California Counties and Historical Facts

California Counties records can vary vastly from county to county both in quality and quantity. Some happen to have been carefully maintained while others have been substantially misused and overlooked.

A certain amount of California records have simply disappeared. For genealogists carrying out research in California there’s no effective substitute to have an on-site search of county court house records.

California Counties – When California gained its statehood on September 9, 1850, it had 27 original counties. There are currently 58 California counties.

Some counties encompass land settled in the eighteenth century; their records pre-date county formation.

Land transactions and vital records recorded in the county are at the county recorder’s office.

The county clerk general has probate books and files from the county’s superior court, civil court records, and naturalization’s.

Divorces may be in either place, depending on how filed. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.

List of California Extinct Counties

California has counties that no longer are in existence.

A lot of these counties were established and disbanded within the 19th century; county borders have modified very little since 1900 in the vast most of states.

List of California Counties with Burned Courthouses

California burned county courthouse
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The damage to California courthouses considerably has a bearing on genealogists in just about every way.

Not only are these types of historic buildings torn from all of our lifetimes, so are the archives they stored: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others.

Once destroyed they’re destroyed permanently. Despite the fact that they have already been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn as well.

The most tragic aspect of this is the reason why almost all of our courthouses are destroyed as a result of arsonist.

Although, not all the records were damaged or lost. Many California counties have experienced a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Amador Co. Courthouse – Courthouse destroyed by fire in 1862. Some records were destroyed.
  • Del Norte Co. Courthouse– The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1948. Some early records were destroyed.
  • El Dorado Co. Courthouse – A fire in 1910 & 1920 destroyed most courthouse records. For probate records prior to 1951, write County Nuseum, 100 Placerville
    Drive, Placerville, California 95667; for probate after 1951, write to Judicial Section, 495 Main Street, Placerville,
    California 95667.
  • Inyo Co. Courthouse – was destroyed by an earthquake March 26, 1872. On June 30, 1886 a fire broke out in a vacant building in Independence and destroyed thirty-eight buildings. Although the county records and most of the furniture were saved, the courthouse was one of the buildings destroyed.
  • Lake Co. Courthouse – courthouse in Lakeport burned down in 1867. All earlier records were destroyed.
  • Madera Co. Courthouse – A fire on Christmas Eve 1906 destroyed the upper floors and tower.
  • Nevada Co. Courthouse – The first courthouse was damaged by fire in 1856. Fire again damaged the courthouse in 1863.
  • Sacramento Co. Courthouse– The first courthouse, built in 1851, became the Capitol in 1854 and was destroyed in a fire that same year.
  • San Francisco Co. Courthouse – Courthouse and all records were destroyed in the great earthquake and fire of 1906.
  • Santa Clara Co. Courthouse – May 18, 1931, a fire quickly spread through the courthouse, causing extensive damage.
  • Shasta Co. Courthouse – All records were destroyed in the great fire of June 14th, 1853
  • Sierra Co. Courthouse – Fire in 1947 destroyed courthouse. No records were lost
  • Sonoma Co. Courthouse – was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. Minor record Loss.
  • Sutter Co. Courthouse – The Courthhouse was destroyed by fire in 1871. A second and larger courthouse, completed in 1873, was also set fire.

List of California Counties

CountyDate FormedParent CountyCounty Seat
Alameda1853Contra Costa and Santa Clara CountiesOakland
Alpine1864Amador, El Dorado, Calaveras, Mono and Tuolumne CountiesMarkleeville
Amador1854Calaveras CountyJackson
Butte1850Original CountyOroville
Calaveras1850Original CountySan Andreas
Colusa1850Original CountyColusa
Contra Costa1850Original CountyMartinez
Del Norte1857Klamath CountyCrescent City
El Dorado1850Original CountyPlacerville
Fresno1856Mariposa, Merced and Tulare CountiesFresno
Glenn1891Colusa CountyWillows
Humboldt1853Trinity CountyEureka
Imperial1907San Diego CountyEl Centro
Inyo1866Mono and Tulare CountiesIndependence
Kern1866Los Angeles and Tulare CountiesBakersfield
Kings1893Tulare CountyHanford
Lake1861Napa CountyLakeport
Lassen1864Plumas and Shasta Counties, and now defunct Lake County, NevadaSusanville
Los Angeles1850Original CountyLos Angeles
Madera1893Mariposa CountyMadera
Marin1850Original CountySan Rafael
Mariposa1850Original CountyMariposa
Mendocino1850Original CountyUkiah
Merced1855Mariposa CountyMerced
Modoc1855Siskiyou CountyAlturas
Mono1861Calaveras, Fresno and Mariposa CountiesBridgeport
Monterey1850Original CountySalinas
Napa1850Original CountyNapa
Nevada1851Yuba CountyNevada City
Orange1889Los Angeles CountySanta Ana
Placer1851Sutter and Yuba CountiesAuburn
Plumas1854Butte CountyQuincy
Riverside1893San Bernardino and San Diego CountiesRiverside
Sacramento1850Original CountySacramento
San Benito1874Monterey CountyHollister
San Bernardino1853Los Angeles CountySan Bernardino
San Diego1850Original CountySan Diego
San Francisco1850Original CountySan Francisco
San Joaquin1850Original CountyStockton
San Luis Obispo1850Original CountySan Luis Obispo
San Mateo1856San Francisco and Santa Cruz CountiesRedwood City
Santa Barbara1850Original CountySanta Barbara
Santa Clara1850Original CountySan Jose
Santa Cruz1850Original CountySanta Cruz
Shasta1850Original CountyRedding
Sierra1852Yuba CountyDownieville
Siskiyou1852Shasta and Klamath CountiesYreka
Solano1850Original CountyFairfield
Sonoma1850Original CountySanta Rosa
Stanislaus1854Tuolumne CountyModesto
Sutter1850Original CountyYuba City
Tehama1856Butte, Colusa and Shasta CountiesRed Bluff
Trinity1850Original CountyWeaverville
Tulare1852Mariposa CountyVisalia
Tuolumne1850Original CountySonora
Ventura1872Santa Barbara CountyVentura
Yolo1850Original CountyWoodland
Yuba1850Original CountyMarysville
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