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

  1. Berkley Library‘s Historic Topographic Maps of California collection.
  2. Burbank Public Library digital map collection.
  3. (includes links to more resources)
  4. California Historical Society‘s digital map collection
  5. California State Library has some maps online, but many more are offline
  6. Calisphere consolidates digital collections from multiple universities and historical societies; search for your city or just “maps” to get started.
  7. Claremont Colleges Library‘s Maps and Mapping collection
  8. Color Landform Atlas of the United States’s California page
  9. CSUN University Library Map Collection
  10. David Rumsey Map Collection
  11. Japantown Atlas, mapping nearly two dozen communities in California where Japanese Americans lived and worked prior to World War II.
  12. 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.
  13. Los Angeles Public Library‘s map collection on TESSA
  14. Marin County Free Library‘s digital map collection
  15. Museum of Ventura County’s digitized maps
  16. Newberry Library’s Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
  17. Santa Cruz Public Library‘s Local History Room map collection
  18. Stanford University‘s map collection, focused on the university and nearby areas
  19. The Huntington Library’s Digital Library’s Map collection
  20. UC Berkley Bancroft Library Maps of Private Land Grant Cases of California
  21. UC Santa Barbara’s USGS Topographic Maps of California
  22. UCLA Library’s Henry J. Bruman Map Collection
  23. UCLA Library Special Collections
  24. University of Alabama Map Library— yes, it has California maps!
  25. University of Texas Libraries Perry-CastaƱeda LibraryMap Collection
  26. University of the Pacific Holt-Atherton Special Collections map and manuscript collections
  27. USC Libraries’s Automobile Club of Southern California collection
  28. USGS’s Historical Topographic Map Explorer
  29. USGS’s topoView (very similar to the above link, maybe a little easier to use)
  30. USGW Archives California map collection
  31. 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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