Researching a Property

Discovering the DNA of Your Home: King County Parcel Viewer
By Kim England, Posted July 3, 2018

This is the first in a series of guidelines Historic Wallingford will offer to help you find out about the history of your house or apartment building and, if you live in an older home, the people who lived there before you.  We are going to start with a resource that might already be familiar to you for different purposes: the King County Parcel Viewer.  Most often people would go here to figure out appraised value, square footage and the like.  However, if you live in an older building (1930s or older) you might also find old photographs of the property and use those to begin building the history of your home.

Parcel Viewer:  Interactive map for finding parcel-related information

1.   Go to: https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/gis/Maps/parcel-viewer.aspx

2.   Under the description of the website, there is a blue button that says “Start Parcel Viewer”. Click it.

3.   In the top left-hand box (on the beige background) there is a blank box with “by Address” and “search” next to it (make sure “Address” is visible in the pull-down menu – this is the default). Enter the address and click search.

4.   On the page that results, you will be given the property’s parcel number (in a box on the left) and in the white overlay box. Write this down for future reference.

5.   In the white overlay box, about three-quarters of the ways down is a link to “Property Report” (on the left) – click on this.

6.   On the next page you will see six boxes across the top. Click on the one on the far right “Property Detail”.

7.   On the next page scroll to the bottom and with some luck you will see black and white photos of the property.

8.   Usually there is also an icon of a blue camera. Click the camera to see more pictures. Hopefully you can see what the building looked like decades ago!

NOTE: If you find black and white photos that have the address in white handwriting on them, they are usually the Works Progress Administration photographs from the New Deal era.

For the more tenacious among you:

If your home was built before 1940 there is a good chance you can successfully search for it in the 1940 Census records (these are the most recent original census forms that are available).  We will write more about this in the future, but if you have patience and are somewhat tech savvy you might want to delve into a great website resource:

https://stevemorse.org/census/unified.html

Follow the directions to find out what the enumeration district (E.D.) of the address was and then search the report for the address (each ED report is about 25-30 pages). You can find out who lived at the address, their age and several other things such as where they were born, their occupation and income, and the same again for the neighbors.

Be warned this can get a bit fiddly and you may reach a dead-end.  We have found we got the best results using Chrome or newer versions of Firefox (Safari was too glitchy).  It is certainly a fascinating look at what Wallingford was like at the end of the Depression – who lived here, where they migrated from and what sorts of jobs people did.  For those of you that enjoy this micro-level history of neighborhoods, whether in Seattle or elsewhere it is a great resource.