About King County Archives
The mission of King County Archives is to collect, preserve, and facilitate access to County government records of enduring historical and legal value for the benefit of the public we serve.
King County Archives is a recognized leader in helping the public access County government records, learn more about the history of King County, and foster a strong connection to community.
Phone: (206) 263-0920
Archives Specialist III
Phone: (206) 848-0928
Phone: (206) 477-5244
Archives Specialist II
Phone: (206) 263-2479
Administrative Specialist III
Phone: (206) 263-2481
King County Archivist
and Archives Program Manager
Phone: (206) 477-5281
Drafted by Archives Specialist Greg Lange.
Prior to the establishment of King County Archives, the County’s historically relevant records were transferred to and held by the Washington State Archives Puget Sound Regional Branch in Bellevue. In 1988, the National Archives National Historical Publication and Records Commission awarded King County government a grant to fund staff and services to “preserve, arrange, describe and make accessible” King County government archival records. (King County Department of Executive Administration, Section 7, Appendix 4, NHPRC Grant, circa 1985)
In 1993, King County Council established a fully funded county archives program “[p]reserving and providing public access to the archival records of King County…having continuing historical value” and designated a new position of King County Archivist. (King County Council Ordinance 10098, January 1993)
King County permitting records. Photo Credit: Matthew S. Browning.
Since 1988, King County’s archival records are housed and made available to the public at 1215 E. Fir Street. In 2019, King County government sold an adjoining parcel to fund an extensive remodel of the Archives building. They completed the renovation in May 2022, and staff moved records stored off-site back into the building. Puget Sound Regional Archives still holds some King County records including the Assessor’s Real Property Record Cards, Metro records, and County Executive records.
King County Archives is the repository for historically-relevant King County government records, and we are charged with the preservation of and access to those records. We hold more than 300 collections comprising over 18,000 linear feet of records dating from 1853 to the present. These records serve as a permanent source of information about activities, programs, and decisions of County agencies, elected officials, and County employees. These records exist in many formats, including paper, photographs, maps, and audio-visual materials.
They include legislative records: County Commissioner's resolutions (1853-1968) and County Council ordinances and motions (1969-1999), a special collection of over 6,000 County documents, pre-charter legislation, administration and policy decisions, early road and bridge establishment and inspection records and records and policies from former County Executives.
King County Executive Gary Locke's agency records. Photo Credit: Matthew S. Browning.
To order a copy of recorded property documents, please fill out our online request form.
King County Archives shares King County government's strong commitment to equity and social justice. The county's diversity, equity, and inclusion [DEI] values guide and shape our work. We are:
- Inclusive and collaborative
- Diverse and people focused
- Responsive and adaptive
- Transparent and accountable
- Racially just
King County Records and Licensing Division ESJ logo.
Examples of how King County Archives embeds these values into our daily work:
Inclusive and collaborative
- Staff serve on the Records and Licensing Division's ESJ team.
- Staff serve on the Anti-Racist White Action Group.
Diverse and people focused
- Home to the Records and Licensing Division's ESJ lending library.
- Staff attend trainings on creating ADA-compliant documents, building gender-inclusive spaces, and implementing ESJ fundamentals.
Responsive and adaptive
- After a two-year building renovation, staff accelerated their move back into the building so we could open to the public.
- Implemented a no-charge policy for patrons requesting scans of uncertified county records.
Transparent and accountable
- Staff collaborates with the county Office of Equity and Social Justice to conduct accessibility audits of the Archives building.
- Staff process reference and duplication requests in the order in which they were received.
- Includes a diverse selection of County employees on its interview panels.
- Partners with University of Washington student researchers to uncover racial restrictive covenants. See News.
King County Archives is committed to protecting your privacy while enabling your access to King County government records. The Archives uses data you provide for statistical purposes to improve our services, protect the security of the archival records in our custody, and to allow you to keep track of previous research activities, generate citations, and plan future visits.
We do not sell your personal data to any other organizations. We will only share your personal data and research activities for the following purposes: as required by law, such as a Public Records Act request, as part of a legal proceeding, or as otherwise authorized by you.
