Quick tips for researching recorded documents
The recording number is not the same as the Assessor’s tax parcel number. The tax parcel number identifies a specific piece of land for property tax purposes; the recording number identifies a particular document. The Recorder’s Office has cross-referenced recordings to the tax parcel number only consistently since 2002, although you may be able to search by parcel number for some documents dating from the 1990's. If you are using the Recorder's Office search engine, you won’t be able to consistently use a tax parcel number to identify recordings prior to 2002.
When a document is recorded it is given a unique identifier called the “recording number” ( which is the same as “Auditor’s number” or “Instrument number”). From 1853 to 1971 recordings were numbered in a single sequence (1 to 6728719) with the text of the recordings transcribed or photographed into series of large volumes that were later microfilmed. Finding a document from this period is a two-step process. You will look up the number on long numerical lists (“Auditor’s Receiving Books”), and find volume type and number, and page number in that volume. On that page in that volume will be the actual recording, cross-referenced to the Auditor’s number. Please review our list of microfilm and hardcopy records available at the King County Archives.
In 1971 King County began using a recording number that was composed of four elements: year, month, date, and a unique sequential identifier. For example, 19790801001 identifies the first document recorded on August 1, 1979. Microfilmed documents at the King County Archives (1971-1991) are filed directly by this number. Imaged documents on the King County Recorder’s Office search site (1991-present ) can be accessed by this “instrument number.” Note: when recording numbers are transcribed, the "19" or "20" at the beginning of the number is sometimes left off. In order to retrieve the correct document, you will need the complete number. (Example: enter "19790801001" instead of "790801001".)
Recording numbers (1971-present) are generally printed vertically on the left side of each page of the document.
Auditor's numbers (1853-1970) are generally printed horizontally at the top of each document. Most Auditor's numbers (dated between 1915 and 1970) are 7-digits in length.
A boundary line adjustment, also called a lot line adjustment, accommodates a transfer of land between adjacent separate lots. Boundary line adjustments are granted by local government authorities such as the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (for unincorporated King County only) and municipalities, such as the city of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.
These issuing authorities give each boundary line adjustment a unique numerical identifier. If and when the King County Recorder’s Office records the adjustment, the document also receives a long recording number.
The easiest way to find and retrieve a recorded boundary or lot line adjustment record, either using the Recorder’s Office website (1976-present) or the microfilm at the King County Archives (1853-1975), is by using the long recording number.
Searching without a recording number
You cannot easily use the boundary or lot line adjustment number to look up the recording and It is not possible with the microfilm (pre-1976). Online search success (1976-present) depends on your entering the boundary or lot line adjustment number (select Maps under Land Records and then type your query in freeform) in exactly the same way that the Recorder’s Office staff entered it into the database. There are many ways (data entry formats) that this has been done over time and it’s very difficult to guess the correct one.
A better way of searching (online or microfilm) when you don’t have a recording number is by the name of one of the parties to the line adjustment, preferably connected with a date. With a name, you can search two places using the Recorder’s Office website by selecting Maps under Land Records. Both should be searched by name (and date if you know it) for best chance of best results:
Land Records-Maps / [document type] Boundary Line Adjustment
Index entries from 1979, images from October 1991.
Land Records-Maps / [document type] Boundary Line Adjustment – Mylar
Index entries and images from 1981.
Unrecorded boundary and lot line adjustments
Not all line adjustments have been recorded. In King County, the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review maintains a substantial number of unrecorded line adjustments dating from 1981 and later. Contact the department at DPERWebInquiries@kingcounty.gov for more information.
Your best chance of finding a complete list of all recorded documents that relate to your condominium, homeowner association, or planned unit development is to search online at the Recorder’s Office website for a recorded deed of a recent sale of one of the units in your development. The deed will often list the recording numbers (although not the title or subject) of the documents that govern your development. The easiest way to retrieve recorded documents is by the recording number.
