1542-1812: Spain, Mexico, England, and Russia made various claims to California, but most settlements were Spanish.
1769: The first permanent settlement was made by the Spanish in the San Diego Bay area.
1821: Spain granted Mexico its independence. California was included with Mexico.
1841: Americans began traveling overland to California.
1846: War broke out between the United States and Mexico. U.S. settlers in California set up a republic.
1848: Mexico ceded California to the United States. Gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill.
1849: The Gold Rush attracted over 100,000 people to California.
1850: California became the 31st state
1869: Completion of the transcontinental railroad gave California a direct connection with the East. Great numbers of Chinese were imported to work on this railroad.
1884-1885: A railroad rate war (1884) and a California real estate boom (1885) caused a new wave of overland immigration.
The Family History Library has numerous state and local histories by James M. Guinn and other authors. Sources for studying the history of California include:
Bancroft, Hubert H. ed. History of California. Six Volumes. San Francisco, California: A. L. Bancroft and Company, 1884-90. (FHL book 979.4 B4b Volumes 1-6; film 982473 items 1-2, Volumes 1-2; items 3-5, Volumes 4-6; film 1321070 item 4, Volume 3.) There is an index in 979.4 B4b which covers 1542 to 1859.
Chapman, Charles E. A History of California: The Spanish Period. New York, New York: Macmillan, 1921. (FHL fiche 6051216.)
Hunt, Rockwell Dennis. California and Californians. Four Volumes. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company, 1932. (FHL book 979.4 H2h; film 1000092 items 1-4.) Volumes 3 and 4 contain biographical material. All four volumes are online at www.ancestry.com. ($)
A bibliography of local histories for California is Margaret M. Rocq, California Local History: A Bibliography and Union List of Library Holdings, Second Edition. (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1970; FHL book 979.4 H23r; supplement, 1961 to 1970, is 979.4 H23r Supp.; 1950 ed. is on film 1000136 item 3).