County of San Diego

ASSESSOR | RECORDER | COUNTY CLERK

Ernest J. Dronenburg, Jr.

Collections Overview

The collections at the San Diego County Archives currently consist of Recorder/County Clerk records of enduring historic value. The collections document the governance and development of San Diego County, as well as the history of the county’s citizens and communities.

Our collections information is shared with the Online Archive of California. Click here to visit our landing page on their website

What are Historic Birth, Death, and Marriage Records?


The historic birth and death records date from 1849 through 1986 with the bulk dating from 1860 to 1956. Starting in 1905, a California state agency was designated as the primary record holders of birth and death records and any copies maintained locally by the County Recorder or Health and Human Services were secondary copies. Currently the designated state agency is known as the California Department of Public Health – Vital Records. 

Historic marriage records date from 1856 through 2020 with the bulk dating from 1873 to 1956. These include confidential marriage licenses and certificates. Confidential marriage licenses in California were established in 1878, although they were not frequently requested until after 1972 when the California legislature broadened the law to allow laypeople, not just clergy, to perform confidential marriages. Confidential Marriage Licenses and Certificates are not public records and certified copies can only be released to the registrants or those entitled to receive the record as the result of a court order.

These collections are closed to the public. For information on how to request an informational or certified copy of these documents, please see the San Diego County ARCC website here.

What are Official Records?


Official Records are defined in California Government Code 27300(a) as the permanent archival record of all instruments, papers, and notices as accepted for recording by a county recorder.

The San Diego County Archives holdings date from 1848 through 1959 with the bulk dating from 1873 to 1931. Shortly following the admission of California as a state on September 9, 1850, the California state legislature adopted a recording system to provide evidence of title to, or interest in land. A public official at the county level, known as the County Recorder, was charged with recording and preserving the Official Records permanently. Since 1850, the responsibilities of the San Diego County Recorder have grown, contracted, and combined with the responsibilities of other related officials.

Early recorded documents were copied by hand into either Miscellaneous Record books or into volumes by record type such as deeds, chattel mortgages, leases, and bonds. Later documents were typed out and bound into volumes. Indexes to each record type were created to provide access to the various document types.

Official Record information and images may be viewed on the public kiosks at all ARCC offices. Physical access to archived Official Records is facilitated by County Archives staff. Please contact the San Diego County Archives staff for access information.

What is the Map Collection?


The San Diego County Map Collection dates from 1854 to the present and consists of six map types. These maps are submitted to the county as official records by licensed and registered land surveyors, civil engineers, Title Companies, and other government agencies. All six map types have requirements set by California state law. These requirements must be met to be officially recorded by the County Recorder.

The San Diego County maps document changes in the county over time. These maps record the changing boundaries of land parcels, land subdivisions, assessed land plats, land surveys, community facilities districts, and state highways since the 1850s. Some of the Miscellaneous maps provide supporting details to other Official Records, such as rights of way and transfers of property, in addition to providing the delineation of blocks, lots, and plots in a cemetery or memorial park.

San Diego City and County land surveyors and/or civil engineers may require access to these maps for research and reference purposes.

Public citizens or private firms researching residential buildings or commercial buildings for historic review or historic nomination for Mills Act designation are required to obtain copies of subdivision maps of their respective land parcels for their nomination report.

Original maps are maintained in perpetuity and do not leave the premises of the East County Office and Archives (ECO) building in Santee at any time. Map information and images may be accessed on the public kiosks at all ARCC offices. Physical access to the maps is facilitated by County Archives staff. Please contact the San Diego County Archives staff for access information.

What are Administrative Records?


Administrative records date from 1881 through 2011 and consist of the reference files of former San Diego County Recorders Roger Howe and Vera Lyle, and Chief Deputy Recorder/County Clerk Gracelia “Gracie” Smith.

Topics include historically significant recorded documents, space and technology planning, and policy development.

Some files may contain confidential information and access may be restricted.

Please contact the San Diego County Archives staff for access information.