The California Missions collection consists of twenty-one documents, primarily inventories, account books, and annual reports (informes), dated 1791-1846. The majority of the documents were created at five of the missions: Santa Cruz (eight documents), San Buenaventura (four documents), and one document each from San Gabriel Arcangel, Santa Clara, and Santa Ines. The remainder of the documents describe conditions at more than one mission, or refer to financial or social transactions at unidentified missions. All but one of the collection’s documents are in Spanish; one undated document, a descriptive introduction to and translation of an annual report from the Santa Cruz Mission from 1791, is written in English. About half of the documents are dated prior to the secularization of the missions in 1834, and about half are dated post-secularization.
Though limited in size, the collection shows economic and social aspects of life at the missions. Account books, inventories, and annual and biennial reports (informes) provide information about the people living and working at the missions, including numbers of baptisms, marriages, births, and deaths; number and kinds of livestock and crops; description of property and buildings; and accountings of debits and credits. Some of the documents provide a great deal of detail: for example, a set of annual and biennial reports from 1791-1833 (Folder 3) and an account book for 1792-1818 (Folder 4) each offer views of the Santa Cruz Mission's economic activities over many years.
Along with documents about the missions named above, the collection includes other types of documents that attest to various social and legal practices. These include a conversion statement, promissory notes, and documents concerning marriage. Many documents refer to Native Americans as Indios; one document mentions Coras, Yuma, and Apache.
The collection contains many signatures of figures that played a role in the history of the California missions, including Andrés Pico, Estevan Tapis, Thomas de la Pena, and Pablo Vicente de Sola; people charged with conducting inventories of the missions, such as Juan Manso; and lessees or purchasers of the missions, including Narciso Botello and José Arnaz. Other signatures found in the documents are mentioned in the Scope and Content notes for individual folders in the collection. In addition, names mentioned in the documents include Juan B. Alvarado, Narciso Duran, and Concepcion Arguello.