Subject Guides

Subject Guides

Researching Your House's History

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.

Start Here

How to Research the History of Your Santa Cruz House: Where to Begin & What You Need to Know
A comprehensive illustrated guide by Joe Michalak
A reduced file size version of this document is also available for download.

Chain of Title Research

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 whom 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.

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.

Books to Help You Research Your House's History

Periodicals to Help Your Research Your House's History

In addition to the periodicals below, 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.

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 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 Archive covers 1896 to 2005.