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About the Early California Population Project

The Early California Population Project (ECPP), a database developed by the Huntington Library, provides public access to all the information contained in the California mission registers from 1769 - 1850. Within the baptism, marriage, and burial records of each of the California missions sits an extraordinary wealth of unique information on the Indians, soldiers, and settlers of Alta California. But the vast potential of California’s mission records has in many ways remained unexploited. The original registers are scattered across California and too old and too brittle to handle. Microfilm copies of the registers exist in archives but are of poor quality and often hard to locate. Understanding the registers--written as they are in eighteenth-century Spanish script--demands rare skills and enormous effort. Lacking adequate staff and resources to facilitate genealogical and historical research, libraries, archives, missions, and dioceses each year turn away countless individuals who are eager to study early California’s Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo-American inhabitants.

The construction of databases based on mission records has proven to be extremely time-consuming and challenging. And when databases have been created, their structure and design necessarily have been narrowed by specific research questions and, until recently, technological limitations on the amount of information that could be stored and managed in a computer file. Thus, out of the desire to establish a new resource for the study of California before 1850, the Early California Population Project was born.

Through the Huntington Library, the Early California Population Project has obtained generous financial support from a number of granting agencies. The John Randolph Haynes and Dorothy Haynes Foundation, the California State Library (Library Services and Technology Act), the Dan Murphy Foundation, the Giles W. & Elise G. Mead Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, have all supported the project.

The ECPP now offers great opportunities for the study of the people and communities of early California. All basic data entry for the project was completed in June 2006. The project has records on more than 101,000 baptisms, 27,000 marriages, and 71,000 burials performed in California between 1769 and 1850. No other region of colonial America that became part of the United States has a database of such an extensive set of vital records. The database encompasses records from 21 of the California missions, in addition to the Los Angeles Plaza Church and the Santa Barbara Presidio. In its current form, the ECPP database has more than 85 fields related to individual baptism records, 93 covering the marriages of individuals, and 46 concerning burial information. 

The ECPP originated in 1998 when Steven W. Hackel, associate professor of history at Oregon State University, envisioned a comprehensive relational database for early California.  As general editor of the database, Hackel has played a leading role in designing the database, outlining the rules governing data entry, monitoring data entry, and providing content for the website.  Anne M. Reid served as Lead Data Entry Assistant.  Robert C. Ritchie, director of research at The Huntington, oversees the project.

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Mission San Luis Rey, Huntington Library.

 


Baptismal register from Mission San Carlos, signed by Father Junipero Serra, 1783. Huntington Library.

 


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