth of the decedent, and since death certificates are considered a primary resource, they can provide you with the same documentation as a birth certificate). Or, try these other substitute records.
  • Finding Parents: The State of California began recording deaths in 1905. They often will list the parents of the deceased and their birth information. Search California death records
  • Look in all censuses: Always look for your ancestor in every possible census. There are clues regarding immigration, naturalization, and occupation that can lead to other records. Sometimes parents can be found living with their children later in life. Search U.S. Censuses.
  • Marriage Records.  To see a coverage map of FamilySearch's holdings of California county marriage records, click here.

California Record Finder

This Record Finder is designed to help you determine the best record to search for the type of information you are looking for. It is most helpful for post-1850 research.

1. What you are looking for: 2. Try these records first: 3. Other useful records
Birth information Birth records, Death records, Obituaries, Church records Cemeteries, Naturalization and Citizenship, Bible records, Military records (pension)
Marriage information Marriage records, Obituaries, Bible records Church records, Probate records, Military records
Death information Death Records, Cemeteries, Obituaries Probate Records, Church Records, Bible Records
Parents Birth recordsDeath records, Obituaries, Census, Church records Biography, Genealogy
Maiden name Marriage Records, Obituaries, Probate records Church Records, Military Records (pension)
Immigration date Emigration and Immigration, Naturalization and Citizenship, Census Obituaries, Biography, History
Naturalization Naturalization and Citizenship, Census, Court Records Voting Registers, Biography, Periodicals
Physical description Military Records, Naturalization and Citizenship (after 1906) Biography, History

Further California Research

For more research on California, including research at the county level, visit the California page on the Research Wiki.

Search all of the California record collections at FamilySearch.