King County Archives holds historically-relevant county government records for long-term preservation and access. Archival records are unique materials that cannot be replaced. King County Archives is charged with the care of these records for future generations. We hold them in trust for the people of King County, and we are committed to providing open access to records unless they contain information that is exempted under the Washington State Public Records Act.
Researchers who are requesting access to materials in person will be asked to abide by the following policies:
- Records must be accessed at the Archives building only. Archival records don't leave the premises except with the express permission of the King County Archivist.
- Please check in with staff member at the lobby desk. They are there to assist you.
- All patrons will be asked to sign in at the front desk prior to using archival records. The Archives uses only anonymized data you provide for statistical purposes to improve our services and track the use of our collections.
- No food or drinks may be consumed near archival materials. We provide lockers for you to store these items.
- The use of pens or other permanent marking tools is prohibited while using archival records. Such items can damage or deface historical materials.
- Patrons using the research room will be asked to store their bags and coats in a locker outside the research room.
- Duplication of archival materials is facilitated by Archives staff.
King County Archives is committed to providing a meaningful remote research experience for patron who are unable to visit in person. Although materials cannot leave the building or be "interlibrary loaned," patrons can contact us via email or phone and request a research consultation. An Archives staff member will discuss your research topic with you, and make recommendations about what records in our holdings may be responsive. If information isn't available in our holdings, Archives staff will do their best to refer you to the most likely office or agency that may hold responsive records.
King County Archives also provide duplication services. Please review our Duplication and Publication Policy.
Publication of County government records held by King County Archives does not require permission or a use fee. We ask that you properly cite any materials in our holdings (see below for citation example) that you use in publication. Please note that there are some restrictions on the duplication and publication of government records.
Government Records and Fair Use
Most works created by King County government, including documents prepared by an officer or employee of the county government as part of that person’s official duties, may be freely copied, published, edited, and adapted.
The right to duplicate King County government-created works without permission generally does not extend to:
- works created or published by others with the support of King County government funds, grants, or contracts;
- versions of government documents that are edited, annotated, or compiled by publishers; and
- portions of government documents that contain copyrighted material from other non-King County government sources.
King County Archives does not claim to control the rights of reproduction for all materials in its collection. In those cases where a person or legal entity other than King County holds copyright to certain content present in King County Archives holdings, the publishing party assumes all responsibility for clearing production rights with the copyright holder and for any infringement of U.S. copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).
Washington State Public Records Act
In Washington State, laws exist to ensure that government is open, and that the public has a right to access appropriate records and information created by Washington state and local government. The Public Records Act states:
"Each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying all public records, unless the record falls within the specific exemptions of subsection (6) of this section [RCW 42.56.070(6)], Chapter 42.56 RCW, or other statute which exempts or prohibits disclosure of specific information or records."
To the extent required to prevent an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy interests protected by Chapter 42.56 RCW, an agency shall delete identifying details in a manner consistent with Chapter 42.56 RCW when it makes available or publishes any public record; however, in each case, the justification for the deletion shall be explained fully in writing.
Other exceptions to the Public Records Act include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). HIPAA is a federal law requiring the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient's consent or knowledge. FERPA was enacted in 1974 to protect the privacy of student education records.
King County Archives reserves the right to deny duplication of the materials in its holdings due to the following:
- A violation of federal or state privacy laws.
- A violation of federal or state copyright laws.
- Fragility of materials or damage to materials resulting from duplication.
Citation / Credit
The Researcher agrees to use the following credit line, or one in a similar format that has been approved by King County Archives, when publishing or using in facsimile reproduction the material(s) identified below.
[Folder / Volume Title] OR Photo [number], [Collection / Series title], Series / Collection [number], Box / Volume [number]. King County Archives, Seattle, Washington.
King County Archives collects records created by King County government departments and King County employees working in their official capacity for the county. We cannot accept donations of materials created by non-county employees, county employees not in their official capacity working for the county, or private businesses and organizations. If you have questions about the historical value of your records and what repository might be appropriate, please contact the King County Archivist for a referral.
This section contains frequently asked questions and answers about King County Archives. If you don't see the answer to your question listed below, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206) 263-2480 for more information.
