Documents pertaining to the adjudication of private land claims in California circa 1852-1892


Documents pertaining to the adjudication of private land claims in California, circa 1852-1892

Documents pertaining to the adjudication of private land claims in California circa 1852-1892

In 1851 the U.S. Congress passed "An Act to Ascertain and Settle Private Land Claims in the State of California" which required all holders of Spanish and Mexican land grants to present their title for confirmation before the Board of California Land Commissioners. Land from titles not confirmed became part of the public domain. This Act placed the burden of proof of title on landholders and initiated a lengthy process of litigation that resulted in most Mexican Californians, or Californios, losing their titles. While 604 of the 813 claims brought before the Board were confirmed, most decisions were appealed to U.S. District Court and some on to U.S. Circuit Court and the Supreme Court. The confirmation process required lawyers, translators, and surveyors, and took an average of 17 years to resolve. The records of the District Court cases, the Land Case Files, were deposited on permanent loan in The Bancroft Library by the U.S. District Court in 1961. There are 857 total cases: Northern District Cases 1-458 and Southern District Cases 1-399 (see "Additional Notes on the Collection" for a note on case number discrepancies). Materials include transcripts, witness depositions, materials presented as evidence, and other legal documents. Most maps were transferred to the Map Collection of The Bancroft Library for separate cataloging (see: Maps of private land grant cases of California).

Number of containers: 857 Cases. 876 Portfolios; Linear feet: Approximately 75; Microfilm: 200 reels; 10 digital objects (1494 images)



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Biographical Sketch Bonilla, born in Mexico City in 1807, came to California in 1834 with the Hijar and Padres colony. He held various responsible public offices in San Luis Obispo — alcalde, judge, and district attorney. He died in 1878. From the guide to the Documentos para la historia de California, (The Bancroft Library) ...

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United States. District Court (California). (corporateBody)

U.S. district and circuit courts were created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 under the authority of the constitutional provision that the judicial power of the United States be vested in a Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may establish. The Judiciary Act provided that these courts were to have original jurisdiction in cases involving crimes, remedies of common law, and aliens suing for a tort. The district courts were to have exclusive original cognizance of c...

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