Pueblo de Sonoma

 Court Records

Expedientes 1841-1849


(California Rancho Deed Reaffirmations)


Twenty-one deeds survived the tumultuous days preceding the formation of the state of California and are preserved in the Sonoma County Office of the Recorder in Santa Rosa, California under the title Expedientes 1841-1849.  Most of these deeds were reaffirmations of the ownership of the early ranchos granted by the Mexican government in the current counties of Sonoma, Napa, and Marin.  Detailed abstracts are included in this publication that has been distributed to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the California State Library, and various libraries and historical societies in Sonoma County.  The original documents may be found in the Sonoma County Office of the Recorder.


The introduction and index are reproduced here. 





Information Regarding These Records 

Vocabulary/Recommended Reading           


Record Number


1:  Guillermo Richardson, Rancho Sausalito, 6 August 1841.   

2:  Domingo Sáez, Rancho de la Providencia, a.k.a. Cañada de Terrenal,

                         13 October 1841    

3:  Timotéo Murphy, Rancho San Pedro, 16 October 1841    

4:  Rafael García, Rancho de Baulenes, 18 October 1841            6

5:  Juan Cooper, Rancho de la Punta de Quintín, 19 October 1841    

6:  Maria Ygnacia López, Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa, 3 January 1842

7:  Nicolas Higuera, Rancho de Napa, 11 January 1842    

8:  Jorge de la Concepción Yount, Rancho Caimy, 9 February 1842 

8.5[1]: Jacobo Primo Lis, Rancho Huichica, 14 February 1842 

9:  Francisco Solano, chief of a tribe of  indigenous people to El Señor Coronel Comandante General Don  Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Suisun, 10 May 1842           

10:  Cayetano Joarez (Juarez), Rancho Tolucay, 16 April 1842    

11:  Jaime Rdo. Beri, Rancho de la Punta de Reyes,  (Rancho Point Reyes),

                         16 June 1842      

12:  Fernando Feliz, Rancho de Novato, 11 November 1842    

13:  José Camilo, Rancho Olimpali, 13 October 1843    

14:  Salvador Vallejo, Rancho de Napa, 8 February 1844 

15:  Eduardo McYntosh, Rancho Estero Americano, 20 March 1844    

16:  Henrique Fitch, Rancho Sotoyomé, 2 September 1844    

16.5[2]: Jorge Rock to Jacobo Primo Leese, Rancho Güenoc, 10 October 1845    

17:  Maria Juliana Zalazar, Rancho de Locoallomí, 13 September 1845    

18:  Dámaso Rodriguez, Rancho Yahome, 18 October 1845    

18.5[3]: Anastasia Bosonda to Jacobo Primo Leise, lot in the town of Sonoma,

                        26 March 1846     


Guide to Original Ranchos                      

Map of Ranchos in Sonoma and Marin Counties             

Surname Index 





Court Records

Expedientes 1841-1849


            This project of the Sonoma County Genealogical Society is based on some of the earliest land records that still exist in Sonoma County.  They are written in Spanish and predate the admission of California as a state.  The originals are housed in the office of the Sonoma County Recorder, with a copy in the History/Genealogy Room of the Santa Rosa Branch of the Sonoma County Library.  The original records, kept in a locked case, are in a volume titled Expedientes 1841-1849.


            Historically, these records involve some of the first land grants made to private individuals in the area north of San Francisco.  The petitions in this project were submitted to the court  to document proof of ownership of these grants and to verify title.  They also contain two land sales.  However, these are not a complete listing of all the land grants in the North Bay area.


            The court of record was in the city of Sonoma, under the jurisdiction of General Mariano Vallejo.  The original records are in Spanish, but they were translated, edited, and extracted for this project by SCGS member Camelia Domenech O’Connor.  These extractions are only through 1846.


Private Land Grants


            Following the Spanish exploration and colonization of what was once known as New Spain, California was originally a Spanish territory.  It was one of the last of these territories to be occupied.  Spain established presidios (forts) and missions and granted vast amounts of rancho lands to private individuals.  Later, under the Mexican government, the practice of granting sovereign lands to private individuals continued.  Of the more than 800 rancho grants made, the Spanish government granted about 30.  The remainder were granted by the Mexican government.


