Posted in California, Family History Library, Familysearch, Websites

Wild West Digitized: California records

Records for the Western States are being digitized and put online at a rapid pace, and it is an exciting time to discover more about your Wild West ancestors.  Familysearch ( is leading the charge in access to free records. The content comes from over 3 million microfilms at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

I will be posting lists of records they have made available for Western States research, but check back often because each week new collections come online. Here are some great resources for California research:

California Records on as of 17 Jul 2013
California Records on as of 17 Jul 2013
California collections at as of 17 Jul 2013
California collections at as of 17 Jul 2013

A camera icon means a digital image of the actual record is available.

“Browse Images” means the collection has not been indexed yet, but it can be searched. Don’t let that scare you off.  The collections are usually organized in a way – alphabetically or chronologically – that helps you find what you are looking for.

A number in the “records” column means the collection has been indexed and is searchable through the search template.

No camera icon means there are no digital images of actual records, but you will see an abstract of most pertinent information contained in the record.

And here’s a tip for you:  Click on the column headings to sort by

1) Title

2) Number of records in the collections

3) Date the collections were updated

This is handy if you just want to know when the latest additions to the collections were made, or what is completely new.  You can also see which collections are the largest and which have recently been indexed.

One of my go-to collections for California is the California Birth Index, 1905-1995, because it provides the mother’s maiden name:

California Birth Index, 1905-1995, on, Millard Gooch entry
California Birth Index, 1905-1995, on, Millard Gooch entry

I also like the California Death Index, 1905-1939.  Did you know only has the CA Death Index, 1940-1997?  Most people don’t realize the Familysearch record goes all the way back to 1905.  It is not indexed yet, but is arranged alphabetically.  Here is what it looks like:

CA Death Index, 1905-1939, on
CA Death Index, 1905-1939, on

And Matilda Lurch is nearly as good a name as Millard Gooch, don’t you think?  Good thing they didn’t marry!

To find these records on, click on “Search“:

FS records search

And at the bottom of the page click on “United States” and then California:

FS records search 2

Stay tuned for lists of other states’ digitized records found on Familysearch.  I know I have been blogging a lot about FS recently, but there is a lot going on there I want to share with you. Ahhh, so much to learn!


I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

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