If you are looking for specific document types:
Condominium site plan and survey (also called “condominium plats”). Find online at the Recorder’s Office website by selecting Maps under Land Records and searching for the "Condominiums" document type. The condominium was usually indexed under the name of the developer or the development company, with the condominium name appearing in the legal description. Online images are present back to 1964, the year after Washington State legislation established condominiums as a form of property ownership.
Condominium declarations (also called “conditions, covenants and restrictions”, or CC&Rs). Because this text record is originally part of the initial establishing documents for a condominium, the Recorder’s Office usually has filed it along with the condominium site plan and survey (see above). Search on the Recorder's Office website by selecting Maps under Land Records and then select the document type "Declaration of Condo" – even though it isn’t a map! Like the site plan and survey, the first declaration was probably filed under the name of the developer or the development company, but checking the condominium name as well is a good idea. If you do not find the original declaration here, continue your search on the Recorder's Office website using the Official Public Records search engine and do not specify a document type.
Condominium amended declarations: Amendments to the original declarations may be found in either of two places on the Recorder’s Office website:
- Under the Land Records menu (Maps / [document type] Amended Declaration of Condo), or
- Under the Official Public Records menu. Because the amendments may have been coded any number of ways (Amendment, Agreement, Covenant), when searching for amendments, it’s best to search using the name of the condominium without entering any document type.
Homeowner associations (non-condominium) or planned unit development documents: Find text documents online on the Recorder's Office website via the Official Public Records menu. Search under the association name rather than document type as association records can also be filed in different ways.
Planned unit development site plans and surveys: Find online (1981 - present ) at the Recorder’s search site via the Land Records menu under Maps / [document type] Planned Unit Development.
Bylaws are not required to be recorded, although they frequently are. The word “bylaws” sometimes occurs in the “Legal Description” field of the Recorder’s search site and can be searched by entering the word “bylaws” in the “Freeform” search dialogue box. Condominium declarations (see above) may also contain language about association procedures that would otherwise be found in bylaws.
Old plat covenants may appear in connection with (non-condominium) plat maps, usually dating from the first half of the twentieth century. These covenants were established by the developer when a plat was laid out. Many have since been determined to be unlawful and unenforceable. These kinds of covenants can be found either via the online Official Public Records menu (indexing back to 1976 only) or name searching via the microfilm indexes at the King County Archives . Sometimes plat covenants appear on the face of the plat map itself. Check the Recorder’s search site via the Land Records menu: Maps / [document type] Plats.
The DD-214 (Veteran’s Discharge Paper or Veteran’s Service Record) is a document issued by the United States Department of Defense upon a military service member’s retirement, separation or discharge from active-duty military. There are two locations where these records can generally be found: 1) at the Personnel Records Center in St. Louis Missouri and 2) recorded in the county of the veteran’s choice.
1) National Personnel Records Center
The standard repository for all DD-214’s and other military service records is the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. They have records of most military personnel discharged since World War I. DD-214’s can be requested online or by mail, with instructions provided on their website. The NPRC receives approximately 4,000-5,000 requests per day and requests can be delayed. There is no charge for discharges 1950-present, but discharges before 1950 are considered archival and are subject to fees.
In 1973, a fire at the NPRC destroyed approximately 16 million military personnel records. According to the website, the records destroyed were 80% of Army discharges between 1912 and 1960 and 75% of Air Force discharges between 1947 and 1964. If a particular record was destroyed, the NPRC can sometimes reconstruct discharge papers using alternate, surviving records. Reconstruction efforts can take much longer to respond to than an ordinary records request.
2) King County Archives
Veterans have always had the option of having their discharge papers recorded in a county of their choice (usually where they resided). They have often been encouraged to do so, to provide a more convenient option for retrieving copies. Veterans have not been required to record their DD-214’s and there is no guarantee that a recorded document will be located. DD-214's can only be located by the date they were recorded and not the date of discharge.
