History of Your House
While trying to find the history of a residence can be very difficult there are some things you can do at the Los Angeles Public library to start such a search.
- Get property description and Assessor’s I.D. number at the online Los Angeles County Property Assessment Information System.
- Obtain original construction date and possibly the names of contractor, architect and original owner on the building permit obtained online or in-person at the City of L.A. Department of Building and Safety: http://ladbsdoc.lacity.org/
- Find out who currently owns a property by emailing email@example.com (be sure to include the Assessor’s I.D. number and address of the property you’re investigating). You cannot obtain owner information by name via their website.
- To trace the ownership history of a property (from 1850 on), contact the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk in-person, or for a fee by mail or online. They do not do requests by phone. When researching, you will need to have the name of either the grantee or grantor—there is no look-up by address.
- The REDI (Real Estate Date Inc.) Real Estate Atlas of Los Angeles County and The Land Use Planning and Management Subsystem (LUPAMS) can provide historic ownership and descriptive information on properties within the City of Los Angeles. The Central Library’s Business & Economics Department has microform copies of REDI from 1982-1991 and LUPAMS from 1991- Dec. 2005 and June 2006 – March 2014.
- Los Angeles city directories may be able to show you who lived at the address between 1873-1942; these are typically organized alphabetically by surname, but digitized directories allow one to do “reverse” look-ups by address. Selected Los Angeles city directories have been digitized and are available on the LAPL website.
- Ancestry Library Edition has digitized California Voter Registrations (1900-1968). Access this database at any LAPL location; then, in the keyword field, search for the address in quotes.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps may show the original structure of the property and layout of the street. The Sanborn Maps database (1867-1970) is available online at http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/research-and-homework (under “Sanborn”) with a LAPL card. Sanborn Maps have limited San Fernando Valley coverage.
- When previous owners’ names have been obtained, try searching newspapers for death notices, obituaries or news stories. The following digitized newspapers can by searched by keyword (name or street address) with a LAPL card at http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/research-and-homework:
● The Los Angeles Times Historical Database 1881-1990
● Access Newspaper Archives (good for researching the San Fernando Valley!)
● Los Angeles Sentinel Historical Archive 1934-2004 (good for African-American research)
Ancestry Library Edition has a United States Obituary Collection you can access from any of our locations. We have many newspapers on microfilm in Central Library’s History & Genealogy Department (e.g. the Los Angeles Herald Examiner), but knowing the date of death in order to browse through them is best because most are not indexed. To find date of death, search the California Death Index or Social Security Death Index at Ancestry Library Edition or FamilySearch.org.
- Probate records can sometimes give you information about who inherited the house after the owner died. If the owner died in Los Angeles County, search county probate records at the Superior Court of California – County of Los Angeles Archives & Records Center at 222 N. Hill Street, Room 212, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
- Check the LAPL History Department's California Index for names and neighborhoods associated with a property. You can find this online or check the index in-person at the Central Library History/Genealogy Department.
- Street Names of Los Angeles by Bernice Kimball at the History Department reference desk may clarify the origination of street names and subsequent name changes.
- Local historical societies often provide direction and sometimes undertake the searches for a fee. The Los Angeles Conservancy provides a detailed list of research suggestions and local resources for property tracing in Los Angeles.
- Some U.S. Census records for the late 1800s and early 1900s will identify residents at an address. Census records may be accessed at databases.lapl.org using Ancestry Library Edition, which is available in-person at the library, or HeritageQuest Online, which is available at the library and remotely by using a LAPL library card.
- Our digitized photo collection at photos.lapl.org may provide images of the neighborhood or, in rare instances, your house. If, after searching diligently, you still don’t find anything, contact us with your query at http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-question-form.
- For questions or projects that are too complex or time-consuming a list of available for-pay researchers is available in the History Department at Central Library. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for this list.