Historic Property Research Guide
Written by: The Office of Historic Preservation
Have you ever wanted to research the history of your home, but weren't sure where to begin? Have you done some research already, but want to find additional information that Google can't provide for you? Here are some tips from Office of Historic Preservation staff, who research properties each and every day.
Digital Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Initially created for fire insurance liability purposes, these historic map collections are a valuable resource for documenting cities and towns across the United States. Sanborn maps identify street names, addresses, building footprints, building materials, types of buildings (dwellings, stores, etc.), and more. Sanborn maps can also identify changes in street names. A large collection of historic San Antonio Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are available digitally through the San Antonio Library’s website (you will need an active library card) or on microfilm at the Texana desk at the Central Library.
To access online: Visit the San Antonio Public Library website and look for the Texas Digital Sanborn Maps link. You'll need a library membership to login. Once in the portal, you can search by either key (to look up a property by map) or index (to look up a property by street name).
The following resources are available at the San Antonio Public Library/Texana:
- Sanborn Maps on microfilm (years 1885-1971)
- Birdseye Koch Maps (years 1873 and 1886)
- San Antonio Street Maps (beginning in the year 1865; a list of original maps are available at the Texana desk)
Real Estate Deeds / Titles
Real estate deeds and titles can help reveal changes in property ownership and provide individual address details. There are several county resources for this kind of research.
Bexar County Appraisal District (BCAD)
To access online: Visit the BCAD website and click on the property search tab. Enter the property address you wish you research, and when you receive results, click on the "view details" and "expand all" buttons for full details. Recent deed information will be listed under Deed History. Additionally, there is a map tab near the top left of the results page that allows you to zoom in and out on the parcel.
Bexar County Clerk
To access online: Visit the County Clerk website and complete the free registration. There are several kinds of searches available; however, the most commonly used are Name (of owner) and Book/Page (volume/page of deed). If you are searching by name, leave the option "All Party Types" to widen your search. After entering information, click on the "Go Search" tab near the bottom of the screen and click "View Image."
When analyzing deeds, read carefully from beginning to the end of all documents, as they might pertain to another property instead of the one you intended to research. This may be due to address changes or re-zoning over time.
Additionally, each search will bring up a specific deed transfer. You will go through the Grantor/Grantee search several times. Remember: "grantee" is the buyer, and "grantor" is the seller.
If you prefer performing research in person, you can visit the Bexar County Clerk's Office in the Bexar County Courthouse and a staff member will assist you.