The King County Archives provides access to all veterans discharge papers recorded in King County.
How to search for DD-214’s
DD-214’s prior to 1976 are indexed by the General Recordings Index, which is accessible on microfilm at the King County Archives. In order to locate the recorded discharge, you need to know the name of the veteran and the date that the discharge was recorded with the county. The date of discharge from the military is not necessarily relevant to when the document was recorded. In the index, the name of the veteran is listed as the Grantee, while the Grantor is usually listed as the United States. The index will provide a volume and page number with which to locate the actual document.
DD-214’s from 1976-present are searchable using the online index on the Recorder’s Office website. You will search under Official Public Records and select document type VETERAN SEPARATION. You will find index entries and recording numbers, but no images of discharge papers are available online.
How to get copies of DD-214’s
For the veteran themselves
The veteran can request recorded copies of their discharge papers directly from the King County Archives. There is no charge for copies of the discharge papers, but the veteran must show identification to Archives staff showing that they are the person listed on the recorded DD-214.
For a relative or representative of the veteran
Any relative or representative of the veteran must fill out the Request for Access form (PDF) and have it recorded with the King County Recorder’s Office. Once the person has the recorded form, they can take it to the King County Archives to acquire copies of the DD-214’s.
Easements can be challenging to research because they exist in different ways (as a separately recorded document, as text that's included in or attached to a deed, as a figure drawn on a recorded plat map...) and because they serve different purposes (access, drainage, utilities, slope, etc.).
One search strategy is to (1) collect as many recording numbers (also called instrument numbers or Auditor's numbers) that relate to your property and then (2) review documents associated with the numbers to see how they may apply to your property.
Sources of recording numbers
- Legal description of your property. Found online through the King County Parcel Viewer website (click on "Get Property Report" on the first results page). The legal description might (or might not) state if the property is subject to easement. If it does, the recording number of the easement(s) might also be stated.
- Purchase deed for your property. The deed should state, either on its face or as attachments, if the property was subject to any easements at the time of sale and list relevant recording numbers. [Note: you cannot count on such a list being current or complete.]
If you don't have your deed, and you purchased your property in 1991 or later, you can search for and find an image of the deed online. If you purchased your property between 1976 and 1991, you can search for your deed online, but cannot view a copy of it online (for a copy of the deed, you will have to retrieve that from the King County Archives.)
To trace deeds (yours, or those of previous owners of your property) before 1976, you will need exact or approximate property purchase dates linked to names of buyers or sellers; in other words, to create an ownership history. You 'll be looking for references to earlier easements that might have been stated on the deeds.
- For residential or planned unit developments, and condominium developments which might have easements, try to locate recent deeds for unit sales within your development. These can be researched online. On the Main Menu, select Official Public Records. Using a unit owner's name is easier, if it's known, but you can also enter the name of your development in the "Freeform" field and see what comes up. Your goal is to look at the deed(s) and what easements, if any, are referenced by recording number on the face of the deed.
- "Easement" is a document type that can be used for online searching at the Recorder's Office site (Main Menu: Official Public Records), in combination with a name, a date, or elements of the legal description. Note that only easements specifically recorded as a separate document will be returned when limiting a search to Document Type=Easement.
Retrieving and viewing documents
Deeds and separately recorded easements, August 1, 1991 and later:
Indexed and imaged online on the Recorder's Office website
Deeds and separately recorded easements, 1976 to July 31, 1991:
Deeds and separately recorded easements, 1853 to 1975:
Indexes (by names and recording number) and images of documents, available for research on microfilm at the King County Archives
Other sources of easement information
For land platted by a developer, some condominium developments, and planned unit developments, easements may be shown on the recorded maps for these types of subdividions. Map images can be viewed online on the Recorder's Office website. To retrieve these documents, you must select "Maps" under Land Records. On that Maps search engine, select the document type (Plat, Condominium, or Planned Unit Development) and enter Book (volume) and Page number. These numbers are usually referenced on the deed.
