CA Research Aid - Birth and Marriage Records
Page last updated on 31 Dec 2010
Birth and Marriage Records in California
The keeping of birth records in California was sporadic before mandatory statewide registration began in the fall of 1905. It is sometimes possible to find early births listed in newspapers. You might also find late birth registrations at the county level. Proof of birth was often needed for retirement and other purposes, so individuals would find witnesses who could attest to their date of birth and these affidavits were then recorded.
Record keeping for marriages did not begin at the state level until 1949, however, county records are usually extensive. You will find licenses and certificates from the creation of each county in the collections of county vital records offices. You might also find marriages in court record minute books, official record books and deed books. Church records are another source for early marriage records.
For birth records prior to 1905 and marriage records prior to 1949 see the individual county pages in this research guide. For records prior to statehood and alternative sources for records not found at the county level, see the Miscellaneous Research, Church Record Research, and Newspaper Research sections of this guide.
Read more about California Vital Records on Family Search’s Research Wiki
The California Health Services’s Office of Vital Records (OVR) is charged with the responsibility of maintaining a uniform system for registration and a permanent central registry with a comprehensive and continuous index for all birth, death, fetal death, marriage and dissolution certificates registered for vital events which occur in California (1+ million events annually). All birth records after 1905 and marriages after 1949 are available from OVR, however, the office estimates that fulfilling record requests will take anywhere from 18 weeks to over 6 months and suggests that you seek the records at the county level. Click here for a current listing of county vital record offices. OVR does not maintain a walk-in counter.
Contact Information: California Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Records – MS 5103, P.O. Box 997410, Sacramento, CA 95899-7410 Telephone: (916) 445-2684
The official statewide indexes to births and marriages are available in many county record centers. Older versions can be found online. See the chart below for links to these indexes as well as other statewide finding aids for birth and marriage records.
The California Birth Index (CABI) is a database compiled by the California Office of Health Information and Research. The index contains birth records of all registered births in California between 1905 and 1995. Each record is an abstract of a person's birth certificate, including date of birth, full name, county of birth, gender, and mother's maiden name. People who have been adopted are sometimes listed by their birth name, sometimes listed by their adopted name, sometimes by both and sometimes not listed at all. [Wikipedia has a further discussion of these indexes] You can find the index on microfiche in many libraries throughout the state. Online versions are available at Ancestry.com [paid], Family Tree Legends [free], SFGenealogy [free], Vital Search [free and paid versions].
The State compiled a marriage index from 1949 to 1985 that was available for purchase on microfiche. You can find copies in many libraries and Family History Centers. The following chart links to online versions of the index and also provides links to other statewide compilations of marriage records and to sites linking to marriage records.
Name Years Source paid Vital Search 1949-1985 Offical State index paid Ancestry.com 1960-1985 Official State index free I Dream of Genealogy 1850-1994 Various Counties paid Ancestry.com 1850-1877 Various Counties free GenWed.com various links to both free and paid sites free BYU Western State Marriage Index various limited California counties free Early California Population 1769-1850 California Mission records