Research Library and Archives

Open by appointment

Contact us at research@historysanjose.org to schedule an appointment or to submit a research request. Appointments are available 9am-2pm Monday-Wednesday, and Friday.

Many of our library, archives, and photo records are now searchable online.

Click here for more information and to start searching.

What is available at the Research Library?

In addition to our library of several thousand volumes documenting the history of San José and Santa Clara County, we also provide the following resources:

Guides to other selected materials from History San José can be found at the Online Archive of California. Search our guides directly by entering keywords below:






City of San José Records

  • By contractual agreement with the City of San José, History San José serves as the archival repository for many of the City’s official records.
  • 6,000 original manuscripts from the Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe beginning in 1789. The Pueblo Papers represent the oldest and largest collection of municipal documents in the state of California. They detail a range of everything from the State’s first wine production to an appeal from the Viceroy of Spain to San José for prayers and funds for the liberation of Spain from the clutches of Napoleon.
  • City ledgers dating from 1849
  • City directories 1870-1979. These directories list the names of individuals living in San José and selected parts of Santa Clara County along with their place of residence and occupation. In 1914, a street address index was added which enables you to track owners over time.
  • Index to Building Permits 1895-1910, 1910-1930. Listed by street address, date issued, permit number, owner, description of work, and property value.
  • Building Permits 1930’s to 1940’s. Original permits organized under street name. Permits include information concerning the building, property value, and the owner.
  • Tax Assessor Ledgers approx. 1850-1900. The majority of the collection is from the City of San José with a limited number from Santa Clara County. Ledgers are listed under the name of the property owner, and give a description of the property, taxes, and property value.
  • Tax Assessor Worksheets and Photographs, mid-20th century. Worksheets are organized by street address and provide information on property improvement, appraisal, and include a photograph of the building site. Tax Assessor photographs, without worksheets for buildings in the City of San José, are listed by street name.

Santa Clara County Records

  • Dating from 1849 to the 1930s, many are indexed. Among the important documents contained in these records are two manumission papers from 1854, filed in Santa Clara County and granting freedom to Sampson Gleaves and Plim Jackson, which belie the myth that African slavery did not exist in the “free state” of California.
  • Marriage licenses 1849 – 1946 (bulk dates 1850 – 1914). The index is arranged by last names of both bride and groom and includes some alternate spellings of names. This is not a complete file of all Santa Clara County marriage licenses.
  • Wills 1849-1912. Indexed alphabetically by last name. The index includes County Will Books A to C and E to P. Book D is missing, containing wills from August 1875 through November 1878.
  • Probate records 1850-1899. Original documents of legal proceedings following the death of an individual, filed by name of the deceased. Includes a description of the property of the deceased. Some probates also include guardianships of minors.
  • Coroners’ inquests 1850-1930. Information is given about the cause of death. Indexed by name.
  • Great Registers 1867-1904. Books listing registered voters (only males) for the County. Only available for 1867, 1872, 1873, 1875, 1880, 1884, 1886, 1888, 1890, 1892, 1894, 1904. Information is given on occupation, age, country or state of birth, and naturalization date if applicable.
  • Deeds 1850-1952 (bulk dates 1850-1906). Original documents for property ownership, filed by both grantee and grantor.
  • Sole Trader Ledger 1854-1916. Records in chronological order of married women in business for themselves, indexed by name.
  • Miscellaneous legal documents from the county recorder’s office
  • County and District Court records starting in 1849.
  • Many early published county histories

Newspapers and Clippings

  • Biographical clippings mostly from the San José Mercury News and scattered clippings from earlier San José newspapers.
  • Obituaries Index 1879 to 1912. Index lists date of obituary and newspaper. Newspapers indexed include the (San José) Daily Morning Times, San José Evening News, San José Daily News, San José (Daily) Herald, and the San José Mercury.

On microfilm:

  • Daily Morning Times, July 1879 – December 1881; July – December 1884.
  • Morning Times, October 1906 – September 1909.
  • San José Daily City Item, February 1884 – March 1885.
  • San José Herald, September 1876 – December 1889; July 1890 – December 1896; July 1897 – December 1900.
  • San José Mercury, November 1861 – December 1862; August 1869 – January 1870.
  • San José Daily News, March 1885 – December 1886.
  • San José Evening News, January 1887 – December 1896; July 1897 –December 1936; March 1937 – December 1947.

Cemetery Records

  • Index of headstones from San José’s Oakhill Cemetery and Santa Clara Mission Cemetery. The index includes name, dates and cemetery location.
  • Oakhill Cemetery record books circa 1860 – 1910.