A small number of easement maps - mostly drainage easements - can be found online in the Road Services Division's Map Vault database.
Grantor ("Direct") and Grantee ("Indirect" or "Inverted") general indexes are the main indexes to King County recordings between 1853 and 1975. Microfilmed indexes are available in the microfilm research room at the King County Archives. (Hard-copy volumes, 1853-1971, are at the Puget Sound Regional Archives in Bellevue). All indexes between 1853-1971 are handwritten and indexes between 1971 and 1975 are typed. At this time the Grantor-Grantee Indexes does not exist in a digital or online version but is continued from 1976-present by an online index on the Recorder's Office website.
The Grantor-Grantee indexes are primarily for property records. You cannot use them to locate marriage records, graphical records such as plats or surveys, birth and death records, or anything not recorded.
Grantors and Grantees
A "grantor" gives or conveys something to another party. Examples include:
- The seller or giver of property
- The person taking out a deed of trust or a mortgage on a property
- Original name of a person changing his or her name
A "grantee" receives something given or conveyed. Examples include:
- The buyer or receiver of property
- The person or financial institution holding a deed of trust or a mortgage on a property
- The new name of a person changing his or her name
- The recipient of a military discharge document (DD-214)
- The recipient of a boundary or lot line adjustment from a local government agency.
Index arrangement is by date (month, day, year), then by personal surname or corporate name. The indexes do not cumulate! For transactions over a long time period, or when the transaction date is unknown, you may have to review many indexes.
In any given year between 1853 and 1971, personal surnames will be in semi-alphabetical order. So, for example, all names starting with ABE (Abell, Abelman, Abert...) will be listed together and you must review the whole section to find all the Abells. First names and spouses' first names also appear in front of the surname, alphabetized similarly. Common family names such as Johnson or Smith have their own index sections. Corporate names that begin with each letter are entered after the personal surnames starting with that letter. Corporate names are arranged in approximate alphabetical order by the second element of the corporate name. So Puget Sound Gravel Company (on a page headed P - S) will come before Pacific Timber Company (P - T). Governments (United States, King County, Seattle) have their own index sections.
For many years a few corporate groups were intermixed, in correct alphabetical order, in the personal surnames sections: Cemeteries, Chinese surnames, Churches, Lodges (fraternal organizations), and Sheriff (for Sheriff's sales). These entries are arranged by date only.
All indexes from 1971 to 1975 are arranged alphabetically by personal and corporate name.
Understanding Index Entries
Each entry in both the Grantor and Grantee indexes gives the following information:
- Filing date (month, day, year) - usually a short amount of time after the date of the record itself
- Names of grantor and grantee
- Location of recorded document:
- Document type
- Volume name (Deeds, Judgments, Mortgages, etc.)
- Volume number
- Page number in volume
- Remarks (satisfied liens and mortgages are noted here, also references to other recording numbers)
- "Description of property." Information varies but you might find here:
- For platted properties: block, lot and plat name
- For unplatted properties: section-township-range coordinates
- For complex property transactions, or for recordings that might not involve specific parcels of property: a reference saying, "See record" or "See document."
Please note that no cross-references exist to King County parcel numbers!
To find the text of a recorded document, note the volume name, volume number, and page number. This will allow you to retrieve most deeds from microfilm holdings in the area adjacent to the public research area at the King County Archives. The microfilm (reels and fiche) are arranged by volume number. Scroll through the microfilm for a specific page or pages in that volume.
With the volume name and number, and page number that you have identified, Archives staff can help you retrieve pre-1976 property recordings other than deeds.
Certified copies of marriage certificates for all years are available from the King County Archives. The fee is $3.00 for each certified copy. We do not accept credit card payments at this time.
