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11 February 2008

Great Registers of Voters - SF 1890

Several genealogy blogs have commented on the recent release of a new database on ancestry.com - California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968. This collection is a portion of what is more commonly known as the "Great Registers of Voters" which date back to 1866. Legislation was enacted that year to combat voter fraud and bring order after the massive population influx that came with the Gold Rush. The registers are compiled lists of voter names and addresses arranged by district. Additional information was collected which varies by year.

CGS Research Director Nancy Peterson, who devotes a chapter to "Voting Records" in her book Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for Pre-1906 San Francisco Research, notes that "the Great Registers before the years that Ancestry digitized contained naturalization information." The 1866 legislation required voters to provide the country where they were born and "if a naturalized foreigner, when, where, and by what Court he was admitted to become a citizen of the United States." By 1900, when the United States began collecting specific naturalization information from individuals during the decennial census, the voters of California were no longer required to supply it.

CGS member, Jim W. Faulkinbury, gives the complete background of the Great Registers and has an online database index of Foreign-Born Voters of 1872.

The California Genealogical Society participated in the statewide indexing of the 1890 Great Register of Voters, chosen to provide a partial substitute for the lost United States census of that year. The massive project, which took eleven years to complete, was organized by the California State Genealogical Alliance, a consortium of independent genealogical societies throughout California, chaired by Janice G. Cloud of Santa Barbara. The California 1890 Great Register of Voters, a three volume set, indexes 311,028 men living in California in 1890 and includes significant personal information but not the naturalization data.

The California Genealogical Society separately indexed and published in 2002 a one-volume San Francisco, California: 1890 Great Register of Voters, edited by Jane Billings Steiner. It contains the names of 59,712 men living in the many precincts of the city and county of San Francisco in 1890, as well as their age, place of birth, occupation, home address and all naturalization details as found in the official record. CGS has a names search at our Web site which includes this records set, as well as many more. Results that include the code "FRAN" come from this database and can be purchased.

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