North American records

This guide was last updated in 2010

No official records list the names of fortune-seekers headed to California, so most of what can be learned comes from diaries, letters and Californian newspapers that would list new arrivals.

Local papers often printed news and letters from California-bound residents. Major online collections of Gold Rush diaries, letters and photographs include from the California State Library, Rush! from the Beinecke Library at Yale University, overland diaries at, and over 900 journals reproduced in ‘California as I Saw It’ ( from the Library of Congress.

California Bound includes transcriptions taken from select East Coast newspapers of passenger lists for ships and wagon trains departing for California between 1848-1873. The 1850 Federal Census, online for free at, enumerates many of the Gold Rush migrants in California.

Records for ancestors who participated in the Klondike Gold Rush may be found in the Dawson City Museum ‘Pan for Gold Database’, which includes placer mining applications, death records, the 1896-1920 Dawson census, and much more.

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