California Map & Atlas Guide

Any Historical California Map can indicate who owned specific property in the state and which towns held the county seat at the time.  This information is a valuable starting point for your research pointing you to the right location of records.

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Solving Research Problems with a California Maps – If you have started your family research, you might have experienced trouble with trying to identify California city borders and names that have changed over the course of time. This can make it difficult to understand where your ancestors’ information is kept.

Because California historic maps were usually commissioned by the county seat, they often display information about the county, including town names.

Reading a California map from the time period you are researching can help tremendously in solving these problems by leading you to the correct town records. It can also give you other leads, such as the location of city directories or old post offices in California.

California Map of Counties

California Map of Counties

Choosing the Best California Map – If you have a large source of maps to choose from, try starting with the area where your ancestors resided and looking for the maps with the most detail.

You can determine a lot by seeing if the area was still rural or more developed, and how far it was to the nearest city.  This can shed light on your family’s lifestyle and occupation.

Were they farmers who lived in the country, or merchants who traveled often to a nearby city?  A map can give you an idea of what occupations were possible.

California Map of County Formations For The Years 1850-1925

These California maps shows the historical changes to California counties from 1850 to 1925.

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California County Formation years
1850 1851 1852 1853 1854 1855 1856 1857 1859 1860 1861 1863 1864 1866 1868
1870 1872 1874 1875 1876 1878 1881 1885 1887 1889 1891 1893 1897 1907 1909
1913 1917 1919 1925                      
California County Census Year with Modern Map overlayed:
1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930            
California Census Year with previous Census Year overlayed:
1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930              
California Census Year with Modern Map overlayed:
1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920              
California Map Abbreviations
unorg. = unorganized
g. = gained
w. = with
fr. = from
atmt. = attachment
exch = exchanged
nca.= non county area
ch. = changed

Ala - Alameda
Alp - Alpine
Am - Amador
But - Butte
Ca - Calaveras
CC - Contra Costa
Col - Colusa
Cos - Coso
Csi - Colusa
DN - Del Norte
ED - El Dorado
Fr - Fresno
Gl - Glenn
Hu - Humboldt
Im - Imperial
In - Inyo
Ke - Kern
Ki - Kings
Kl - Klamath
LA - Los Angeles
Lak - Lake
Las - Lassen
Mad - Madera
Men - Mendocino
Mer - Merced
Mno - Mono
Mnt - Monterey
Mod - Modoc
Mrn - Marin
Mrs - Mariposa
Na - Napa
Ne - Nevada
Or - Orange
Pa - Pautah
Pla - Placer
Plu - Plumas
Ri - Riverside
Sac - Sacramento
SBr - San Bernardino
SBt - San Benito
SCl - Santa Clara
Scr - Santa Cruz
SD - San Diego
SF - San Francisco
Sh - Shasta
Sie - Sierra
Sis - Siskiyou
SJ - San Joaquin
SLO - San Luis Obispo
SM - San Mateo
Sol - Solano
Son - Sonoma
St - Stanislaus
StB - Santa Barbara
Su - Sutter
Te - Tehama
Tr - Trinity
Tul - Tulare
Tuo - Tuolomne
Ve - Ventura
Yo - Yolo
Yu - Yuba

California Maps & Atlases

1880 California MapThe David Rumsey Historical California Map Collection is scanned from original copies so you can see California as our ancestors saw them over a hundred years ago.

Some California map years (not all) have cities, railroads, P.O. locations, township outlines and other features useful to the California researcher.

External Links for California Maps

U.S. State Map Guides