It might be helpful to search in the online indexes (1853-1989 and 1990-present) before you submit your request so that you can be sure King County has your marriage record. Certificates in Washington State are only filed in the county where the license is issued and not in the county where the marriage takes place. If you cannot locate your certificate in King County, try searching in other Washington counties.
order by mail with check or money order only (1855-present) - $3.00 per copy
Please fill out our copy request form (PDF) and mail it with the correct fee ($3.00 per certified copy) to the King County Archives. When we receive your request, we will process it within 2 business days and mail your copies to you.
order in person with cash, check or money order (1855-present) - $3.00 per copy
Visit us at the King County Archives with the correct fee ($3.00 per certified copy) and we can have your copies ready for you the same day. We are located in the First Hill area of Seattle and have free parking available.
order online with a credit card (1855-1989 only) - $4.00 per copy
Search for and locate your record on the Washington State Digital Archives (external link). Then, use a credit card to order for $4.00 per certified copy. Service only available for certificates from 1855-1989.
order online with a credit card (1968-four months before present only) - $31.50 per copy
If the marriage occurred between 1968 and four months before today's date, you can use a credit card to order a certified marriage certificate from VitalCheck (external link), via the Washington Center for Health Statistics. They provide the state-version of the marriage certificate, which is slightly different than the county-version. The cost for ordering from them with a credit card is currently $31.50 per certified copy.
County procedures for name changes have varied over time. Finding and retrieving name change records reflects these variations.
Since July 1991, name changed have been handled by the King County District Courts. The District Court has automatically recorded name change orders with the King County Recorder's Office since 1992. You can search online for name change orders dated 1992 and later on the Recorder's Office website. Use the "Official Public Records" menu and search by name (last name first). The document type for most recorded name changes 1992-present is ORDER CHANGING NAME.
In order to find the District Court case file (which should be the same as the recorded name change), you will have to first find the case file number, which you can do by visiting the Washington Courts site and search by name. The results will provide the case file number and the name of the district court. In order to retrieve the case file, you must contact the appropriate district court directly as each district court manages its own case files. (Note that it's sometimes easier to contact the district courts by e-mail than by the general telephone number, 206-296-9200). The King County Archives does not hold District Court records.
Before July 1991
Before July 1991, name changes were handled by the King County Superior Court who can be contacted at 206-296-9300 (dial "9" to speak to a person) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Indexes to name change case file numbers from 1940-1979 are available on their website. You can also search for name changes from 1979-present on the Washington Courts site, which will direct you to the court that holds the record. Corresponding Superior Court civil case files (1853-1972) are physically kept at the Puget Sound Regional Archives in Bellevue, who you can contact at 425-564-3940 or PSBranchArchives@sos.wa.gov.
Before 1992, name change orders were not automatically recorded with the King County Recorder's Office. They were infrequently recorded though if an individual thought it was necessary. You can search for name changes that might have been recorded between 1976 and 1991 on the Recorder's Office website. The best way to search is by name, without specifying a document type. Microfilmed copies of the recorded orders can be retrieved through the King County Archives. Microfilm name indexes prior to 1976 are also available for searching at the Archives.
|* 1992-present||Recorder's Office website
Select Official Public Records search engine and search by document type ORDER CHANGING NAME.
* Name changes were not consistently recorded until 1992. Before that year they were occasionally recorded, and were recorded under different document types. You can download images of recorded name changes online (1991-present) or order copies (all years) from the King County Archives.
|1979-present||Washington Courts website (external link)
Search by name in all courts in Washington state to locate name change case file numbers. Order copies directly from the court of record.
|1975-1979||Civil index on Superior Court Clerk website
Browse through digitized microfiche of the civil index, which includes name changes, to locate case file numbers. Order copies directly from the Superior Court Clerk.
|1940-1975||Name change index on Superior Court Clerk website
Browse through digitized microfiche of the name change index to locate case file numbers. Order copies directly from the Superior Court Clerk.
Getting your name changed?
