California Private Land Claims Dockets. NARA microform publication T910. 117 Rolls. NAI: 6857840. Records of the Bureau of Land Management, 1685-2006, Record Group 49. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.
In May of 1769, Spain established the first European settlement in what is today the state of California. This settlement, a fort known as the Presidio at San Diego, was part of an effort to expand Spain's empire in North America by colonizing the Spanish province of Alta California. The early arrivals consisted of a mixture of soldiers, missionaries, settlers, and Indians who had accompanied the expedition. The journey was so difficult that approximately half of the travelers died before reaching their destination.
Just two months after the Presidio at San Diego was founded, the San Diego Mission Church (Mission San Diego de Alcalá) was established in July of 1769. It was the first of 21 Catholic missions to be built along the coast of California by the Spanish, part of a greater mission system throughout New Spain that was used to expand colonization. (Missions had already been established in the Spanish province of Baja California, today part of Mexico, as early as 1697.) These missions were used to convert local native populations to the Catholic faith and transform them into Spanish colonial citizens.
When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Alta California became a territory of Mexico. Both the Spanish and Mexican governments gave large land grants to prominent men, which began the formation of the large Ranchos of California. Missions continued to own most of the remaining land in Alta California until 1834, when Mexico abolished the Mission system and secularized the Franciscan run Catholic missions. Mission land that had formerly belonged to the Catholic Church was supposed to be allocated to the Indians of each mission, but in reality most was taken over by the large ranchos. Mexico established new rules for the petition of land grants, making it easier for land to be obtained in order to encourage more settlers to come to California.
In 1846, the Mexican-American War began as a result of a border dispute between Mexico and the United States. This resulted in the conquest and annexation of California by the United States. Four years later, California became the 31th state on September 9, 1850.
About This Collection
This series contains dockets (case files) concerning private land claims in California. These claims were based on historical Spanish and Mexican land grants that took place before California became part of the United States. The primary purpose of the dockets in this series was to show the actions taken regarding the claims after they were confirmed as valid by the United States. Included are notices and evidence of claims, certificates and plats of survey, affidavits, deeds, abstracts of title, testimonies regarding claims, copies of decisions in contests in Federal Courts, appeals, and letters. The collection is organized by docket number. Each record in the index typically includes the name of the land owner, their docket number, and a record date for the docket.
Note: The above paragraph was in part taken from the catalog of the National Archives.