Research Library and Archives

The Collection Center and Research Library & Archives are currently closed to the public; responses may be delayed to queries related to research or image/film use/reproduction.

Contact us at research@historysanjose.org.

If you are conducting genealogical research, we highly recommend you start with the Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society, who will conduct research for you for a small fee.

For property research, please first consult the California Room’s guide to historical property research.

Research Fees, Image Rights & Reproductions

Document Scanning

We are happy to provide scanned documents (excluding images, and provided the documents are suitable for scanning). If you have paid for a research request, the cost of scanning is included. For other requests, the first 10 pages are free; after that, the cost is $0.10/page.

Photographic Prints

History San Jose does not sell photographic prints directly. We have partnered with Zenfolio to provide high quality prints, canvases, and gift items at http://historysanjose.zenfolio.com/. You may request images from our collection be added to Zenfolio for purchase.

Publication & Reproduction

  1. You are welcome to use watermarked images from our PastPerfect Online catalog for exhibits, websites, presentations, etc. There is no cost or paperwork involved.
  2. If you wish to use high resolution images for a publication or exhibit, you must complete the HSJ Publication Request form and pay the appropriate fee. We will then share the files with you via Google drive (scanned between 600 dpi to 1200 dpi depending on the size of the original).
  3. Fees are $25/image for publication or use in film; $125 for use as corporate artwork; no charge for non-profit organizations using the images for exhibit. Other fees may be negotiated.

What is available at the Research Library?

History San Jose is a non-profit organization under contract with the City of San Jose to manage its historic collection. We offer a rich collection of personal papers, government and organizational records, maps, ephemera, architectural records, reports, photographs and audiovisual material dating from the 1780s to the present. Materials have been donated by individuals/organizations, collected by staff, or transferred from municipal departments for long-term storage.

Library Resources for in-person browsing:

  • Jack Douglas Reference Files: Author, SJSU professor, and local historian Jack Douglas’s reference files on local properties and people.
  • Abstracts of Title: Searchable in our online catalog.
  • Yellow and White pages for Santa Clara County (1905-2018)
  • City Directories (1870-1979): City Directories list the names of individuals living in San Jose and selected areas of Santa Clara County along with their place of residence and occupation. In 1914, a street address index was added, enabling you to track owners over time. (Also available at the California Room, San Jose Public Library).
  • Biographical Clippings Index and Family History Files
  • Subject Clippings Index
  • City of San Jose Annual Budgets (1947-1965)
  • City of San Jose Auditor’s Annual Reports (1950-1968)
  • Business Cards: Collection of business cards from Santa Clara County, filed alphabetically by company name or individual
  • Local Historical Surveys and Reports: Searchable in our online catalog
  • Trade Catalogs and Manuals
  • Obituaries Index (1879-1912): Alphabetical card index listing date of obituary and newspaper. Newspapers indexed include the San Jose Daily Morning Times, San Jose Evening News, San Jose Daily News, San Jose (Daily) Herald, and the San Jose Mercury. Note: We do not provide the actual obituaries. Microfilm of the newspapers is available at the California Room, San Jose Public Library. (This index was scanned by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1986 and is available through familysearch.org)
  • City of San Jose Tax Assessor’s Photographs: Black & white snapshots dating to the 1930s-1950s, organized by street name/number. Most of these have been scanned and cataloged in our online catalog under accession number 1997-251. There is one box with unidentified photographs.
  • Changing Boundaries documentary interview transcripts (2014)
  • Postcard Collection: Organized by subject. All cataloged and searchable in our online catalog.
  • Bench & Bar Historical Society of Santa Clara County oral history transcripts (Originals are held at the Santa Clara County Law Library; the University of Santa Clara Library and HSJ both have copies)
  • “When San Jose Was Young”: Mercury News column documenting events from San Jose’s past between 1841-1870
  • Photograph Collection: Reference prints of the museum’s original historic photo collection, arranged by subject. This is a small sub-set of the entire photograph collection; all have been cataloged and scanned, and can be searched in our online catalog under Accession No. 1997-300
  • Yearbooks and School Newspapers: Fairly complete run of San Jose High School and San Jose State yearbooks, and yearbooks from other local colleges, high schools, and junior high schools. Please inquire about specific years/issues.
  • Sanborn Insurance Block Books: Volumes for San Jose, also available on the Internet Archive and at the California Room, San Jose Public Library.
  • Periodicals & newsletters published locally or of local interest, arranged by subject. Please inquire for specific titles.
  • Street maps and atlases (c. 1910s-2007): Collection of San Jose and Santa Clara County fold-out maps and bound street atlases.

Online Resources

Note: We are working to add our entire archive to online catalogs, but only a portion is available at the moment. If you do not find what you are looking for, please ask!

Online Catalog

http://historysanjose.pastperfectonline.com/

Our online catalog includes detailed descriptions and many scanned images of library, archives, and photographic material. It is the best place to search for photographs and individual items.

Manuscript/Archival collection guides

Online Archive of California – guides to archival collections at History San Jose and other California institutions

Archival footage and sound recordings

Indexes to Government Records

Please note we do not hold any naturalization records.

Indexes to Other Materials

Other Resources

Photographers and Photographers Studios in the San Jose Area (circa 1856-1927)
San Jose and Santa Clara County Selected Bibliography 2019 (PDF)

California Room at King Library

The San Jose Public Library’s California Room is a source for California and local San Jose history. Their website provides a guide to researching your old house, and access to other records including digitized Sanborn maps. Visit in person for access to microfilmed newspapers, history books, Sanborn Maps, City Directories, yearbooks, clippings files, and more.

Santa Clara County Historical & Genealogical Society

The SCCHGS is located at the City of Santa Clara Central Park Library, and has a large collection of genealogy resources along with a great historical collection available for the public’s use. Their website provides access to online indexes and genealogical research help. They will conduct genealogical research for you for a small fee.

Santa Clara County Recorder’s Office

If you are looking for vital records, real estate history and maps, please start at the Santa Clara County Recorder’s Office, as they also hold documents from 1851 onward.

Santa Clara County Archives

The County Archives collection comprises documents officially recorded by the County Recorder/County Clerk’s office, including property records, marriage licenses, probates, wills, court records, jail records, and much more. Many of their databases are searchable online.

Search California Newspapers

The California Digital Newspaper Collection is a project of the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research (CBSR) at the University of California, Riverside, providing keyword search of 72,729 digitized issues.

Santa Clara County Surveyor’s Office Record Index/Maps Index

Search County maps and other records from the County Surveyor, with helpful links to other resources

California State Archives

The State Archives holds many local government records as well as family history information such as probate, deeds, and naturalization records, military records, and mental health records from Agnews. See also The Historical Records of County Government in California.

California Department of Public Health – Vital Records

California birth, death, fetal death, still birth, marriage and divorce records are maintained by the California Department of Public Health Vital Records.