Skip to main content
King County logo

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE

This guide contains information on the different types of genealogical records held by King County Archives. It provides instructions on how those records may be used to track genealogy. You will find the following information and resources in this guide:

  • What types of genealogical records King County government created that are available in the Archives.
  • How to use land records to track your family's history.
  • What types of government records were created for other purposes but can still help you research genealogy.
  • What other institutions besides King County Archives may hold genealogical records.

Please use the navigational tabs below to browse this guide and locate the informational sections most relevant to your research.

 

King County Archives maintains many records that are useful to family history researchers, including types of records that are not traditionally considered genealogical in nature. If your ancestor interacted with King County government, we may hold a record of that connection. Some records may be accessible by name; others only by a date or a geographic location such as section, township, and range.

Our staff can assist you in locating genealogy resources and provide access to records that may hold genealogical significance. You may access records in the following ways:

  • Visit King County Archives in person. To schedule a research visit, please go to our Visit the Archives page for more information.
  • Contact us via email, archives@kingcounty.gov, or call (206) 263-2480 for remote assistance.
  • For assistance conducting in-depth genealogical research, contract with an independent researcher in the Puget Sound area.
 
Family of four standing at public service counter

Family at the Vital Statistics counter, 1962, Photo number 90.2.0379, Seattle-King County Department of Public Health photograph files
(click image to open a larger version)

 

KING COUNTY CENSUS RECORDS

 

Historically, censuses have been taken by state and territorial governments as well as the federal government. Federal censuses are conducted every 10 years while state or territorial censuses were generally conducted between those year spans. The following list describes King County census enumerations and indexes that are available digitally and in physical format.

PHYSICAL RECORDS

King County Archives holds the original bound volumes of territorial and state census records created by the King County Auditor for the following years: 1879, 1880, 1881, 1883, 1885, 1887, 1889, and 1892.

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) holds the original bound volumes of the 1877-1878 King County Territorial Auditor’s census records.

DIGITIZED RECORDS

Puget Sound Regional Archives holds microfilmed copies of the 1857 and 1871 King County Territorial Auditor’s census records. They also hold microfilmed copies of the original volumes at King County Archives.

Some territorial, state, and federal census records are digitized and available on the Washington State Digital Archives.

The most comprehensive set of territorial, state, and federal census records for Washington State and King County are available on online through Ancestry.com. Check your local library to find out if they provide access to Ancestry Library Edition. FamilySearch.org provides free online access to digitized federal census records.

The National Archives at Seattle holds microfilmed copies of federal census records for Washington State.

FEDERAL CENSUS, 1950-PRESENT

Access to federal census records is restricted for 72 years after the census is taken. Although the census population schedules for these years are restricted from public access, various statistical information can still be obtained from these enumerations. Contact the U.S. Census Bureau for more information.

 

KING COUNTY LAND RECORDS

 

King County Archives maintains several types of historical property records that may be useful to family history researchers. Generally, these records document real estate that was owned, sold, or purchased by an individual, and they can be used to document when and where your ancestors may have lived in King County.

 

COMPILING A PROPERTY HISTORY

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. To do this, please go to our Recorded Documents research guide and click on the "Research the ownership history of a property" tab.

 
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.

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.


*Definition: The Torrens Title Act (adopted in Washington State in 1907) provides an alternate method for establishing title to property. It differs from traditional recording systems in that the state guarantees the owner's title. Under the Torrens System, state courts approve an examination of a parcel's title history and ultimately issue a Certificate of Title to the owner. The certificate is then registered with the county auditor or recording office.

Historical King County property tax rolls are held at Puget Sound Regional Archives. Please contact them to access 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. King County Archives holds the 1891 volume. 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). Obtain tax parcel numbers can be obtained on the King County Assessor's Office online platform 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.

Puget Sound Regional Archives holds the following King County records related to tax assessments.

  • 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
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.

Puget Sound Regional Archives holds the following King County records related to appeals, adjustments and delinquent taxes.

  • 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
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. To view a sample of these images, please visit our Historical Photographs research guide.

 

MORE GENEALOGICAL RECORDS

 

King County Archives holds a number of records that aren't traditionally considered when conducting genealogical research. If your ancestor worked for King County government, was an elected official or filed for public office, or applied for any type of license or record in the county, we may have records documenting their activities.

To perform a search, you need to know when your ancestor may have been employed or conducted business with the county, and if possible, the office they worked with or for.

Please email archives@kingcounty.gov or call (206) 263-2480 to view these records or to request remote assistance.


GENERAL

County Commissioners' proceedings name indexes (1853-1969)

Names of people having business of some kind with county government (for example, applying for a liquor license, suing for damages to a road, petitioning for property rezone, etc.)


COURT AND LEGAL

Jury lists (1880-1922)

Lists of people who were selected to serve on juries or who were paid for jury service. Generally, the lists are alphabetical and in addition to the name of each juror they often include the home address of each juror or the distance that they traveled to serve on a jury.

General civil index (1865-1906)

Name index of civil cases filed in Washington Territorial District Court and its successor, King County Superior Court. Entries include the name of the plaintiff, the name of the defendant, the judgment, the instrument number and the date of filing. Entries are indexed alphabetically by name of plaintiff. These are microfilm copies.


SPECIFIC PROFESSIONS

Attorney rolls (1850-1895)

Register of attorneys admitted to practice in Seattle from the 1850s to 1895.

Lists of bar applicants (1894-1895)

Applications of individuals desiring to practice law in King County. They are indexed alphabetically by last name.

Registers of health care professionals
  • Index of Licenses for Physicians, Optometrists, Chiropodists, and Midwives (1890-1980)
  • Medical Register (ca. 1892-1916)
  • Doctors Sworn In (1909-1913)
  • Dental Registers (ca. 1909-1970)

ELECTIONS / ELECTED OFFICIALS

Oaths of office (1913-1927)

These forms documented public officials that were elected or appointed in King County. The forms include the name, the position and the date of the oath. They are arranged by file number, which is semi-chronological.

List of filers for public office (1940-1979)
 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

OBITUARIES

Although newspapers articles are not government records, they contain genealogical information in the form of obituaries, notices of marriage and births, and articles about historic events. Many historical newspapers are available and searchable online through public libraries.

Seattle Public Library provides in-person access to indexes to and images of the Seattle Times from 1900 to the present and search for obituaries and other newspaper articles themselves from any computer.

The Library of Congress site Chronicling America also contains digitized newspapers from 1777 to 1963.

Ask your public library if they have a subscription to Newspapers.com available for public access.

 

ARCHIVES AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

The offices listed below may also hold genealogical records related to your family's history.

TTY Relay 711

For information about our open business hours, please go to our Visit the Archives page.