King County Archives holds records created by King County government departments and employees working in their official capacity for the county. These records are available in many formats including paper, photographs, maps, audio, and visual. They include the following: legislative records such as County Commissioners resolutions (1853-1968) and County Council ordinances and motions (1969-1999); pre-1969 Charter legislation; administration and policy decisions; recorded documents related to property ownership; early road and bridge establishment and inspection records; and records and policies created by former County Executives.
- With the adoption of the 1969 Charter, King County changed its form of government and created new county agencies. The county's records, formerly held in a more central manner, were dispersed among those agencies.
- King County Archives was not established until 1990. Prior to that, Puget Sound Regional Archives in Bellevue was the official repository for King County. As a branch of the Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Regional Archives still retains some King County records, such as pre-1990 tax assessment records, property assessment records, and historical house photographs.
- Some county offices, such as the Sheriff, Superior and District Courts, and certain departments within Public Health, maintain their own records because they need to reference them frequently or because those documents contain sensitive information like social security numbers, medical history, etc. that by law must be restricted.
You may access records held at King County Archives remotely or in person.
- To request remote assistance, please email email@example.com or call (206) 263-2480.
- To access records in person, please to to the Visit the Archives page for more information. Most recorded documents are available in our microfilm research room, where no appointment is required. The bulk of the archival records in our holdings are not available on microfilm, so if you wish to access those, please contact us to schedule a research appointment.
- Archival records held by King County Archives do not circulate and may not leave the facility. We hold these records in trust for the people of the county, so that they may be available for future generations. You are welcome to visit the Archives in person to access the records. If you cannot visit in person, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206) 263-2480 about alternative access options.
Whether you need an appointment depends on the types of records you'd like to access.
- For recorded documents on microfilm, you don't need an appointment and may visit the Archives building during our open walk-in hours. Go to our Visit the Archives page for more information.
- For archival records not on microfilm, we ask that you make an appointment. This gives us time to do a research consultation if necessary, locate potentially responsive records, and have them ready when you arrive. Call (206) 263-2480 or email email@example.com to schedule an appointment.
- We encourage visitors to bring their personal laptop, mobile device, or digital camera so they may take notes and digital images of materials.
- For more information on appointments, building hours, and directions to the Archives, please go to our Visit the Archives page.
The King County Archives building is located at 1215 E. Fir Street, Seattle, WA 98122. For directions and parking information, please go to our Visit the Archives page.
There are several sources of property and land use records in King County, including:
- The King County Permitting Division holds construction and land use records, including permits, for properties in unincorporated King County.
- The King County Department of Assessments holds current property tax assessment records.
- Puget Sound Regional Archives in Bellevue holds historical tax assessment records. The Regional Archives is a branch of the Washington State Archives.
- Recorded Documents: Please fill out our online order form.
- All Other Archival Records: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206) 263-2480. Please provide a brief description of the records you want and where they're located in the Archives: which series, record group or box number. If you don't have that information, we are happy to provide a research consultation to determine whether we hold records that may be responsive to your research.
- Marriage Certificates: If your marriage certificate was filed before 1990, you may order a certified, downloadable copy on the Washington State Digital Archives. If your marriage certificate was filed in 1990 or later, you may order a certified copy on the King County Recorder's Office online portal Landmark.
- Except for special formats or very fragile items, King County Archives does not charge for duplication of uncertified copies of county records.
- We charge a fee for certified copies of recorded documents and marriage certificates in accordance with the Revised Code of WA Auditor's Fees RCW 36.18.010.
- For fragile items or special formats such as video, audio, or large-format documents, please consult with the County Archivist as these may need to be duplicated by a specialist.
- For more information about fees, please visit our Copy Fees page.
- King County Archives does not charge any use or publication fees. Except for very specific types of records, government records are considered part of the public domain, and therefore, not subject to copyright restrictions.
- For more information about use of government records, please review the Policies section of this page.
- No. Most works created by King County government, including documents prepared by an officer or employee of the county government as part of that person’s official duties, may be freely copied, published, edited, and adapted.
- For more information about publication of government records, please review the Policies section of this page.
- King County Archives requests that you cite the records in our holdings.
- Citations helps others find those records if they want to do further research.
- Please use the following citation template: [Folder / Volume Title] OR Photo [number], [Collection / Series title], Series / Collection [number], Box / Volume [number]. King County Archives, Seattle, Washington..
