Although house and property history is a popular way to connect with local history, this may be one of the most difficult areas to research. The records are often hard to locate, scattered in a variety of sources, and in many cases, non-existent. This is particularly the case with photographs. The following suggestions are not intended to be exhaustive, but can provide you with starting points for your research.

If you are looking for information on the current ownership of a property, see our section on Property Ownership Information

Available online

  • Begin your search at Portland Maps, a service of the City of Portland. After searching for a property, you will be able to view not only current statistics about property, but also some historic information, including year of construction and often scanned permits under the "Historic Permits" section.
  • Check the State Historic Preservation Office's Oregon Historic Sites Database to see if the house or property you are investigating has been designated as historically significant. In addition, this site provides information about having a house or property added to the National Register of Historic Buildings in Oregon.
  • Access digitized Land Use Planning Decisions online from 1998 to the present through a searchable database. Please contact the Department of Land Use and Transportation directly with questions about their database.

Available at the County

  • Multnomah County Library
    • Historic Resource Inventory of Portland (1984)
    • Digital Sanborn Maps
    • View their House History Guide for details on other resources available at the library.
  • Multnomah County Land Use Planning
    • ​​​​​​​Property zoning in unincorporated areas. Zoning information dates from the early 1950's for most areas and provides a history of land use for properties.
  • County Surveyor. Survey information includes microfilm, paper and online records of surveys performed in Multnomah County dating from 1852 until the present. Types of records include field notes, indexes, maps, subdivisions and partition plats, and other records used to determine property boundaries and locations.
  • Recorder's Office provides access to land records and property tax records. Please see the Division of Assessment, Recording, and Taxation website for details on how to access these records.
  • Sheriff's Office holds eviction records as part of the Civil Process Unit. Per compliance with Oregon Records Law, they only maintain eviction records from the past five years. 

Additional resources

In incorporated areas, zoning is performed by cities, with online information available for Portland and Gresham

Historic structure information is also available at the Oregon Historical Society. Their holdings include a copy of the Historic Resource Inventory of Portland (1984), block books, Portland city directories, Sanborn insurance maps, and historic photographs. See their Guide to House and Building History.

Looking into the history of the neighborhood in which the house or property is located can provide additional context into the history of your house. The City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement and the City of Portland Archives' Website Links (scroll to bottom of page) provide guidance on neighborhood research.

Another valuable and often forgotten resource is one's neighbors. Long-term neighbors may have stories about previous owners, or your home may be in photographs of the exterior of their own homes.

Key Contacts

Multnomah County Surveyor

1600 SE 190th Ave
Portland, OR 97233
(between SE Stark and SE Division)
(503) 988-3600

Multnomah County Land Use Planning Division

1600 SE 190th Ave
Portland, OR 97233
(between SE Stark and SE Division)
(503) 988-3043

City of Gresham Planning Department

City Hall
1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway
Gresham, OR 97030
(503) 618-2780

Hours: 9:00-Noon, 1:00-4:00

City of Portland

Bureau of Development Services
1900 S.W. 4th Avenue
Portland, OR 97201
(503) 823-7300

State Historic Preservation Office

1115 Commercial St NE, Suite 2
Salem, OR 97301-1012
(503) 368-6305

Oregon Historical Society

Research Library
1200 SW Park Ave
Portland, OR 97205-2483
(503) 222-1741