Here is a list of resources to review when conducting local history research. Many of these materials are available both in print and online.
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Table of Contents:
- Here is a list of the organizations, libraries, and special collections we use the most in our research.
Books on Napa County and California history
- Histories of Napa County
- Histories of California
- Contemporary Histories of Napa County
- Contemporary Histories of California
- Napa Wine History
Books on Napa County history
Historical books about Napa County:
Bolton, Herbert Eugene, translator. Anza’s California Expeditions. Published by University of California Press, 1930. Available online – vol 1, vol 2, vol 3, vol 4, vol 5
Gregory, Thomas Jefferson. History of Solano and Napa Counties, California. Published by Historic Record Company, 1912. Available online
Guinn, James Miller. History of the State of California and Biographical Record of Coast COunties, California. Published by Chapman Publishing Co., 1904. Available online
Hunt, Marguerite and Harry Lawrence Gunn History of Solano and Napa Counties, California, from their Earliest Settlement to the Present Time (2 volumes). Published by S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1926.
Kanaga, Tillie and W. F. Wallace. History of Napa County. Published by Enquirer, 1901. Available online
Lewis Publishing Company, publishers. A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California. 1891. Available online
Menefee, C. A. Historical and Descriptive Sketch Book of Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino. Published by Reporter Publishing House, 1873. Available online
Slocum, Bowen & Co., publishers. History of Napa and Lake Counties, California. 1881. Available online
Smith & Elliot, publishers. Illustrations of Napa County, California, with Historical Sketch. 1878.
Historical books about California:
Bancroft, Hubert Howe. History of California. Published by History Company, 1886. Available online
Beasley, Delilah L. The Negro Trail Blazers of California. Published by Los Angeles Times Mirror Printing and Binding House, 1919. Available online
Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration of Northern California. California: A Guide to the Golden State. Published by Hastings House, 1939. Available online
Tuthill, Franklin. The History of California. Published by H. H. Bancroft & Co., 1866. Available online
Contemporary books about Napa County:
Alexander, Pat with Napa Valley Museum. Yountville. Published by Arcadia Publishing, 2009.
McEnery, Nancy with Napa County Historical Society. The Napa River. Published by Arcadia Publishing, 2012. Buy now
McGriff-Payne, Sharon. John Grider’s Century: African Americans in Solano, Napa, and Sonoma Counties from 1845 to 1925. Published by iUniverse, Inc., 2009.
Shulman, Todd L. Murder and Mayhem in the Napa Valley. Published by History Press, 2013. Buy now
St. Helena Historical Society with Mariam Hansen. St. Helena. Published by Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
Swett, Ira L. and Harry C. Aitken Jr. The Napa Valley Route: Electric Trains and Steamers. Published by Interrubans, 1975.
Waters Jr., John. Calistoga. Published by Arcadia Publishing, 2008.
Wright, Elizabeth Cyrus. The Early Upper Napa Valley. Reprinted by Sharpsteen Museum, 1991. Buy now
Contemporary books about California:
Heizer, Robert F., volume editor. Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 8: California. Published by Smithsonian Institution, 1978.
Heizer, Robert F. and M. A. Whipple, editors. The California Indians: A Source Book. Published by University of California Press, 1972.
Starr, Kevin. Americans and the California Dream, 1850-1915. Published by Oxford University Press, 1973.
Starr, Kevin. Inventing the Dream: California through the Progressive Era. Published by Oxford University Press, 1986.
Starr, Kevin. Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California. Published by Oxford University Press, 1996.
Starr, Kevin. The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s. Published by Oxford University Press, 1997.
Starr, Kevin. Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950. Published by Oxford University Press, 2002.
Starr, Kevin. Golden Dreams: California in the Age of Abundance, 1950-1963. Published by Oxford University Press, 2009.
Starr, Kevin. Coast of Dreams: California on the Edge, 1990-2002. Published by Oxford University Press, 2004.
Napa wine history:
Board of State Viticultural Commissioners. Annual Report for 1889-1890. Published by State Printing Office, 1890. Available online
Board of State Viticultural Commissioners. Directory of Grape Growers and Wine Makers of California. Published by State Printing Office, 1888. Available online
Board of State Viticultural Commissioners. Directory of Grape Growers, Wine Makers and Distillers of California. Published by State Printing Office, 1891. Available online
Board of State Viticultural Commissioners. Report of the Sixth Annual State Viticultural Convention. Published by State Printing Office, 1888. Available online
Haynes, Irene W. Ghost Wineries of Napa Valley. Published by Wine Appreciation Guild, 1995.
Heintz, William F. Wine Country: A History of Napa Valley, the Early Years, 1838-1920. Published by Capra Press, 1990.
Sullivan, Charles L. Napa Wine: A History from Mission Days to Present. Published by Wine Appreciation Guild, 2008.
Weber, Lin Prohibition in the Napa Valley: Castles Under Siege. Published by History Press, 2013. Buy now
Tip: Most public libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification Number, or library call number, to catalog their books. The call number for the general history of North America is 970. Under that you’ll find:
- Viticulture, winemaking, and wineries will usually be under 663.2.
- Biographies and genealogies are 920.
- Information on Native Americans, including the Wappo and Patwin is 970.049 through 970.5.
- History of the Pacific Coast states are 979, and California history is 979.4.
- Napa County history is 979.419.
Tip: The Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and Google Books have digitized many historical books on California and Napa County. The materials on those websites are free to use and full-text searchable.
Other historical resources
Ancestry.com: Useful for genealogy and property research. Available for paid subscription, but check your local library’s databases – many have free access with a library card. Note: not all information is accurate.
Findagrave.com: Many graves in Napa County cemeteries have been indexed here, some including biographical and genealogical information. Note: not all information recorded is accurate.
American Canyon Eagle, Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and Weekly Calistogan: available under “Databases” on the Napa County Library website
California Digital Newspaper Collection: A free, full-text searchable repository of California newspapers from 1846 to the present, including many that are no longer in print.
Calisphere: Digital collections of primary resources.
CSU Chico Digital Collections: Contains some Napa resources.
NCHS online catalog: images and catalogue records of much of our holdings.
NCHS Oral History Collection: Contains audio of NCHS oral histories.
Online Archive of California (OAC): Contains some Napa resources.
Historic listings: List of National Register of Historic Places in Napa County and list of California Historical Landmarks in Napa County.
Genealogy and Property Research
City/county directories: Directories for Napa County exist as far back as 1871. Polk directories include a reverse directory starting in 1928.
Historic Resources Inventory (HRI) list: There are full HRI records for the entire county at NCHS, and a brief list of properties in Napa City. Available Online.
Local newspapers: Several libraries have microfilm or bound volumes of local newspapers available at their locations. They are in the process of being digitized. Note: consider the build date an estimate rather than a firm date.
Official maps of Napa County: There are 3 editions of this map – 1876, 1895, and 1915, the latter of which is only available in print.
Property Transactions and Parcel/Plat Maps: The Napa County Office of the Assessor-Recorder has digital copies of their official records and many of their original historic maps. On their website you can research parcel data and official records (to see the full record you must visit their main office). Note: consider the build date an estimate rather than a firm date.
Sanborn Fire Insurance maps: Detailed property and parcel maps for Napa County. Several libraries have various maps for Napa, St. Helena, and Calistoga, and NCHS has 1886, 1891, 1901, 1910, and 1924 for Napa City.
Tip: Many addresses and street names were altered in the early 1920s to help standardize the numbering systems and to remove duplicate street names. A house number from 1915 will likely not be the same in 1895 or 1925, so you will have to use a combination of city directories and Sanborn Maps to figure out the previous addresses.