Discover your home's history
Ever wondered when your home was built or who lived there before you?
Home history research is one of the fastest growing research trends at the City of Vancouver Archives in recent years. The Archives has a variety of records and other materials that document the history of the homes in Vancouver.
The Municipalities of Point Grey and South Vancouver (much of which included the current area of East Vancouver) were separate until they amalgamated into the City of Vancouver in 1929. Our holdings do contain records of these two earlier Municipalities, however, the available records are more limited.
Getting started: Find out when your home was built
An excellent way to find out when your home was built is to search the water service records. Usually water service is applied for just as a building is nearing completion. The Archives has City of Vancouver water service records from 1888 to 1993.
Next step: Search for building permits
Now that you know the approximate date of the construction of your home, you can search for building permits for the property. The Archives has building permit registers from 1901 to 1947.
In the register, you can find the following details:
- Date of the building permit
- Applicant's name
- Estimated cost of construction
- Names of any architects involved (in some cases)
- Construction details found in miscellaneous remarks (sometimes)
Who lived in your house and for how long?
City Directories are an excellent source for finding out the occupancy history of your home and the context of its neighbourhood. The Archives has City Directories from 1860 to 1996. In each City Directory, there are two sections:
- An alphabetic street guide
- An alphabetic index of names of individuals and businesses
Once you know what year your home was built, use the alphabetic street guide to look up your home by address, and find out the names of the people who lived there and for how long they stayed. Once you know their names, you can look them up in the index of names, which lists they did for a living and often the names of their spouses.
Does the Archives have a photograph of your home?
The Archives photograph holdings include thousands of images of houses, apartments, street views, and interiors. Find out if there's a photo of your home. Even if you don't find a picture of your home, your neighbourhood is certain to be represented in the collections.
Explore these additional sources of information
Fire Insurance plans
Fire insurance plans show details of individual buildings, gathered at various intervals, for insurance purposes. Details include the following:
- Type of construction of the building
- Number of storeys
- Position of buildings on the lot
- Lot features such as driveways
- Location of water hydrants
Property tax records
These records can be used to determine previous owners of your home, and your home's value over the years. The Archives holds tax assessment records and or tax billing statements for the City of Vancouver from 1887 up to 2005, with certain gaps in years missing or unavailable. We have some years for the municipalities of Point Grey and South Vancouver prior to amalgamation, as well as minimal property tax records for some areas elsewhere in British Columbia, 1880-1913. Read our property tax reference guide (see link to reference guides near bottom of page) for more details on the property tax records we have in our holdings, as well as how to obtain more recent property tax information not held by the Archives.
Searches conducted by Archive staff may be requested for a fee of $25 per property, per year searched. Please contact the Archives for information.
Although most of the architectural plans at the Archives are for public buildings or other significant structures, it's worth searching to see if your home was designed by a Vancouver area architectural or landscape architecture firm.
Permission of the registered owner of a building must be obtained before viewing any architectural plans. Please contact the Archives about accessing restricted architectural records.
The pamphlets collection has a number of brochures, catalogues, and similar published items that depict home styles, floor plans, and other architectural features for various eras of the city's development
Researching your home's history
Try an online search for Archives records about your home
If you can view a record online, that means the copyright for that record is either owned by the City of Vancouver or it's in the public domain. You can freely download these records. You can also buy a high-quality copy of a digitized record, if you want.
Visit the Archives
Other records, although they've been catalogued, haven't yet been digitized. You can go to the Archives to view them, or you can buy a copy.
Visit the Archives and our staff will be happy to get you started on bringing your home's history to life.
We’ve written reference guides for a number of the types of records described above. These PDF guides are downloadable and provide instructions for how these records can be viewed. Some also include other suggested online resources.