Genealogical Research in San Bernardino County, California
by Gena Philibert Ortega

According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, San Bernardino County is the largest county in the United States, with an area containing more land than nine states. San Bernardino County was formed from Los Angeles County in 1853. Parts of San Bernardino County later became part of neighboring Riverside County. The population in early San Bernardino County included native peoples, as well as pioneers looking for adventure in the West. The Mormons as well as some other religious groups were some of the earlier settlers in San Bernardino County.

Although researching in such a large area can be intimidating, it is important to note that most of the population lived in the southwestern portion of the county. Large portions of the County in the northeastern end are mainly desert regions that are largely uninhabited.

The following is not an exhaustive list of libraries and archives. This list is only meant to provide you with some of the available resources. Repositories for genealogical /historical information include:

  • San Bernardino County Historical Archives: Resources include early county records, including vital records; San Bernardino County history books, maps, and local history files. Located behind the County's Hall of Records at 1808 Commercenter West, Suite D in San Bernardino.
  • A. K. Smiley Public Library's Heritage Room, located in the city of Redlands, the Library's resources include local history books and pamphlets on San Bernardino County, Redlands, California and the West; maps from the 1850's to the present; newspapers including the Redlands Daily Facts and the Citrograph, which is indexed from 1887-1896; oral histories and photographs. The Library also is the location for the Lincoln Memorial Shrine, the gift of philanthropist Robert Watchorn to the city of Redlands. Watchorn was a pro-immigrant commissioner of Ellis Island from 1905-1909 who oversaw the processing of over 1,000,000 immigrants in 1905. The Lincoln Shrine is the only museum dedicated to Lincoln west of the Mississippi River. The Shrine contains research resources including civil war book collections, newspapers, artifacts, and diaries, as well as letters and documents written by Lincoln's family and those close to him.
  • San Bernardino City Library's California Room, is an archive of early San Bernardino city and county history. Resources include vital records up to the year 1910; the San Bernardino Sun newspaper on microfilm from 1894 to present; city directories from 1887 to 1968; Pioneer Cemetery records; San Bernardino High yearbooks, early histories, diaries, family group sheets, pedigree charts and accounts of early pioneers. The California Room is staffed by volunteers, so hours are limited. Appointments can be made for research outside of operating hours but there is a $20.00 per hour fee. The Library also has an online collection of historical photos provided by city residents. The collection is organized by date and topics that include family life, events, work life, and portraits. To see this collection, click on . The California Room also includes a large collection of historical photos. In addition, a San Bernardino Oral History Project conducted by Dr. Joyce Hanson of Cal State San Bernardino is also available at the above link. 35 interviews are available to read at this site. Surnames include: Babcock, Bates, Brooks, Carter, Clemons, Deyon, Fine, Flores, Follett, Holcomb, Holder, Hinds, Inman, Jensen, Martin, McIntosh, Molony, Monninger, Payne, Pinckert, Post, Powers, Press, Shovey, Schuiling, Switzer, Thomann, Thomas, Tompkins, Valles, Vaughn, Weismeyer, Williams.
  • The other major library system for the County is the San Bernardino County Library. A search of their library catalogue will provide you with results from both the San Bernardino County Library and the Riverside Public Library.
  • One other library that boasts a local history collection is the Ontario City Library. This collection includes the nearby cities of Rancho Cucamonga, Etiwanda, Upland and Alta Loma. Their Local History Room is open limited hours, so it is best to check with the library prior to making a trip.

Some genealogy societies that may be of help in your research include:

You can find other genealogy societies at the website for the California State Genealogical Alliance