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Early California Settlers and Immigrants Resources: Introduction to the Collections

Guide to the Manuscripts and Digital Collections of California Founders

Santa Clara, 1856

 Lithograph of "Santa Clara, 1856" from Kuchel & Dresels’ "California Views" series.

Head of Archives & Special Collections

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Nadia Nasr
Archives & Special Collections
Library and Learning Commons, 3rd floor
Norman F. Martin Reading Room

The Manuscript Collections

Over the course of the first half of the nineteenth century, California would change hands from Spain to Mexico to the United States. Eventually California became the thirty-first state of the United States of America on September 9, 1850. In this period of political and cultural shifts, many settlers came to California and began to call it home. Californios, the descendants of Spanish settlers who were born in California, were very important in the early Spanish colonization of California. They were major landowners in the region during most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Following the Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, many californios lost their landholdings when they could not authenticate their ownership to the satisfaction of the U.S. government. By this time, Anglo-American settlers had come aplenty either to find gold during the 1849 Gold Rush or start a new life out west. Several of these families would come to own lands previously possessed by californio families, either through buying directly from the families or from the U.S. government. Overall, California experienced a large population boom from the last half of the nineteenth century due largely to wide-scale immigration from Europe, Asia, and South America. In our collections, we have the personal papers of many settler and immigrant families that came to the San Francisco Bay Area during this time frame. 

Table of Contents

Archives & Special Collection in the Santa Clara University Library has a rich collection of primary source materials available for researchers interested in the history of California Settlers and Pioneers.  Our digital collections and finding aids are listed in the different tabs, one for each family or individual, to assist you with your research projects.  For access to the original documents, please contact me to request an appointment.​

Quick Links to Archives & Special Collections

Archives & Special Collections Access Policy

In some cases, Archives & Special Collections staff reserve the right to insist on researcher use of digital surrogates in lieu of the originals due to fragility of the originals. These cases include researchers interested in the sacramental records and Fr. Viader's Miscellany Book. If you feel you have a good reason to consult the original, please contact us to discuss this.

Otherwise, items from the Santa Clara Mission Manuscript Collection are available for researchers to use in the Norman F. Martin, S.J. Reading Room Monday - Friday, 10 am - 3 pm.  Access to the collections are by appointment only.  Please contact us at to make an appointment. Researchers are required to complete the user register form before interacting with materials.