30+ free resources for finding historical California maps
Maps are a great way to see not only the history of your house, but of your neighborhood, city, and county! You can use maps to see physical changes to your house and land, see how highways and roads developed, locations of businesses long closed, and lots more. They’re a great way to understand the context of your house over the years.
Maps are a necessary component to any house history research, but actually finding historical maps can be a little tricky. Luckily, archives and historical societies have taken the time to digitize hundreds of historical maps and make them available online– you just have to know where to look.
I’ve put together a resource list of 30+ websites where you can find historical maps for California. These maps include county boundaries, highways, city maps, fire insurance maps (the holy grail), and neighborhood maps. And they’re all free to use!
Free Historical California Map Resources
- Berkley Library‘s Historic Topographic Maps of California collection.
- Burbank Public Library digital map collection.
- CaliforniaHighways.org (includes links to more resources)
- California Historical Society‘s digital map collection
- California State Library has some maps online, but many more are offline
- Calisphere consolidates digital collections from multiple universities and historical societies; search for your city or just “maps” to get started.
- Claremont Colleges Library‘s Maps and Mapping collection
- Color Landform Atlas of the United States’s California page
- CSUN University Library Map Collection
- David Rumsey Map Collection
- Japantown Atlas, mapping nearly two dozen communities in California where Japanese Americans lived and worked prior to World War II.
- Library of Congress‘s digital map collection. Be sure to check out their collection of scanned Sanborn Fire Insurance maps which are great for seeing actual buildings, business names, etc.
- Los Angeles Public Library‘s map collection on TESSA
- Marin County Free Library‘s digital map collection
- Museum of Ventura County’s digitized maps
- Newberry Library’s Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
- Santa Cruz Public Library‘s Local History Room map collection
- Stanford University‘s map collection, focused on the university and nearby areas
- The Huntington Library’s Digital Library’s Map collection
- UC Berkley Bancroft Library Maps of Private Land Grant Cases of California
- UC Santa Barbara’s USGS Topographic Maps of California
- UCLA Library’s Henry J. Bruman Map Collection
- UCLA Library Special Collections
- University of Alabama Map Library— yes, it has California maps!
- University of Texas Libraries Perry-Castañeda LibraryMap Collection
- University of the Pacific Holt-Atherton Special Collections map and manuscript collections
- USC Libraries’s Automobile Club of Southern California collection
- USGS’s Historical Topographic Map Explorer
- USGS’s topoView (very similar to the above link, maybe a little easier to use)
- USGW Archives California map collection
- Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History
Know of any more free California map websites I haven’t listed? Let me know in the comments!
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