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Contributed: 1998
Updated: Sep 2007


Roster of California Pioneers

Contributed by Ken Tessendorff

Contact: Pioneer Roster Committee Secretary
        Attn: Pioneer Roster
        543 Baker St.
        San Francisco, CA 94117 
Native Daughters of the Golden West (Pioneer Roster) [Link1] [Link2]

Compiled by Native Daughters of the Golden West. San Francisco, California, 1985

In 1985, The Native Daughters of the Golden West, with the assistance of the California State Library, microfilmed their Roster of California Pioneers, a valuable set of documents with historical information about early residents of California. The copies, other than the one at the NDGW Reference Room, consist of an alphabetical index in book form which lists over 32.000 names and several dozen rolls of microfilm which contain copies of questionnaires used to record information about these pioneers.

The original Roster is available for research at The Native Daughters of the Golden West Home in San Francisco. Microfilm copies of the publication are available in Sacramento at the California Room of the State Library, in San Francisco at the Sutro Library, and at the Los Angeles Public Library, San Diego Public Library, and the Library of Congress.

The questions asked were:

  • Name
  • Place of Birth
  • Date of Arrival in California
  • If overland, which trail
  • If by vessel, give name
  • States lived in before coming to California
  • Place of Residence in California and year if possible
  • Profession or occupation
  • Public offices held
  • Where educated
  • Names and addresses of children if any
  • If deceased, place and date of death
  • Information given by whom
  • Address
  • Miscellaneous Notes (any interesting facts concerning early history)
At least one full page is devoted to each person. The pages that I copied were all completed by descendants or others who had extracted the information from other published and unpublished sources. Because the questions were answered in this manner, many of the forms are incomplete with little more than a name and birth date and much of the information is inaccurate.

I found two forms for Thomas Jefferson Cummins, each in a different volume. The answers on both forms had been provided by the same person, but they had radical variations. One showed a date of arrival in California as 1848 and the other as 1857. Other answers had the same type of inconsistencies. Therefore, it should not be taken for granted that any of these answers are true and correct, but much of the information contained in the forms will provide a starting place for additional research. In particular, the names of descendants and/or submitters might lead to a living family member who has more accurate records available. And the places of previous residence could lead to more information in that area.

Using the index and related film is an extremely fast method of gathering information. Go prepared with a complete alphabetical list of the people you are researching. In the index, you will find a volume and page number for each person listed. Make a list of all these numbers and then proceed to pull the appropriate rolls of microfilm and read each page. At Sutro, a film copier is available to produce copies of any pages that pertain to your family.

The Research Library contains the Roster of California Pioneers, NDGW Archives and California History Collection. Visits by appointment only the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 555 Baker Street, San Francisco. Please email the Corresponding Secretary  to set up an apointment or call (415) 292-6760 or (800) 994-6349.

Since the original microfilm publication was completed in 1985, many additions have been made to the Roster. These additions and any supplementary materials are only available at the Native Daughter Home in San Francisco. The NDGW is encouraging researchers to submit new, more complete or corrected information about California's pioneers. Registration forms and information about the availability of the Index and the microfilm copy of the Roster may be requested.