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Frequently Asked Questions

This section contains frequently asked questions and answers about the King County Archives. If your question is not answered here, please email archives@kingcounty.gov for assistance. 
How do I access records at the King County Archives?
Access to our records is at the King County Archives facility in Seattle.  Most recorded documents are available in our microfilm research room, where no appointment is required.  Research in all other records in the King County Archives requires an appointment at least one day in advance, please contact us with any research questions.
 
Is the Archives the only place where I can find historical property records?
There are several sources of property and land use records in King County. Some of the main sources include:

The King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) retains construction and land use records, including permits, for properties in unincorporated King County.

The King County Department of Assessments holds current property tax assessment records.

The Puget Sound Regional Archives (external link), a branch of the Washington State Archives in Bellevue, holds historical tax assessment records.
 
Why aren't all King County's records located centrally in one place?

(1) Different county agencies have different functions and create records relevant to those functions.

(2) In adopting its Charter (1969) King County changed its form of government. New agencies were created. The county's records, formerly held in a more central manner, were dispersed among the new agencies.

(3) The Puget Sound Regional Archives, a branch of the Washington State Archives in Bellevue, predates the 1990 establishment of the King County Archives and was the first officially-designated repository for county records. Some King County records, such as the old tax assessment records, are still retained there.
 
What kind of records do you have?
Our collection is limited to those records created by King County government and come in many formats including paper, photographs, maps, oral histories and other recordings. They include legislative records--County Commissioners resolutions (1853-1968) and County Council ordinances and motions (1969-1999), a special collection of over 6,000 County documents, pre-charter legislation, administration and policy decisions, recorded documents, early road and bridge establishment and inspection records and records and policies from former County Executives.
 
In addition to recorded documents, what other property records are at the King County Archives?
In general, two types of property records can be found at the King County Archives:

(1) Legislative files (Council ordinances and motions; Commissioner resolutions and orders) document official actions relating to property in unincorporated King County. These actions can be such things as road establishments, road and plat vacations, zoning, and land use classifications. Reports, studies, and correspondence relating to these actions are often present in the Archives' holdings as well. Please contact the Archives if you are looking for this type of record.

(2) Records that happen to show, or relate to, individual properties, even though the records were created by King County for another purpose. For example, an Engineering Department photograph of proposed street paving improvements in 1965 can also show a suburban neighborhood's homes and businesses. This type of record is usually accessed indirectly by a combination of keywords and location information, rather than directly by owner name, street address, or tax parcel number. Please contact the Archives for assistance, or visit our Neighborhood History page for more information.
 
Can archival holdings be checked out from the King County Archives?
No, all records must be viewed in our reseach room.
 
How do I get copies of records?
Please visit our fees page.
 
Can I look up records by street address or tax parcel number at the King County Archives?
Street address and tax parcel number may sometimes incidentally appear on records held by the King County Archives, but these identifiers are usually not the primary access point. A more useful access point for older historical records is often the section-township-range coordinates. (Please see our glossary for definitions of this and other terms related to property and land use.)
 
Does the King County Archives charge a search fee?
No. There is no search fee for the retrieval of public records. However, the King County Archives does charge for copies or other reproductions.
 
My home used to be in unincorporated King County but it's now part of an incorporated city. Would I find old pre-incorporation property records at the King County Archives?

The first place to look for property records is your municipal records department. Some county records are transferred to municipalities at incorporation. It is very possible that, for actions that happened prior to incorporation, documentation will also be found at the King County Archives or other county agencies.  
 
What is a finding aid?
A finding aid is a descriptive tool which summarizes the contents of a collection which helps the Archivist and researcher find information in an archival collection.
 
Do you have any records for properties inside the City of Seattle?

The King County Archives does not retain records for individual Seattle properties . A few records for some Seattle neighborhoods are present in our collections. Please visit our Neighborhood History page for additional information.
 
Can I use my laptop or digital camera at the King County Archives?
Yes, laptops and digital cameras may be taken into the research room.
 
Do I need an appointment?

Yes, most records in our collection require an appointment at least 24 hours in advance.  Please contact the King County Archives at 206-205-1538 or archives@kingcounty.gov with any questions.

Appointments are not required to research recorded documents in our microfilm research room.

We are open Monday-Friday, 9:00AM - 4:00PM.

 
Where is the King County Archives located?
Our address is 1215 E. Fir Street, Seattle, WA 98122. Driving directions.
 
I work for a county agency and I want to archive some boxes.
Please contact the King County Records Management Program at 206-477-6889 or records.management@kingcounty.gov for assistance with records retention schedules and transfers to the King County Records Center.