Pamphlets and Ephemera

  • From local women’s suffrage fliers and fruit labels from local orchards and canneries, to post cards, posters, and fliers relating to the Japanese-American internment during World War II, these are attractive source materials to designers as well as historians and sociologists.

Maps

  • Oldest and only comprehensive source of maps documenting the transformation of the area from ranchos to agribusiness and suburbinized Silicon Valley. Spanning Spanish, Mexican and United States governments in California, it includes the earliest known map of California’s first civil settlement, El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe (1781). Other maps document land grant cases that tied up federal courts for three decades following California’s acquisition by the U.S. and maps of New Almaden’s quicksilver mines.
  • Atlases for San José and Santa Clara County
  • San José Sanborn Fire Insurance maps 1884-1968 for City of San José and the City of Santa Clara. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show in great detail lots, houses, and businesses. They also indicate when new buildings appeared and when modifications were made. Microfilm and hard copies are available.
  • Over 1,000 local maps from 1787 to the present, and atlases (bulk dates 1876 – present). Card catalog entries for these maps are listed by street name and/or subdivision. Several are listed by property owner.

Music

  • Sheet music from area publishers and documentation of music education and performance in the Santa Clara Valley spanning the mid-1800s to the present. The San José Orchestral Society was the first orchestra west of the Rockies, presenting their first annual concert before 1880. These materials reveals San José as the major 19th century California stage, where local musical culture developed from rural outpost into host of four music conservatories, five concert and symphonic choirs, and numerous church and chamber groups by the early 1900s.

Local Historic Building Site Resources

Biographical Research Resources

The Jimmy Schneider and Robert Bullmore Collection of New Almaden Mine Materials

  • Documenting the quicksilver mines at New Almaden from 1853 to 1973 in 20 linear feet of records and over 200 photos. The quicksilver mines at New Almaden, the largest and richest mine in California history, was named after the famous Almaden Mine in Spain. The mines were the first mining venture in California and the first to produce quicksilver in the United States. Success of the California Gold Rush was in large part due to this readily available source of mercury. An online guide to the collection is available at the Online Archive of California.

Sempervirens Club Records

  • Records from 1883 to 1966 [bulk dates 1900-1945], 12 linear feet and more than 100 photographs, of the conservation club that created the first California State Park, Big Basin, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Also included is selected correspondence of artist and photographer Andrew Putnam Hill, a founder of the organization. An online guide to the collection is available at the Online Archive of California.

Perham Collection of Early Electronics

  • This collection of over 1200 photos and 120 linear feet of records focuses on the evolution of the area’s electronics industry and pre-silicon chip technology, the beginnings of what is now known as Silicon Valley. Among its most important documents are the papers of Lee de Forest, electronics and radio pioneer, inventor, and holder of more than 300 patents. His well-known invention, the audion, created the amplification technology that influenced every audio technology invented from radio to telephone, and helped establish San José as one of the first sites of public radio transmission. The de Forest papers include personal letters, patent litigation, awards, and memorabilia. Also included in the collection are the Jennings Papers, from Jo Jennings, founder of Jennings Radio Manufacturing Corporation, and the EIMAC Papers from EIMAC (Eitel-McCullough) Corporation, pioneers in vacuum tube technologies.

Wuss/Wyckoff Architectural Drawings

  • Blueprints and plans spanning 1910 through the 1960s of the local architectural firm of Peter Wuss and Ralph Wyckoff.

Edwin Markham Collection

  • Rare books and original poetry by Markham 191852-1940), best known for his 1899 poem, “The Man with the Hoe,” a revolutionary commentary on America’s working class that sparked great controversy, and “Lincoln, Man of the People,” chosen from more than 200 poems to be read at the 1922 dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Research Bicycle Collection

  • San José was a major center of cycling activity from the 1890s well into the 1940s. These materials include registers of bicycle races, information on San José native and renowned bicyclist Otto Ziegler during the 1890s (as well as his bicycle club), records of the San José Road Club, Garden City Wheelman Club materials, local and California racing programs, and scrapbooks.

Other personal papers and institutional records of San José local figures, businesses, and early technology pioneers, including:

  • Lee de Forest
  • Ernie Renzel
  • American Institute of Architects Santa Clara Valley Chapter
  • William Ross Aiken
  • Frank Bacon
  • Roland Eberhart
  • Florence Cunningham
  • Patricia Loomis
  • Leib Family
  • Hayes Mansion
  • Harry E. Slonaker
  • Pioneer Women’s Club
  • Knapp Plow Company

Other Resources
Guides to other selected materials from History San José can be found at the Online Archive of California. Search our guides directly by entering keywords below:




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