Researching Your Family Through Land Records
The King County Archives maintains several types of historical property records that can be useful to family history researchers. Generally, these records document real estate that was owned, sold or purchased by an individual. This information can be especially helpful in documenting the times and places in which your ancestors may have lived within King County.
One way to research your family's real estate ownership is by locating deeds and other recorded documents that indicate when property was bought, sold, or transferred.
Recorded documents are arranged by recording number. Between 1853 and 1975, the volume and page information to locate a recorded document was collated into an index by year and by last name of the parties involved - one index by grantor (the party that sells or conveys the property) and one index by grantee (the party that receives or purchases the property). If names and/or years of property transfers are not known, indexes may have to be searched year by year. Find more information about researching recorded documents, or come use our self-service microfilm room and let us assist you.
Between 1976 and the present, recorded documents are searchable online through the King County Recorder's Office.
Once you have a volume and page number (before 1970) or a recording number (1970 - present), you can access a copy of the recording at the King County Archives.
The King County Archives also maintains a variety of other records (in addition to deeds) that can be used to track a family's real estate ownership.
Donation Land Claims
- Donation Land Claims Index and Maps (1861-1882)
Under the Oregon Donation Land Claims Act of 1850, Congress allowed 320 acres of land in Western territories to be claimed by a single person and 640 acres by a married couple. The claimants received final title to their land when they had lived on it for four years and made certain improvements, or when they purchased their land in lieu of fulfilling residency requirements. Records include a name index to Donation Land Claim owners, as well as legal descriptions and maps of land claims.
- Land Office Correspondence (1879-1887)
This series includes correspondence between the Clerk of the Territorial District Court in Seattle and the U.S. Land Office in Olympia. Usually, the correspondence pertains to incomplete homestead applications. Most of these applicants were instructed to provide signatures, proofs of naturalization, fees or other application requirements. Some letters from homesteaders to the Land Office are included. The correspondence generally includes information such as the names of the land owners, the date their land was settled or a legal description of the property. Other valuable information is sometimes included including a description of the family (spouse and number of children), occupation(s) of land owners, land improvements and/or building descriptions. Although this series dates from 1879, most of the correspondence is from 1884-1887.
Land Registration [Torrens Title Act records]
- Registered land general index, 1907-1987
Index of persons holding interest in or charges against land registered under the Torrens Title Act, arranged alphabetically, name of registered owner, date of filing, type of instrument filed (such as deed, mortgage or mortgage satisfaction), citation to registered title, and description of land.
- Registered land tract index, 1907-1991
Index to land registered under the Torrens Title Act, arranged by plat name for platted areas of the county and by section, township and range for unplatted land. Data for each entry include name of owner, citation to land register, and description.
- Registered land: duplicate certificate of title register, 1907-1951
Index to land registered under the Torrens Title Act. Entries are arranged chronologically under the first letter of the certificate holder's surname, and include date of certificate issue, reference to volume and page of land register and certificate numbers, title file number and legal description of property with notations for payment or cancellation.
- Registered land filings, c. 1930-1971
Microfilm. Arranged by Auditor's filing number.
Property Values and Tax Rolls
Historical King county property tax rolls are held at the Puget Sound [state] Regional Archives. Please contact the Regional Archives for inforamtion about the following records:
- Real Property Assessment and Tax Rolls 1862-1941
These records show the fee owner, the legal description of the property, the tax assessment, a record of payment, and who paid the taxes. Holdings are incomplete for the period 1862-1899. The volume for 1891 is held by the King County Archives. For the period 1900-1941, the series includes every fifth year, ending in 1935 and 1941. This series is indexed (1891-1974) by the Index to the Real Property Assessment and Tax Rolls for King County. Index entries are organized alphabetically by name of addition, town, or donation claim and list volume and page number.
- Property Record Cards, 1937-1972
This series provides a cumulative history describing each parcel of real property in King County, including legal description of property, building use, number of rooms, some construction details, and, for improved property, at least one photograph. Property record cards are accessed by tax parcel number or brief legal description (subdivision, block and lot). Tax parcel numbers can be obtained by calling the King County Assessor's office at 206/296-7300, or through the online Tax Parcel Viewer.