            Any loyal citizen could ask for land—but applicants had to be Mexican, marry a Mexican citizen, or become a Mexican citizen, and they had to belong to the Catholic church.  Under the law, the petitioner had to ask the governor for the land.  He had to include an estimate of the size and a rough description of the boundaries, using a simple map.  He could ask for as much as 50,000 acres, but not less than 4,500 acres. 


If the petition was approved, an official survey was done.  The measuring line was a reata,[4] or rawhide rope, usually 50 varas (a little less than 50 yards) in length.  The ends of the reata were tied to long stakes.  A man on horseback held one of the stakes at the starting point of the grant while a fellow surveyor rode the length of the reata along the boundary line.  The second man then held his stake in the ground while his companion measured off the next 50 varas.


Wooden posts, branded with the owner’s cattle brand, or natural objects such as hills, trees, and streams, were ordinarily used to mark the boundaries of a rancho....If these were not available, any convenient object such as a coyote’s burrow, a steer’s head, or a clump of cactus, was made to serve as a boundary monument.[5]


            The new owner took possession of his grant by performing an old ceremony that was also used in the Spanish era.  Along with a government official, the owner stepped along the boundary line of the ranch, walking over the land pulling up tufts of grass and scattering handfuls of earth.  He broke branches of trees and shrubs to show that he possessed the legal right of ownership.  He had to declare, “Viva el Presidente y la Nacion Mexicana” (long live the President and the Mexican Nation).


            The original Spanish and Mexican land grants were issued under a loose metes-and- bounds system and were poorly defined because of the physical landmarks used to establish the boundaries.  These were so ill-defined that they caused disputes, even prior to California statehood.  Consequently, a number of the ranchos were regranted a second time, sometimes to the same person or persons as before.  Petitions, such as the ones included in this project, were issued to ensure ownership.


Decline of the Ranchos


            When gold was discovered near Sutter’s Fort in 1848, thousands of people came to California from all over.  Many of them were unsuccessful in the goldfields, so they began to look for something else and saw the great ranchos.


            When California became part of the United States in 1850, land-seekers went to the American courts and claimed the land.  The Spaniards and Mexicans soon lost part or all of their ranchos because many did not speak English or understand American laws.  Often, they had no papers to prove ownership of the rancho.  They were given two years to produce proof, but sometimes papers had been lost or boundary markers of stones or oak trees were no longer in existence.  Later, a severe drought forced many of the remaining rancheros to borrow money from the Americans that they could not repay, and the land was lost.  The era of the ranchos was over. Most of the original records of the Board of Land Commissioners, which dated back to 1852, were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906.




Bauer, Helen California Rancho Days (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1953).


Ranchos of California, UC Berkeley Library, online at <http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/EART/rancho.html, downloaded 14 January 2003.


The Ranchos of California, online at http://www.Millefleurs.tv/Introduction_Ranchos.html, downloaded 12 January 2003.




Pueblo de Sonoma

                Court Records

from documents written in SPANISH       

Translated, edited, and abstracted by Camelia Doménech O'Connor



Information Regarding These Records


These records were abstracted from photocopies copies of original hand-written minutes of court records of the town of Sonoma, Alta California, Mexico, before the U.S. takeover.  They cover the period of time between 6 August 1841 and 26 March 1846 and deal mainly with the measurement of land, but there are also a few dealing with land sales. These documents are very lengthy, comprising up to seventeen handwritten pages.  In the first record, some of the pages are out of sequence.  It would take an enormous amount of time to unscramble them since they are not numbered, but in spite of this, the important information was retrievable.


There are many difficulties encountered in trying to translate these records.  To begin with, a great many are of poor quality technically, some being very dark and others so light that the writing is barely visible. Another problem lies with the fact that in some cases the ink from the reverse side has bled through the paper making reading the information impossible. 


As for the handwriting itself, some of it is beautiful and very clear as in the case of record number 14, in which Salvador Vallejo asks the court to confirm his possession of Rancho de Napa. On the other hand, some of the handwriting looks like a rough copy and seems to have been written hurriedly.


