California Genealogy Resources

California is a big state with an interesting history and many stories, from the Mission founders along the Camino Real to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the ’49 Gold Rush to Hollywood and early life in the SoCal citrus belt. These stories beg for photos to properly tell them.

There are no libraries with digital family history-related records available on line, with the exception of catalog holdings, that I have been able to find. There are a number of sites, though, with rich images that tell the history of California.

If your ancestors lived in California at one time, there may well be images to tell the stories of their lives here.

First, there is an excellent digital collection of historic California newspapers, some of which might help replace missing vital records.

The California Digital Newspaper Collection from UC-Riverside. Issues available span the time period from 1846-2012.

Second, there are multiple sources of digitized historical images relating to California history.

Los Angeles Public Library – LAPL has an online visual collection, which includes varied categories such as California Index, City and Street Directories, Fruit Crate Labels (a big industry in early Southern California), Movie Posters, Photo Collection and El Pueblo Photo Archive, among others.

Online Archive of California – Don’t be misled by the very limiting looking six little eyes denoting on line collections. The Guide to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Digital Collection alone currently has 8,920 images in it. If your family was in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake, this collection is a gold mine for you.

Pomona Public Library features a strong digital collection of  material relating to Pomona’s history

San Diego History Center features a photograph collection of people and places in San Diego history.

San Francisco Public Library – There is an online collection of browsable images divided into categories that appear to relate mostly to northern California. One category is a span of years from the 1850s to the 1990s.

Each of these colleges and universities has a large digital collection with items ranging from academia to California-related history. Browse each to see if there are items related to your families’ lives.

CSU – Chico Digital Collection

CSU – Northridge Oviatt Library Digital Collections

San Diego State University Digital Collection – This one mostly keeps a focus on San Diego

San Jose State University King Library Digital Collections

UCB – Bancroft Library California Heritage Collection at Berkeley



USC Digital Library


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