Name Change Research Guide (external link) - helpful information from the King County Law Library regarding changing your name in Washington State
Name Change After Marriage - information from King County Marriage Licensing regarding changing your name after marriage
An ownership history is a compilation of property ownership changes through time, listing names and dates associated with each transfer. Generally, this information will be compiled by locating deeds or other vesting documents. There is not an easy or quick method to research this, but there are several methods and resources you can utilize to compile this information. It is easiest to work backward in time, starting with when you (or the current owner) purchased the property. When you locate the name of the last person to sell the property (as the grantor), you will then search backward until you find when they bought the property (as the grantee), and so on.
King County Parcel Viewer website
access by parcel number or address
With your address or parcel number you can use King County Parcel Viewer to locate your Property Detail Report. At the bottom of the Property Detail Report under Sales History, there may be a list of deeds, with names and dates, showing when the property has changed ownership. The sales histories range from the mid-1980s to present for most properties.
King County Recorder's Office website
access by name(s) and dates
The King County Recorder's Office website has an online index of all recorded documents (including deeds) from 1976 to present. Images of most documents (including vesting deeds) are available online from August 1, 1991, to present. To search for recorded documents online, you must search by name. The Recorder's Office did not consistently use the parcel number in their indexing until about 2002. For best results, type in as little information as possible.
Hardcopy resources at the King County Archives
General Recordings Index
access by name(s) and dates only
The King County Archives provides access to the General Recordings Index (Grantor/Grantee Indexes) from 1853 to 1975 in our microfilm research room. Recorded documents for this time period are only indexed by name or recording number. Each microfilm reel only covers one or two years of recorded documents. It is very helpful to have an approximate date or date range to narrow down your research, otherwise you could spend days searching through many reels of microfilm. Although the grantor/grantee indexes are the most comprehensive and direct method of locating deeds, it might be helpful to utilize the resources below to help narrow down your search.
access by parcel number
The King County Archives has Sales Histories (1973-1981) on microfilm, which index excise tax affidavits by the parcel number. The excise tax affidavit, if located, can be used to help track down the deed, or it might be sufficient itself for compiling an ownership history. Copies of the Sales Histories are apparently also available for research at the King County Department of Assessments.
Excise Tax Index
access by legal description
The King County Archives has Excise Tax Indexes (1961-1997). They must be accessed by legal description. The indexes will provide an excise tax number, which can then be used to locate the excise tax affidavit and then the corresponding deed. Since the volumes contain only numbers (no names), they can be difficult to research, especially for large plats or for unplatted properties.
Hardcopy resources at other locations
If you do not have names and dates, the Puget Sound Regional Archives (external link) in Bellevue has Property Record Cards (1937-1972) for all parcels in King County which sometimes include incomplete lists of property owners or purchasers between 1937 and 1972. The property record card can only be accessed by the parcel number or legal description.
The Puget Sound Regional Archives also has older Tax Assessment Rolls (1891-1941), which can only be accessed by a legal description of the property. Although they will not tell you when or to whom a property was sold, they could help narrow your search by indicating who the tax payer was for the property during a given year.
access by legal description
properties in the city of Seattle only
The Seattle Department of Planning and Development (external link) has microfilmed property abstracts (called "Title Abstracts" or "Abstract Books") for properties within Seattle's city limits. They are organized by legal description and apparently show all ownership changes up to 1990 with names, dates and recording numbers.
A plat is actually a map of a developer's proposal, subject to King County approval, for subdividing a large piece of property into parcels, blocks, lots, streets, etc. A plat may or may not actually be built as mapped, proposed and approved. If your property was never part of a developer's plat, your legal description will identify it in relation to its section-township-range coordinates.
The legal description on your deed or on the Parcel Viewer record for your property should state the name of your plat, and the plat book and page on which the plat map can be found. All King County's plat maps that have been recorded can be viewed online on the King County Recorder's Office website. To search for and view the plat map, you must select "Maps" under Land Records. On the Map search engine, you can then select document type "Plat" and then enter your book and page number, remembering to enter 3-digit numbers (for example, Book 3 would be entered as 003).