All the records contain so many abbreviations that they look like an exercise in shorthand. For example, the word que is always abbreviated by a symbol which appears to be a “q” ending in a fancy squiggle in an upward direction. Para, por, and dicho, are also words that are always abbreviated. The names Ygnacio, Victor, Gregorio, Francisco, Antonio, and Manuel appear as Ygo, Vor, Grgo, Frco, Anto, and Manl, respectively.  Even surnames such as Higuera, which becomes Higa., are abbreviated.


It must also be noted that usually the scribe spelled phonetically, committing grave errors by today’s modern Spanish spelling rules. The surname Juarez is spelled in a variety of ways, appearing as Joares, Joarez, or  Juares.  Foreign names such as Leese appear as Lis, or Leise when spelled phonetically; Yount becomes Yunth or Yunt.


Another obstacle I encountered is my lack of knowledge of terms used in surveying and especially the

idiosyncrasies of the symbols used in Alta California at this time.


For all these reasons, it is necessary to know the language well in order to make sense of the documents. Even so, it is most difficult to decode capital letters and some numbers.


Nevertheless these records contain a wealth of information about people living in the area at the time. Not only are the owners of properties identified, but also many of the people who participated in the court actions are named, such as witnesses, colindantes and medidores.



Spanish,               English


aduana Maritíma, Maritime customs house

agrimensor, a professional surveyor of land

alcalde, a local magistrate usually a member of the municipal council; the chief executive officer of a pueblo who possessed a combination of executive and judicial powers

camino, road, path

Camino Real, the Royal Road, King’s Highway

cañada, dell, ravine; cattle path

cañaveral, cane or reed field

ciudadano, citizen

colindante (singular), colindantes (plural), a person or  people sharing a common property line

comandante militar, military commander

cordel (singular), cordeles (plural), usually several ropes of 50 varas each were used for measuring land

Don (masculine), a title of respect used with a man’s first name; abbreviated D. or Dn.; from Latin dominus

Doña (feminine), a title of respect used with a woman’s first name; abbreviated Da

embarcadero, wharf, quay, pier

estero, estuary, inlet

juez, judge

laguna, lagoon

lagunita, little lagoon

medidor, medidores (plural), from medir to measure; medidor, one who measures

palmo castellano, a measure of about eight inches; the literal meaning is a Castilian hand-span. Castile is the region in central Spain.

portezuelo, pass between hills

pueblo, town

sitio de ganado mayor, a parcel of land measuring 5,000 varas by 5,000 varas more or less, used for raising large animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, and or donkeys

terrenal, earthly

testigos de assa (asistencia), assisting witnesses

vara (singular), varas (plural), a measure of length equivalent to about 32.99 inches; employed before the metric system was adopted. It is composed of four palmos castellanos.

vecino, neighbor, usually the head of a household



Recommended Reading


Antonio Maria Osio, translated, edited, & annotated by Rose Marie Beebe & Robrt M. Senkewicz, The History of Alta California (Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1996)


Antonio Maria Osio, the author, appears as a personage in some of the land documents which follow.  Other people appearing in the these documents are also dealt with in the above recommended book. To wit Richardson,  Leese, the Vallejos, Prudon, and Osio himself.  Drs. Beebe and Senkewicz are professors of Spanish and History respectively at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California. Dr. Beebe is the (2002-2003) President of the California Mission Studies Association.










This publication was made possible through the volunteer efforts of the

 Sonoma County Genealogical Society.


Project Director

Carmen Finley



Camelia O’Connor



Doris Dickenson






County Clerk-Recorder: Eeve Lewis

585 Fiscal Dr. 103F

Santa Rosa, CA 95403


(707) 565-2651

Maps/Photo Order

(707) 565-3250

Vital Statistics

(707) 565-2645

Chief Deputy

(707) 565-3246


(707) 565-3905

Surname Index


Alvarado, Juan B.