King County Archives is thrilled to announce that we've hired two new Archives Specialists--Tasia Williams and Alycia Ensminger. Tasia and Alycia joined us in February 2023 and are already diving into reference, outreach, and accessibility projects.
Archives Specialist Alycia Ensminger
Alycia has a background in libraries, archives and architecture and graduated with a master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the county, Alycia served at the Seattle Public Library, the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, NBBJ Architectural Archives and the Andy Warhol Museum. She is passionate about providing access to the archives and its services that are equitable and inclusive, particularly to those who have been historically underserved. She also loves processing and preserving collections, researching local history, and teaching courses about information sciences.
When not in the office, you’ll likely find Alycia volunteering at the animal shelter or painting in her home art studio!
Archives Specialist Tasia Williams
Tasia comes to us with bachelor’s degrees in History and Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in Museology from the University of Washington. Prior to joining the county, Tasia worked for the arts sector as well as several museums and historical societies in the Puget Sound area. She holds a deep affection for local history and is excited to dive into learning more about the County Archives holdings.
When she's not at work, you can find Tasia taking classes in whatever she finds interesting. Currently she is learning floor loom weaving.
In May 2022, King County Archives staff moved back into our renovated space, but we still had pallets of county records that needed to be moved back too. From July to October, Archives staff, with the help of King County Records Center staff, received, unwrapped, and reshelved roughly 8,000 boxes of county records. Archivists and archival records are finally reunited in the same space!
A special thanks to the entire Records Center team, including Scott Landwehr, Matt Browning, Patrick Gundran, and Coley Sanders, for all of their assistance helping us reshelve 500 boxes each week. We couldn't have done it without them.
Records Center Technician Patrick Gundran reshelving boxes. Photo Credit: Matthew S. Browning.
After an extensive renovation that spanned two years, the King County Archives building has re-opened to the public. We are excited to be back in our space, which features an accessible main entrance, re-designed lobby and research room, and additional restrooms. The building also features multiple staff amenities including a dedicated processing area where we can receive and organize transfers of historically relevant county government records.
The Archives building is open for limited hours during the week as we continue to settle into the new space and become fully staffed. Please go to our Visit the Archives page for more information about our open hours. To schedule a research appointment or consultation, email or call us at 206-263-2480. We look forward to your visit.
Researchers at King County Archives patron lobby. Photo Credit: Matthew S. Browning.
King County Archives is pleased to welcome Danielle Coyle and Katharine Guyon as the new County Assistant Archivists. Danielle and Kate were hired in September 2022 and are settling into their new roles.
Assistant Archivist Danielle Coyle
Danielle has been with King County Archives since 2017 as an Archives Specialist. She has an academic background in history and museum collections management. Before coming to King County, Danielle worked in patron services at the Seattle Public Library. She previously interned with local institutions such as the Museum of History and Industry and the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections. She loves the wealth of local history that comprises the King County Archives, and her favorite records in the collection are the County Road Engineer’s bridge photographs.
Assistant Archivist Kate Guyon
Kate joined King County Archives in April 2022 as an Archives Specialist. She has a background in museum studies, archives, and archaeology. Before coming to King County, Kate served the Photography Archives Registrar and Archivist for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. She enjoys digitizing historic photographs and maps, and she has also participated in recovery and preservation of archaeological materials and documents with the National Park Service.
King County Archives is proud to contribute to the Racial Restrictive Covenants Project, which is headed by research teams at the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University.
This project is authorized by the state legislature under SHB 1335 (May 2021) and charged with identifying and mapping neighborhoods covered by racist deed provisions and restrictive covenants. These (no-longer) legally-enforced restrictions were used in most American communities to prevent people who were not white from buying or occupying property.
2nd-year research team: front row L-R: Samantha Cutts, Erin Miller, Nicholas Boren; back: Alvin Bui, Sophia Dowling.
King County Archives facilitates access to its property documents collection so that students at the University of Washington and Seattle Central Community College may search for and uncover restrictions that existed in King County. We are honored to assist in this important work.
For more information about the project and to view restrictive covenants data in interactive map form, please visit the Racial Restrictive Covenants Project website.
1st-year research team: L-R: James Gregory, Nicholas Boren, Jazzlynn Woods, Madison Heslop, Sophia Dowling.