Some plats were never recorded and the King County Department of Assessments maintains these records. Please contact the King County Archives for assistance in identifying and accessing unrecorded plat maps.
To see a current outline map of your property with its boundaries marked and dimensions noted, see the Assessor's "Quarter-Section" maps online. Just enter your parcel number and click "Submit." This map is also linked to the "Property Detail" page of the Parcel Viewer record for your property.
You can start your property search using the King County Parcel Viewer.
Using the Search Menu you can retrieve parcel data by entering an address, parcel number or street intersection. Once the parcel information is displayed showing owner information and map of property, click Get Property Report (lower left side under Taxpayer Name).
In the property report, click Property Detail to obtain detailed property information. To understand the fields on the property report, view the Assessor's glossary which has definitions for many, if not most, of the fields in the Property Report (which is compiled from Assessor data tables). Some sales history of your parcel (generally from the mid-1980's to present) and some links to recorded documents can be found in the Sales History section of the Property Detail report.
For a map of your quarter-section-township-range, you can find a link in the Parcel Data section within the Property Detail report.
August 1, 1991 - present
You can look up and view Excise Tax Affidavits online on the Recorder's Office website. On the Main Menu, select the link for “Excise Tax” under “Land Records.” Online excise tax affidavits are available from August 1, 1991 to present.
1961 - July 31, 1991
Excise tax affidavits between January 1, 1961 and July 31, 1991 are on microfilm and are available from the King County Archives. You will need to provide us with either the King County recording number of your deed or the year of your purchase for us to effectively assist you.
pre - 1961
King County did not keep Excise Tax Affidavits before 1961. We do though have Excise Tax Affidavits between May 1951 and February 1952. The property record cards at the Puget Sound Regional Archives (external link) sometimes, but infrequently, include purchase prices for transactions between between 1937 and 1961.
For transactions between 1935 and 1960 we can usually extrapolate the purchase price using the conveyance or excise tax stamps on the face of the deed.
You may need to use alternate documentation to establish an approximate purchase price for purchases before 1961. One option is to locate the initial mortgage on the property and use that figure. Another option would be to utilize an assessment value from a year near the sale. Please contact your tax advisor for assistance.
Maps and drawings of county engineering projects associated with plat developments in unincorporated or formerly-unincorporated King County can frequently be found in the Map Vault, a database created and maintained by the King County Road Services Division.
General information about this database and how to access is provided online.
Stormwater drainage plans can often be found by entering a Map Type (Advanced Search menu) of "Drainage," in combination with a development name, short plat number, nearby street name, and/or section-township-range coordinates.
Road surveys for county streets and roads abutting your property can be found by entering the street or road name in the Project/Map Name field and/or the Road Name field. In the search results, surveys are identified as such in the Project/Map Name field, as part of the Map Number field, or by an entry in the Survey Number field.
In this database, limiting searches by date or by section-township-range coordinates can be very helpful. This database is not searchable by parcel number.
Some information relating to the division of a property into 2-4 parcels between 1937 and 1972 can sometimes be found on the King County Assessor's property record cards, held at the Puget Sound Regional Archives (external link) and accessed by tax parcel number.
King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) has short plats on microfilm from 1961 to 1982. Please contact the DPER Records Center at 206-296-6696 or DPERInquiries@kingcounty.gov.
Note: the short plats held by DPER are only for properties within unincorporated King County. Original short plats from incorporated areas should be held by the corresponding municipalities.
1972 and later
Beginning in September 1972, short plats were recorded with the King County Recorder's Office. All recorded short plats (1972-present) are available from the King County Archives and are filed and indexed by the recording number. They were also given a short plat number.