13, 15

Armijo, Francisco


Bale, Eduardo


Berellesa, Nazario


Beri, Jaime


Bernit, Elias


Berrellesa, Nasario


Berreyesa, José Jesús


Berreyesa, José


Berreyesa, José S.


Berreyesa, José de la Santos


Berreyesa, Cruz de Sisto


Berreyesa. Nasario

8, 12

Berry, Santiago

4, 6

Berryessa, Nazario


Black, Santiago


Bohorquez, Bartolomé


Bojorquez, Angel


Boronda, Anastasia


Briones, C.


Briones, Gregorio

2, 3, 5-7, 15- 16

Briones, Pablo


Burns, Guillermo


Cacho, Rafael

4, 7

Camilo, José


Cantúa, Dolores


Cantúa, Manuel

16, 17

Carrillo, Dolores


Carrillo, Julio


Carrillo, Ramón


Castañares, José María


Chiles, José


Cooper, Juan B. C.


Cooper, Juan

4, 5, 7

Cooper, Juan B. R.

5, 6

de la Rosa, José

11-13, 22-24

de la Rosa, José


del Valle, Francisco


Dawson, Santiago


Elizalde, Mariano


Espinosa, Julian


Farrell, Gaspar

19, 21

Feliz, Fernando

1-7, 16-1 7

Fitch, Henrique


Gallego, Jesus Ma



1-4, 6-7

Gomez, Felipe


Hardy, Tomas


Higa, Franco


                                Higuera, Francisco

14, 15, 18

                                Higuera, Franco


                                Higuera, Nicolás


                                Higuera, Ygnacio

10, 14

Jalapa, Francisco


Jimeno, Manuel


Joares, Cayetano

10, 15

Joarez, Calletano


Joarez, Cayetana

14, 24

Juares, Cayetano


Juarez, Cayetano

14, 16

Juarez/Juaeres, Cayetano


Leese, Jacobo P.

18, 19, 21

Leese, Jacobo Primo


Leiese, Jacobo Primo


Lis, Jacobo P.

12, 14

Liz, Jacobo Prim


López/Lopes, María


Martinez, Juan


McYntosh, Manuel Eduardo


Mesa, Rafael


Mesa, Ramón

10, 12, 14

Micheltorena, Manuel


Mido, Teodoro


Miguel, Santos


Miranda, Apolinario


Murphy, Timotéo


Narváez, Rafael


Narváis/Narváiz, Rafael


Ortega, Antonio

3, 4, 6, 7, 16

Osio, Antonio M.


Osio, Antonio María


Pacheco, Igno (Ignacio)

4, 5

Pacheco, Ygno (Ignacio)


Pacheco, Ygno (Ygnacio)


Pacheco, Ygnacio

6, 7

Peralta, José


Pico, José Antonio

8, 9

Pico, Manual Jimeno


Piña, Germán

15, 21

Piña, Joaquin

8, 9

Prudón, Victor

18, 19, 21

Reed, Juan


Richardson, Guillermo

1, 2, 5, 7

Roc, Jorge


Rock, Jorge


Rodriguez, Dámaso A.


Rodriguez, Dámaso

12, 18, 19, 24

Roe, Jorge


Ruis, Gabriel


                                Sáez, Domingo

2-5, 7

Solano, Francisco

13, 17

Solís, Juan


Soto, Pedro

15, 17

Torre, Manuel


Vale, Eduardo

11, 14

Vallejo, Mariano Guadalupe


Vallejo, Salvador

1-7, 9-18, 24

Vásquez, Paulino

18, 24

West, Marcos

8, 21

Wilson, Juan


Yount, Jorge

11, 12, 14, 24

Yunt, George


Yunt, Jeorge


Zalazar, Florencio


Zalazar, María Juliana



[1]The actual record number of this document is illegible. Saved as Record 8.5 to preserve the time sequence.

[2]The actual record number is 3, the second of this number.

[3]This is an arbitrarily assigned number.

[4]The documents included here do not use the term reata.  Instead they use cordel or cordeles.

[5]Robert Glass Cleland, California Pageant, the Story of Four Centuries (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1946).

You are the [an error occurred while processing this directive] visitor since 10 May 2003.