San Joaquin Genealogical Society
Special Collections
 
San Joaquin County Homesteads, 1881-1920
 
The Homestead Act of 1862, signed on May 20 by President Abraham Lincoln, was enacted to encourage settlement and development of federal lands. Most of the homesteads granted under this act were located west of the Mississippi River, and most were 160 acres in size. These federal land grants were given free to any applicants who followed a three-step process: (1) file an application; (2) reside on the land continuously for five years, farm it, and make improvements to it; and (3) file for the deed of title and pay a $15.00 fee. Any adult 21 years of age or older or a head of household could apply, including women, freed slaves, and non-citizens who had declared their intention to become citizens.
 
The original Homestead Act files for San Joaquin County can be accessed at the office of the San Joaquin County Recorder-County Clerk.
 
Indexes to the Homestead Act files for San Joaquin County are now available to members of the San Joaquin Genealogical Society1 (through the Members Only page of this website). These indexes give the volume, book, and page number for each homestead entry. To become a member, simply click on the "Online Join" link on the left side of this page.
 
 
Indexed Probate Records of San Joaquin County, California, 1850-1900
 
This compilation lists the names of all the people whose estates went through the probate process in San Joaquin County during the latter half of the 19th century. The number of the estate and the date of filing is included in this index, which lists decedents in alphabetical order by surname.
 
Published by the San Joaquin Genealogical Society in 1973, this compilation is now out of print and is only available to SJGS members (through the Members Only page of this website). To become a member, simply click on the "Online Join" link on the left side of this page.
 
 
Separate Property of Married Women / Sole Trader Status
 
In the mid-19th century, the California Legislature passed two Acts that gave women the ability to have more control over their property, independent of their husbands. Descriptions of these two laws are given below.
 
The original files for these two property-related record collections can be accessed at the office of the San Joaquin County Recorder-County Clerk.
 
Indexes for these records are now available to members of the San Joaquin Genealogical Society (through the Members Only page of this website)2. These indexes give the name of the married woman, her husband's name, the nature of the instrument, the date recorded, and the book, volume, and page number for each entry. To become a member, simply click on the "Online Join" link on the left side of this page.
 
Separate Property of Married Women
 
In the 1850s, the California Legislature passed an Act recognizing and defining the separate property rights of both husband and wife. The act stated that all property, both real and personal, of the wife, owned by her before marriage, and that acquired afterward by gift, bequest, devise, or descent, shall be her separate property. The statute gave the husband “the management and control of the separate property of the wife during the continuance of the marriage” but he couldn’t sell real estate or mortgage it without her written consent, nor could he sell any of his wife’s personal property unless she joined in the sale. A wife had the right to ask the court to take that control away from her husband if she had “just cause to apprehend that her husband has mismanaged or wasted, or will mismanage or waste, her separate property.”  
 
Several steps needed to be taken in order for a woman to gain separate control of her property:
  • Take a full and complete inventory of the separate property of the wife and signed by the wife, acknowledged or proved in the manner required by law for the acknowledgment or proof of a conveyance of land, and recorded in the office of the recorder of the county in which the parties reside.
  • If there be included in the inventory any real estate lying in other counties, the inventory shall also be recorded in such counties.
  • The filing of the inventory in the recorder’s office shall be notice of the title of the wife, and all property belonging to her, included in the inventory, shall be exempt from seizure or execution for the debts of her husband.
Sole Trader

Also in the 1850s, the California Legislature passed another Act giving married women the right to carry on and transact business under their own name, and on their own account. If granted Sole Trader status, then “the property, revenues, moneies, and credits, so invested, shall belong exclusively to such married woman, and shall not be liable for any debts of her husband; and said married woman shall be allowed all the privileges, and be liable to all legal processes, now or hereafter provided by law against debtors and creditors, and may sue, and be sued, alone, without being joined with her husband.”
 
The woman’s husband didn’t have to be absent. She didn’t have to show she needed the money or she and her kids would starve — just that she would use the proceeds to support herself and the children. Many women with good and enduring marriages took sole trader status. It protected them — and their family assets — just in case, and it gave them rights other states didn’t grant for decades.
 
 
Credit goes to SJGS's Special Projects Chairperson Betty Mathis and her team of volunteers—Adine Gnekow, Marilyn Reineman, and Randee Walshe—for preparing this valuable resource.
2 Thanks to SJGS member Betty Mathis for preparing this index.