Short plats are indexed online from 1976-present on the Recorder's Office website. Please search on "Maps" under "Land Records." The majority of short plats are document type "Short plat", but some of them are "Short plat - mylar."
The easiest method for searching for a short plat is entering the recording number.
If you only have the short plat number, you can also try entering it in the "Freeform" box, trying one of these formulas:
The abbreviated legal description found on the Assessor’s King County Parcel Viewer search engine often contains the short plat number and/or the recording number. The Assessor's quarter-section map often provides the short plat or recording number as well.
Maps and drawings of county engineering projects associated with plat developments in unincorporated or formerly-unincorporated King County can frequently be found in the “Map Vault,” a database created and maintained by the King County Road Services Division. Engineering projects for a particular short plat can usually be found through the Project/Map Name field. Enter data in one of these forms:
- Short Plat No [number]
- Short Plat No S[number]
- [Last name of owner, developer, or name of development] Short Plat
There is no repository of private surveys prior to 1973. The King County Archives holds a few private surveys from the early twentieth century in its historical collections. If your property was ever affected by a county road or other county project, historical right-of-ways or other surveys may exist. For this kind of survey, check the King County Road Services Map Vault online or contact the Map and Records Center of the King County Road Services Division at (206) 296-6548 or email@example.com.
1973 and later
The King County Recorder’s Office began recording private property surveys in 1973. All surveys dating from that time have been scanned and indexed and are available online.
The simplest way to check for a recorded survey is probably through King County Parcel Viewer. Enter your parcel number or address according to the instructions. You will then see a page showing an outline map of your property. Click on “Get Property Report” at the lower left corner of this page. When the property report opens in a new window, note the legal description of the property. Then click on, “Scanned images of surveys and other map documents” and you will receive a list of results. The results are not just for your property. They are for all properties in your general area or plat. Check the list against the legal description you noted earlier and you may find a survey for your property. You may have to scroll through several pages of results.
Alternatively, you can use the Recorder’s Office website to search for a recorded survey. Under Land Records you will select the link for Maps. Then, on the "Map Survey" search page, select document type of Survey and search by entering any criteria including the Volume and Page of the survey, the name of the person who had the survey done, the section-township-range coordinates or the name of the plat. These surveys cannot be searched by the parcel number or address.
The outline dimensions of your property can be determined through the King County Assessor’s ‘Quarter –Section” maps online. Just enter your parcel number and click on “Submit.” This map is also linked to the “Property Detail” page of the record for your property found through King County Parcel Viewer.
If you need to accurately measure these dimensions against your actual property, you may need to work with a surveyor. Find names of surveyors via online searching or in the Yellow Pages.
Unlike automobile ownership, there is not one single document stating that someone has "title” to a piece of property. In actuality, you may need several documents to show this:
- The document showing that you legally acquired the property from someone else at the time of the original purchase or acquisition, most frequently a warranty deed, quitclaim deed, or real estate contract.
- Documents showing that any mortgages (usually called deeds of trust) have been satisfied (in other words, that no one has a financial claim to your property). These are usually recorded as a “full reconveyance” or "satisfaction of mortgage" (Note that it’s your lender’s responsibility to send you the reconveyance and to record it with the King County Recorder’s Office.)
You can search for and download images of these documents (dated August 1, 1991 and later) using the Recorder's Office search engine, which is also an online index (with no images) to documents recorded between 1976 and July 31, 1991. To search for documents prior to 1976 or retrieve images of documents prior to August 1, 1991, please research them at the King County Archives. For a fee, various companies should be able to search for and provide you with the set of documents establishing that you “have title” to your property. In order to research and locate these title documents, you will need to know the approximate date the property was purchased and the approximate date that all mortgages were satisfied.
To take someone “off title” or put someone "on title" you may need to file a new conveyance document or deed. The King County Recorder’s Office and Web site ( “How can a person change names on a property title?”), legal counsel, and title companies can provide additional information or advice.