Source Information

California State Library
Ancestry.com. California, Voter Registers, 1866-1898 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data:

Great Registers, 1866–1898. Microfilm, 185 rolls. California State Library, Sacramento, California.

About California, Voter Registers, 1866-1898

The printed copies of the California Great Registers making up this database were compiled at the county level by district, as required by an 1866 law, and list names of eligible voters in California.

Historical Background

The first voter registrations in California took place in 1866 following the Registry Act, an effort to prevent voter fraud that called for “the registration of the citizens of the State, and for the enrollment in the several election districts of all the legal voters thereof, and for the prevention and punishment of frauds affecting the elective franchise.” An 1872 law required counties to publish an index or alphabetical listing of all registered voters every two years. These lists were kept by the county clerk and eventually were usually printed in even-numbered years, though a few counties, including San Francisco, published them yearly for a few years at a time. The voter lists produced are known as the Great Registers, and this database contains the printed copies of the registers produced by the county clerks.

Only men over the age of 21 were eligible to vote until 1911, when women were granted the right, and the state occasionally passed other exclusionary voting laws: an 1879 state constitutional amendment denied franchise to natives of China (it was repealed in 1926), and an 1894 law established a literacy requirement.

Using the Records

Content in the registers varies some from county to county and year to year. Earlier registers may list only

  • name
  • age
  • nativity (state or country)
  • occupation
  • local residence
  • naturalization details (some counties)

However, the lists grew more detailed as time went on, and in later registers you may find:

  • name
  • occupation
  • age
  • height
  • complexion
  • color of eyes
  • color of hair
  • visible marks or scars
  • country of nativity
  • place of residence
  • date, place, and court of naturalization
  • date of voter registration
  • post office address
  • able to read Constitution
  • able to write name
  • able to mark ballot
  • nature of disability
  • transferred from different voting precinct

Why Use Voting Records:

Voter registers are great records to use as census substitutes, since they will usually contain the names of heads of households and other adults. They are useful when census records are either not complete or don’t exist and are usually available in between census years. Because voter registers were published on a fairly consistent basis and are generally statewide, they are useful for tracking individuals over time and place.

Counties and Years Included in this Collection:

Below is a list of counties and years for which records are included in this database. Even though this list sometimes indicates an inclusive year range of a decade or more, keep in mind that the records were typically published every other year.

  • Alameda (1867, 1872–1873, 1875–1898)
  • Alpine (1873–1890)
  • Amador (1867–1898)
  • Butte (1867, 1872–1873, 1875, 1879–1882, 1886, 1890–1898)
  • Calaveras (1867–1898)
  • Colusa (1871–1898)
  • Contra Costa (1867–1898)
  • Del Norte (1872–1898)
  • El Dorado (1867–1898)
  • Fresno (1867, 1871–1873, 1875–1877, 1879–1880, 1884–1886, 1890–1898)
  • Glenn (1892–1898)
  • Humboldt (1871–1873, 1875, 1879–1882, 1890–1898)
  • Inyo (1871–1872, 1875, 1877, 1879–1898)
  • Kern (1867, 1872–1873, 1877, 1879–1898)
  • Klamath (Del Norte) (1869, 1873)
  • Lake (1872–1873, 1875, 1879–1880, 1888–1898)
  • Lassen (1868, 1873, 1877, 1879, 1886, 1890, 1898)
  • Los Angeles (1873, 1875–1876, 1879–1894, 1896 [for Los Angeles precincts 1–74, Acton-Wilmington precincts 1–4])
  • Madera (1898)
  • Marin (1867–1868, 1873, 1875–1876, 1879–1898)
  • Mariposa (1872–1873, 1875–1877, 1879–1898)
  • Mendocino (1867, 1871–1898)
  • Merced (1867–1872, 1875–1880, 1890–1898)
  • Modoc (1875–1876, 1879–1880, 1888–1898)
  • Mono (1872, 1875–1876, 1879–1898)
  • Monterey (1867–1869, 1872, 1875–1876, 1879–1880, 1884–1898)
  • Napa (1867–1898)
  • Nevada (1867–1868, 1871, 1873, 1875–1877, 1879–1898)
  • Orange (1892–1896)
  • Placer (1867–1868, 1871–1873, 1876–1877, 1879–1898)
  • Plumas (1867–1898)
  • Sacramento (1867–1868, 1872–1873, 1875–1877, 1879–1892, 1896–1898)
  • San Benito (1875–1898)
  • San Bernardino (1872, 1876, 1879–1898)
  • San Diego (1867, 1871–1873, 1875–1877, 1879–1880, 1884–1886, 1890–1898)
  • San Francisco (1866–1867, 1869, 1871 supplement, 1872–1873, 1875, 1876–1877, 1878, 1880, 1882, 1886–1890) [Districts 29–48], 1892 [Districts 28–45], 1896–1898 [Districts 28–45])
  • San Joaquin (1867–1869, 1871–1873, 1875–1877, 1880–1884, 1888–1898)
  • San Luis Obispo (1867–1868, 1871–1873, 1875, 1877, 1879–1880, 1884–1892, 1898)
  • San Mateo (1867–1869, 1871–1872, 1875–1877, 1879–1880–1886, 1890–1898)
  • Santa Barbara (1873–1875, 1877, 1879, 1890–1898)
  • Santa Clara (1867–1869, 1871–1873, 1875–1876, 1879, 1880–1884, 1888–1896)
  • Santa Cruz (1868–1869, 1871–1873, 1880, 1886, 1890–1898)
  • Shasta (1867–1869, 1871–1873, 1875–1877, 1880–1882, 1886–1896)
  • Sierra (1872–1898)
  • Siskiyou (1867–1898)
  • Solano (1867, 1872–1873, 1875–1882, 1888–1898)
  • Sonoma (1867, 1871–1873, 1875, 1879–1880, 1884, 1888–1896)
  • Stanislaus (1867, 1869, 1871–1872, 1875, 1879–1880, 1886–1898)
  • Sutter (1867–1898)
  • Tehama (1875–1896)
  • Trinity (1867–1868, 1871–1873, 1875, 1877, 1879, 1888–1896)
  • Tulare (1869, 1872, 1879–1896)
  • Tuolumne (1867, 1871, 1873, 1875, 1877, 1879–1898)
  • Ventura (1875, 1877, 1879–1880, 1882, 1886–1890, 1898)
  • Yolo (1867, 1871–1872, 1875, 1877–1882, 1886–1898)
  • Yuba (1867–1896)