Old Historical City, County and State Maps of California

Our collection of old historical maps of California span over 200 years of growth. View California Maps such as historical county boundaries changes as well as old vintage maps.

Maps of California

Most historical maps of California were published in atlases. The State of California was created as the 31st state on September 9, 1850. States bordering California are  OregonNevada and Arizona.

Map of California state designed in illustration with the counties and the county seats

Map of California state designed in illustration with the counties and the county seats

Several other types of maps are useful for genealogists. Some give historical background of the area or show migration routes such as roads, rivers, and railroads.

Within the atlases are historical maps, illustrations, and histories many of which contain family names ideal for genealogical research.

Several books are helpful in researching the evolution of California.

  • Historical Atlas of California, available in many libraries, provides a basic map reference at different points in California’s history.
  • 1500 California Place Names: Their Origins and Meaning, is an excellent resource for place-names and the history behind them.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) website offers for sale topographical maps of California.

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.

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.

 

Map of California County Formations 1850 to 1925

This Interactive Map of California Counties show the historical boundaries, names, organization, and attachments of every county, extinct county and unsuccessful county proposal from the creation of California in 1850 to 1925. California contains 58 counties.

The first 18 counties created on January 4, 1850, were Benicia, Butte, Fremont, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Monterey, Mount Diablo, Oro, Redding, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, and Sutter Counties. The last county to be formed was Imperial County in 1907.

1850 Map of California Counties

California County Formation Years

California Map Abbreviations

  1. unorg. = unorganized
  2. g. = gained
  3. w. = with
  4. fr. = from
  5. atmt. = attachment
  6. exch = exchanged
  7. nca.= non county area
  8. ch. = changed
  9. Ala – Alameda
  10. Alp – Alpine
  11. Am  – Amador
  12. But – Butte
  13. Ca  – Calaveras
  14. CC  – Contra Costa
  15. Col – Colusa
  16. Cos – Coso
  17. Csi – Colusa
  18. DN  – Del Norte
  1. ED  – El Dorado
  2. Fr  – Fresno
  3. Gl  – Glenn
  4. Hu  – Humboldt
  5. Im  – Imperial
  6. In  – Inyo
  7. Ke  – Kern
  8. Ki  – Kings
  9. Kl  – Klamath
  10. LA  – Los Angeles
  11. Lak – Lake
  12. Las – Lassen
  13. Mad – Madera
  14. Men – Mendocino
  15. Mer – Merced
  16. Mno – Mono
  17. Mnt – Monterey
  1. Mod – Modoc
  2. Mrn – Marin
  3. Mrs – Mariposa
  4. Na  – Napa
  5. Ne  – Nevada
  6. Or  – Orange
  7. Pa  – Pautah
  8. Pla – Placer
  9. Plu – Plumas
  10. Ri  – Riverside
  11. Sac – Sacramento
  12. SBr – San Bernardino
  13. SBt – San Benito
  14. SCl – Santa Clara
  15. Scr – Santa Cruz
  16. SD  – San Diego
  17. SF  – San Francisco
  18. Sh  – Shasta
  1. Sie – Sierra
  2. Sis – Siskiyou
  3. SJ  – San Joaquin
  4. SLO – San Luis Obispo
  5. SM  – San Mateo
  6. Sol – Solano
  7. Son – Sonoma
  8. St  – Stanislaus
  9. StB – Santa Barbara
  10. Su  – Sutter
  11. Te  – Tehama
  12. Tr  – Trinity
  13. Tul – Tulare
  14. Tuo – Tuolomne
  15. Ve  – Ventura
  16. Yo  – Yolo
  17. Yu  – Yuba

Old Historical Atlas Maps of California

This Historical California Map Collection are 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 California Map Links

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