Find What You're Looking For
Explore Berkeley's rich history.
The Berkeley History Room is now open to the public Wednesdays from 10AM to 1PM, as well as by appointment. This page is designed to connect you with online resources. For more information
about the Berkeley History collection at the Berkeley Public Library, or, to make
an appointment to access the collections in the Berkeley History Room,
please contact us by phone at 510.981.6100 or by email.
How Old Is My House - Who Used to Live There?
How Do I Find Out About My House…
- When was it built?
- Who lived there?
- Who was the architect?
1. The very best local resource for property/architectural-related questions is BAHA—Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. They have resources (photos, building permits, real estate info, clippings) arranged by neighborhood, blocks, and specific addresses. There is a fee for this service.
2. The Berkeley Historical Society has "Block Books," which contains the early owner(s) of your land once it was subdivided.
3. If you know the name(s) of previous owners, try historic telephone books or city directories (both are in the Berkeley History Room, and many are on this webpage). Working backwards, you may discover important details about the residents.
4. Reverse directories from 1981 to present are also are a great resource and are located in the Berkeley History Room. In addition, a handful from the 1960s & 70s are held by the Berkeley Historical Society - BHS.
5. Don’t forget about census records—we have 1860 to 1930 for Berkeley on microfilm - and via Ancestry FOR FREE at the Central Branch Library. These records are arranged by address, and contain A LOT of information about all the residents at any particular address. Use the indexes to the left to discover which enumeration districts you house was located in for censuses older that 72 years. For more information or assistance with this process, call the Reference Desk at 981-6148 for a Berkeley History Room appointment.
6. Consult the Sanborn maps in the Berkeley History Room from 1890, 1894, 1911, 1929, and 1950 (original copies also exist at BAHA and BHS). These maps will show you what buildings were where, and (particularly the 1911 edition in the History Room) can hint at when the building was built – either before 1911, sometime between 1911 and 1929, or after 1929.
7. Ask at the Reference Desk for assistance in locating any of these items and agencies.
The Berkeley Obituary Index is an index to death stories and obituaries of Berkeleyeans, both famous and not, contained in the Berkeley Daily Gazette. Currently available years: 1894-1912, 1920, 1923, 1925, 1930-1942, 1951, 1955, 1959-1965, 1967, 1970-1971, 1977-1980 & 1982. Other years are in progress. Call the Reference Desk at 510-981-6148 for more information.
Discover California history! Photographs, documents, newspaper pages, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, advertising, and other unique cultural artifacts — reveal the diverse history and culture of California and its role in national and world history.
Berkeley's public schools were among the first in the nation to voluntarily desgregate. View some local desegregation stories here.
The Berkeley History Room has the Berkeley Junior Traffic Police Archives, a collection of newspapers clippings, photographs, service records of participants from the 1930s to the 1960s, and a BJP flag.