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King County Archives

A repository of county government records
King County Archives
1215 E. Fir St.
Building A
Seattle, WA 98122

206-296-1538
archives@kingcounty.gov

Monday - Friday
9:00 am - 4:00 pm

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Land Recordings

Please contact the Archives for more information about, or for access to, the following records:

General Land Office field notes, 1856-1913

This series consists of handwritten transcriptions of the survey field notes of United States General Land Office surveyors. Two types of surveys are present. Both include notes on, or references to, the natural and built environment (topography, bodies of water, vegetation, soils, trails, roads, settlements in existence) at the time of the survey.

  • Traverses performed to locate section corners, to establish river meanders, and to survey shorelines, 1856-1913. The notes are transcribed into six bound volumes arranged by range number (2-11, 13). Range notes are subarranged by township. Index maps at the beginning of township notes provide page references for locating surveys of specific section boundaries within that township. Notes of shoreline and meander surveys are transcribed at the end of township notes.
  • Boundary surveys of donation land claims in King County, 1860-1882. Notes in this volume include, for each claimant, claim and notification numbers, acreage, date of survey, section-township-range information, and claim boundary survey notations. The volume is arranged in general chronological order by date of survey. A name index by claimant surname is present.

Donation Land Claim maps, 1861-1882

This volume of maps shows donation land claims, and other subsequent property holdings, in King County. The volume (probably a transcription, circa 1882, of U.S. Surveyor General maps) is a small (16 inches by 14 inches) bound blank folio into which thirty-six township maps have been drawn. Initial cartography utilized colored inks and a colored wash; later annotations were made in pencil. Each donation land claim is outlined in black ink and contains, as record information, owner name, acreage, claim number, and notification number. Coal lands and "cash entries" (claimant had purchased the land) are noted.

Names and numbers correspond with entries in the series General Land Office Field Survey Notes: Donation Land Claims. In addition to property holdings, maps show watercourses (streams, springs, ponds, lakes); prairies and wetlands; resources (coal deposits, cranberry bogs); structures (roads, trails, wagon roads, school); and Native American villages and reservations. The volume is arranged in ascending numerical order by range (2-6) and within each range, by township (21-26).

Tide and shore land plat survey maps, 1894-1958

Under its constitution, Washington State asserts ownership of the "beds and shores of all navigable waters in the state up to and including the line of ordinary high tide, in waters where the tide ebbs and flows, and up to and including the line of ordinary high water within the banks [shore lands] of all navigable rivers and lakes." Plat surveys of the state's lands were undertaken by various state agencies responsible for public lands. The record copy of maps produced by the plat surveys was retained at the state level, with secondary copies held by relevant local jurisdictions. Maps for King County were held by the Auditor, who also served as the sales or lease agent for the state lands. The surveys established a baseline appraisal standard of the lands for future tax assessments. The plat maps in this series fall into four categories:

  • Maps of Puget Sound tidelands, from Salmon Bay (Ballard) to a point in southwest Seattle in Section 12, Township 23, Range 3, just south of Westwood by the Sound; and along Commencement Bay in what is now Pierce County (1894-1927).
  • Maps of shore lands around Lakes Union and Washington prior to the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal (1907-1914).
  • Maps of shore lands around Lakes Union and Washington after canal construction (1920-1933).
  • Maps of Lake Washington shore lands at the Black River near Renton (1914; 1955).

Maps show actual shore lines at time of survey, property lines; some maps may also show structures.