Did You Know?

Bikeways - Santa Cruz County

The current Santa Cruz County Bikeways map can be downloaded from the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC) website. This map shows bicycle lanes, bicycle paths and alternate routes within Santa Cruz County; it also features major attractions, schools, bike shops, parks, campgrounds and hostels. Detailed insets of ... [More]

Browse and search more fun and useful facts from the SCPL Reference Files!

Subject Guides


Researching Your House's History     Printable PDF Version

This is a brief guide to researching property in Santa Cruz County. Property research can vary from finding the year the house was built, to constructing a complete chain of title for a property, complete with biographical information about the owners. Before beginning your research, it is a good idea to outline your research objectives.

Building A Chain of Title

The chain of title is the list of owners of a property. To build the chain of title, you would start with the current owner. From who did the current owner buy the property and when? Be sure to make copies of the deed and records you use to build your chain of title.

Last updated May 13, 2015 by SH

Chain of Title Research at the County Building

The Santa Cruz County Government Building is located at 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

The Assessor's Office can provide the APN and a limited parcel history. Building records (with a signed release form from the owner) can be viewed here.

The Recorder's Office provides the deeds and records you will need to build your chain of title.

Last updated May 13, 2015 by SH

Books to Help You Research Your House's History

  • City of Capitola Architectural Survey City of Capitola Architectural Survey
    by Rowe & Associates,
    R 720.979471 ROW 1986
    Presents about 240 structures in Capitola that best represent traditional architectural styles or the community's vernacular architecture. Also available as a PDF on the City of Capitola Planning Department website http://www.cityofcapitola.org/communitydevelopment/page/current-planning


  • Every Structure Tells a Story: How to Research the History of a Property in Santa Cruz County Every Structure Tells a Story: How to Research the History of a Property in Santa Cruz County
    by Santa Cruz County Historical Trust ,
    OVERSIZE 979.471 Ev2
    This is the ultimate resource for researching a property's history in Santa Cruz County. The book offers advice, checklists, sources, and examples of research.

  • F.A. Hihn Company: Agreements, Deeds, Leases F.A. Hihn Company: Agreements, Deeds, Leases
    by Fosgate, Jennifer
    RR 979.471 FOS
    This 12 volume set gives the text of the original Hihn Deeds. It is also searchable on UCSC's Hihn-Younger Archive at http://library.ucsc.edu/speccoll/hihn/hihn-younger-documents.

  • Historic Homes of Boulder Creek Historic Homes of Boulder Creek
    by Kennedy, Barbara
    CALIFORNIANA 720.9794 KEN
    This book documents the lives of some of the early leaders of Boulder Creek and the houses they built.

  • If Walls Could Talk: The county's heritage presented through intriguing stories of our old and famous homes and the men who built them If Walls Could Talk: The county's heritage presented through intriguing stories of our old and famous homes and the men who built them
    by County Bank of Santa Cruz,
    CALIFORNIANA 979.471 COU
    Twelve Santa Cruz residents and their residences are profiled, including Castro, Cowell, Jeter, Porter, Sesnon, and Wilder.

  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
    by Sanborn Map Company,
    R MF 912.79471 SAN
    These maps are in bound books and on microfilm at the Downtown Branch. They show the "footprint" of the building. Buildings were color-coded as to construction type and materials, and labeled to indicate the number of stories and the use of the building. Updates were pasted in the volumes and the date of the updates are indicated in the front of each volume. These maps can be helpful in determining an approximate construction date of a building and how the building has changed over the years.

  • Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey, Volume I Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey, Volume I
    by Charles Hall Page & Associates,
    R 720.97947 C38 1976
    This survey covers structures of architectural significance within the City of Santa Cruz. There are 329 buildings with pictures and an evaluation of their architectural merit. Available as a PDF at http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/departments/planning-and-community-development/programs/historic-preservation-in-santa-cruz/historic-building-survey

  • Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey, Volume II Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey, Volume II
    by City of Santa Cruz, Department of Planning
    R 720.97947 SAN 1989
    This is a continuation of the 1976 survey. It catalogs an additional 330 structures. Available as a PDF at http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/departments/planning-and-community-development/programs/historic-preservation-in-santa-cruz/historic-building-survey

  • Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey, Volume III Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey, Volume III
    by City of Santa Cruz, Department of Planning
    R 720.97947 SAN VOL. 3 2013
    The third volume of the historic building survey looks at additional properties not previously surveyed, particularly those associated with mid twentieth century architecture, older resources that had been missed in the earlier surveys, and man-made features in the environment such as walls, stairs, hitching posts, and ponds. Available as a PDF at http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/departments/planning-and-community-development/programs/historic-preservation-in-santa-cruz/historic-building-survey

  • The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture
    by Chase, John Leighton
    917.9471 CHA
    This guide is limited to structures within the City of Santa Cruz and gives a brief history of the neighborhoods it covers. There are 496 buildings included.

  • The Walk Around Santa Cruz Book: A Look at the City's Architectural Treasures The Walk Around Santa Cruz Book: A Look at the City's Architectural Treasures
    by Koch, Margaret
    CALIFORNIANA 720.97947 KOC
    This small book includes some buildings in the county but focuses mainly on Mission Hill, Downtown Residential, Ocean View Ave., and Beach Hill.

  • Victorian Houses of Watsonville Victorian Houses of Watsonville
    by Pajaro Valley Historical Association,
    R 720.9794 P16 1974

Last updated May 13, 2015 by SH

Periodicals to Help Your Research Your House's History

In addition to the periodicals blow, the Santa Cruz Public Library has created the Newspaper Clipping File, available here on the library website. This database contains more than 50,000 articles of local interest. They are indexed and are kept at the Downtown Branch for viewing. Particular files of interest may include the Historic Houses file.

  • Haines Criss Cross Directory Haines Criss Cross Directory
    by Haines & Co.,

    These directories are arranged by address and phone number. Santa Cruz Public Library has some years between 1977 and 2015.

  • Mountain Echo Mountain Echo
    by Mountain Echo,

    This newspaper was published in Boulder Creek and is indexed from October 24, 1896 to December 23, 1916. It is available on microfilm at the Downtown and Boulder Creek branches.

  • Polk's Santa Cruz Directory Polk's Santa Cruz Directory
    by Polk & Co., R.L.

    These directories are arranged by address and phone number. Santa Cruz Public Library has most years between 1910 and 1988.

  • Santa Cruz Sentinel Santa Cruz Sentinel
    by Sentinel Pub. Co.,

    The Sentinel is indexed from 1856 to 1956. It is available on microfilm at the Downtown Branch.

Last updated May 13, 2015 by SH

Websites to Help You Research Your House's History

  • Historic Maps: Digitized and Online
    The UCSC University Library has digitized historic maps, including Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, for the Santa Cruz area showing the boundaries of land ownership, including the names of landowners and uses of the land as well as information about streets, buildings, and physical features such as creeks.
  • Santa Cruz County History - Architecture
    This local history page has information about bridges, buildings, landmarks, and wharves in Santa Cruz County. Of particular interest to those researching architecture in Santa Cruz will be the articles, "Santa Cruz's Architectural Heritage," which includes a sketchbook of architectural styles in Santa Cruz.
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel Archives
    Digital collections of Evening Sentinel, Santa Cruz Evening News, Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel and Santa Cruz Sentinel provided by a partnership between California Digital Newspaper Collection and Newspapers.com. Archive covers 1896 to 2005. Access is ONLY available from inside a library branch.

Last updated May 13, 2015 by SH