A Branch of
The CAGenWeb Project
The USGenWeb Project
My name is Steve Lech. I have been the coordinator for The San Bernardino County CAGenWeb Project since 1999. While I am a park planner by profession, I am a local historian by heart. Over the past 25 years, I have amassed a collection of nearly 500 books relating to Riverside, Riverside County, Southern California, and, to a lesser extent, San Bernardino County. That said, I would be more than happy to look up information in my collection that you may need in reference to your research into San Bernardino County. While I am more than happy to look things up in my own collection, I am unable to conduct individual research at the local library, LDS Family History Center, or county offices.
I'd like to thank the previous coordinators, Bonnie Hensel (1996-1998) and Tracy Lech (1998-1999), for their efforts in getting this site up and running during the project's fledgling years.
Follow this link to read or post a query about an ancestor in San Bernardino County:
San Bernardino County Query Page (at Ancestry.com)
Follow this link to see what references are available and who
has them - pertaining to
San Bernardino County:
San Bernardino County Reference Page
Follow this link to go to the San Bernardino County Family and Genealogies Page:
San Bernardino County Cemetery Records (at Find a Grave)
Finally, follow this link to go to the
listing of Genealogical and Historical Societies within both
Riverside and San Bernardino County:
Riverside/San Bernardino Genealogical and Historical Societies
San Bernardino County Libraries
San Bernardino County Government
Other Project Links
In 1850, when the first California legislature met to divided the new state of California into its original 27 counties, the area that would become San Bernardino County was then in the huge San Diego County. A year later, it became part of the expanding Los Angeles County. But in April, 1853, a bill was introduced to divide off the eastern portion of Los Angeles County - and San Bernardino County was born.
For several thousand years before San Bernardino County was created, though, many Native American peoples inhabited the area. These included (in broad terms) the Serrano in the mountains and high desert, the Cahuilla in the San Gorgonio Pass and San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains (now mostly in Riverside County), Chemehuevi and Mojave along the Colorado River, and to a smaller extent, the Gabrielenos in the southwest area of the county.
When Spain claimed California for it's own, the Spaniards began putting a series of missions in what was then called Alta California. While no missions were ever built in what would become San Bernardino County, the San Bernardino County area played a vital role during the mission period. The San Gabriel mission claimed lands in what is now the San Bernardino Valley, the Cajon Pass, and the San Gorgonio Pass. These lands were used for grazing of the large herds of cattle and sheep that belonged to the missions. In 1776, and again in 1778, Juan Bautista de Anza, an army captain charged with discovering an overland route from the Mexican state of Sonora to San Gabriel and Los Angeles, passed through the southwestern corner of San Bernardino County, near present-day Ontario.
California's Mission Period lasted until 1832, when Mexico, having taken over California from Spain 10 years earlier, desecularized the missions, and began doling out the vast mission holdings to political favorites, wealthy people, and cronies of the governors of California. The "grants" were called ranchos, and many of the ranchos in San Bernardino County have lent their names to modern-day locales - Chino, Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and the San Gorgonio Pass.
In 1851, with California being admitted to the United States only the year before, Brigham Young, leader of the Mormon church, gave permission to some of his followers in Utah to found a Mormon colony/outpost in southern California. Apostles Amasa Lyman and Charles Rich, accompanied by nearly 500 men, women, and children in 150 wagons left Utah and arrived near present-day Devore in the Cajon Pass early in June. That next February, they purchased the San Bernardino Rancho from the Lugos and set aside an area for a town - San Bernardino was born.
San Bernardino as an official Mormon settlement lasted only 5 years - in 1857, Brigham Young recalled the colonists, and many returned. The vacuum that was created by so many leaving so quickly was soon filled by opportunists of all kinds - San Bernardino found a reputation as a tough town.
During the 1860's, San Bernardino, and the nearby Bear and Holcomb Valleys, were a local hotbed of confederate sympathy.
In the 1870's, navel oranges were planted at Riverside (then in San Bernardino County), found to do extremely well, and opened up the San Bernardino Valley to several ventures which over the next 30 years would be built around farming and orcharding. These included Ontario, Upland, Fontana, Rialto, Highland, and Redlands.
In the 1880's, gold was discovered in Bear and Holcomb Valleys in the San Bernardino Mountains, and opened up a surge of mining developments in the mountains and high desert which continue today.
Although San Bernardino County had its area cut 2 more times since it's creation (in 1872, a large portion in the north was given to Inyo County, and in 1893 the southernmost sliver was divided off to form part of Riverside County), San Bernardino County remains the largest county in the United States today.
This page was updated last on 27 Jan 2019.
© 2019 Steve Lech on behalf of The CAGenWeb Project. All Rights Reserved.