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Research at the Archive

A signature detail of Junipero Serra from an old document.

Finding Guides

The Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library would like to thank the Academy of American Franciscan History and the California Missions Foundation for their generous support of our efforts to conserve the Junípero Serra Collection and the California Mission Documents Collection through digitization.

Mission Document Collections

The Finding Guides for these major collections are descriptive accounts of the official archive of the Franciscan Friars and the California missions. 

This archive had its inception during the months when Joseph de Gálvez and Fray Junípero Serra planned the exploration of Alta California in 1768. The original archive remained in Serra's hands until his death in 1784. It was passed on to succeeding Presidentes of the mission system. As friars elsewhere confronted mission secularization and confiscation in the 19th century, they sent their missions' historical documents and materials to Mission Santa Bárbara, which has remained in the hands of the Franciscans from its founding in 1786 until the present day.

For purposes of utility and interest the Mission Document Collections are grouped as follows: The Junípero Serra Collection, 1713 to 1948; the California Mission Documents, 1640 to 1853; and the Apostolic College (Our Lady of Sorrows) Collection, 1853 to 1885.


The materials should be considered original manuscripts in Spanish, unless noted otherwise. These finding guides are the lifelong work and creation of historian and archivist, Fr. Maynard Geiger, O.F.M., Ph.D.

Click on a guide to view the collection's finding guide.


Junipero Serra Collection

California Mission Documents Finding Guide



Our Lady of Sorrows College Finding Guide

*Common Abbreviations Guide

Sacramental Registers

Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library holds original manuscripts and reproductions of many of the sacramental registers the Friars kept during the Mission Era. These important accounts record the celebration of sacraments at the Missions, such as baptism, marriage, and burial. These unique records provide information about the experiences of individual Native Californians during the Mission Era, and are researched extensively by scholars and genealogists alike.


          California Missions Sacramental Registers 

Baja California Missions Sacramental Registers

Mission Reports, Inventories, and Accounts

The following collections represent the official documents and records that the missionaries compiled to report on the goings-on at the missions. They include information on the numbers of sacraments performed, the number of livestock and crops produced, the number of Native and non-Native Peoples present, as well as other information.

Biennial Reports (Noticias)

Preguntas y Respuestas

In the early nineteenth century the Spanish government sent out questionnaires to its colonies seeking information on the customs of the Native Peoples living under its jurisdiction. The Friars at the Alta California Missions provided answers to these questionnaires and returned them to the President of the Missions. These documents provide unique insight into the lives and experiences of Native Californians living around the Missions during the Mission Era.

          Preguntas y Respuestas

Friar Diaries

Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library’s diary collection primarily consists of the diaries of Franciscan Friars at the Alta California missions during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Diary Collection

SBMAL is open to researchers by appointment only.
NEW HOURS for 2024! Research hours are now available on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 10:00am to 4:00pm.

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