There have been several postings lately asking about the county
numbers in the California death index (also used for the birth and
marriage indexes). In particular, there is some confusion over the
use of two different county codes for the four most populous
counties in the state: Alameda, Los Angeles, San Diego and San
Francisco. While I can't provide a complete explanation, I can
debunk a couple of myths and explain how these numbers were
used (although not why).
California began requiring counties to forward copies of their vital
records to the state in 1905. Since that time, the state has
maintained statewide indexes to vital records, some of which are
publicly available. The county in which the event occurred is
identified in these indexes by a two digit numerical code. The
counties were numbered sequentially, in alphabetical order,
starting >from Alameda (01) to Yuba (58). In addition to these
county numbers, the four most populous counties were also given
a second code, using only the decennial numbers starting with 60:
Alameda County - 60, Los Angeles County - 70, San Diego County
- 80, and San Francisco County - 90. Thus, these four counties
have two different county codes, as follows:
Alameda: 01 or 60
Los Angeles: 19 or 70
San Diego: 37 or 80
San Francisco: 38 or 90
The confusion arises because there doesn't seem to be any logic
to the use of these two codes for the four largest counties. While
I'm not sure why two codes were assigned to the counties, or
when, I can say >from experience that there are certain things that
are not true about them.
- They do not represent "city" and "county" codes, as some have
claimed. You will find Los Angeles City deaths, for example,
identified by both the 70 and 19 codes, and deaths in other parts of
the county identified by both codes.
- They do not appear to represent "earlier" and "later" codes, since
the state has alternated their use several times since 1905.
The two sets of county codes for these four counties have been
used as follows:
1905-1939: Only 60, 70, 80 and 90 used. 01, 19, 37 and 38 not
used in the indexes for these years.
1940-1959: Only 01, 19, 37 and 38 used; 60, 70, 80 and 90 not
used in the indexes for these years.
1960-69: Only 60, 70, 80 and 90 used.
1970-79: Both sets of numbers used.
1980-present: Only 01, 19, 37 & 38 used. Decennial numbers (60,
70, 80 & 90) not used in index.
I have examined hundreds of certificates in an attempt to determine
any pattern for the county code number used. It seems to be
somewhat arbitrary. During the decade of the 1970s, it can be
clearly traced to the different "local registration district" codes
being used. Within each county, the state assigned these district
codes for statistical purposes. During the 1970s, different
communities in Los Angeles County had local registration district
numbers starting with either 19 or 70, and this seems to determine
which county code was used in the index. Looking at several
deaths, for example: Burbank local registration district 7097,
deaths in Burbank receive county code 70 in index; Long Beach
local registration district 7052, deaths in Long Beach receive
county code 70 in index; Los Angeles City (after 1974) local
registration district 0190, Los Angeles deaths after 1974 receive
county code 19 in index. Earlier in the decade, most of Los
Angeles also had local registration district number 7097, and these
deaths are identified in the index as county 70.
This explanation doesn't explain the use of 19/70 and the other
pairs in other decades, since the county code used and the local
registration district number don't always match.
One of these days I'll probably find someone in the state who can
provide some explanations for this inconsistent use of the two
codes, but for now, just knowing when the different codes were
used may help some people.
Los Angeles, CA