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California’s 1849 state constitution dictated that a census be taken in 1852, in 1855, and every 10 years after that. The 1852 census was the only one taken, but it proved to be an important count.
The results of this census can now be accessed on Ancestry.com at any branch of the San Mateo County Library (in the Research section of our website).
The gold rush would bring about 300,000 people to California between 1848 and 1854. The 1850 U.S. Federal Census tallied California’s population at 92,597. The 1852 California State Census count came in at 260,949 (neither census would include the entire Native American population).
Not only did the 1852 State Census provide a record of an additional 150,000 people, but records from three counties from the 1850 Federal Census - Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Santa Clara - that have since been lost or destroyed. In addition, the accuracy of the 1850 Federal Census was called into some question because of the rapid growth and mobility of the population at the time as miners poured into the state.
How to View the Census
To access this census you will need to go in person to a branch of the San Mateo County Library. At a library computer, click on Online Resources or Research, and enter Ancestry Library Edition. Use the Search pulldown menu to select Census And Voter Lists, then scroll down in the Individual Census Records to California State Census, 1852.
San Mateo County Specific?
Looking for an 1852 inhabitant of San Mateo County? Search under San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties. San Mateo County did not exist as a separate entity until 1856.
Warren Netz is librarian at the Millbrae Library