- Real Property Assessment and Tax Rolls, 1974-1998
This series provides information on the amount of property taxes assessed on real property in King County. These microfiche records show the fee owner, the legal description of the property, the levy rate, the tax assessed, and the receipt date for payments. Arranged by year and by tax parcel number within each year.
- The Puget Sound [state] Regional Archives holds additional King County records related to tax assessments. Please contact the Regional Archives (external link) for information about the following records:
- Personal property assessment and tax rolls, 1891-1958
- Recapitulation of tax rolls, 1894
- Lake Washington canal assessment rolls, 1908
- Railroad real property assessment and tax rolls, 1913-1950
- Real property exempt from taxation rolls, 1936
Property Tax Payments and Adjustments
- Tax Citations (1892)
These records contain names of property owners as well as legal description of their properties with unpaid taxes listed.
- Proceedings of the Board of Equalization, 1894-1899
Records of the meetings of the board, including date of filing of each petition; name of petitioner; lot, block, and addition or subdivision affected; request of petitioner; and action of board in each case. Includes records of raising the personal property tax assessment for 1898; they list names of many businesses and individuals.
The Puget Sound [state] Regional Archives holds additional King County records related to appeals, adjustments and delinquent taxes. Please contact the Regional Archives (external link) for information about the following records:
- Delinquent tax roll and list of property sold, Seattle, 1873-1883
- Real property sold for delinquent taxes lists, 1873-1889
- Sheriff's list of property sold for delinquent taxes, 1873-1889
- Delinquent property tax assessment rolls, 1877-1892
- Record of cancellation or refund of taxes on real property, 1897-1909
- Certificates of delinquent taxes, 1917-1924
- Complaints of delinquent taxes and application for judgment and decree, 1920-1935
- Answers to real property petitions before the Washington State Board of Tax Appeals, 1969-1970
Property Acquisition Records
- Road Deeds Log (1905-1909)
This volume appears to be a ledger kept for the purpose of documenting King County's acquisition of property, by deed or condemnation, for road rights-of-way during the time period. Individual entries were made for each road. Record information usually includes road name, width, and a short description of the road. Also present may be road number ("R#") or survey number ("S#"); essential dates (of road examination, survey, completion); and other handwritten notes. A second section details information about property owners: section-township-range coordinates of property, part of section affected, owner name, owner address or whereabouts, property price, acreage, and other remarks. Remarks usually state the date the property deed was received or recorded by King County. Also noted may be the status of the property acquisition, problems with individual owners, efforts to locate owners, condemnation activities, and the ultimate status of the road. Arrangement of the volume is roughly chronological. An alphabetical index to road names is present but there is no owner name index.
- Road Establishment Files (Road History Packets) online (ca. 1850s-1960s)
Scanned into the Road Services Division Map Vault, this series documents the establishment and related history of King County roads between the 1850s and the 1960s. Many of the roads were petitioned for by local property owners, and the road names often reflect the main petitioner. Records include the petition with every landowner that signed on, deeds documenting the land taken for the road's right-of-way, survey field notes, correspondence in favor of or objecting to establishment, and/or maps that sometimes show location of houses and outbuildings. If your ancestor owned land in King County during this period, try searching their surname in the Project/map name field, or search by section, township, and range with a Map Type of "Road History Packet" under the Advanced Search tab.
- Georgetown property owners (1955)
Series 288 includes deeds and other property records, appraisal reports, and bond issue files relating to the acquisition of property for the construction and development of the King County International Airport (Boeing Field). The bulk of the material documents the efforts to acquire land to expand the airport "clear zone" in the late 1950s, including a detailed appraisal report from 1955. This report contained individual photographs of over 100 homes and other sites in the Georgetown and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. A separate index to the photographs is available.
The Well Done Cleaners and Laundry at 6251 14th Ave S in Georgetown; lot owned by Leonard A Riccio
A vacant building at 6305 15th Ave S
The apartments at 6320-22 1/2 13th Ave S, owned by Edith Junquist. The children and the dog appear in many photos from this series.