Guides – Researching Homes

In response to a growing interest in residential genealogy by home owners, real estate agents and genealogists, the Archives of North Vancouver has created a Research Guide to support your discovery of information about your property or one that you are interested in.

Start your Search Online!

Find out when your house was built.

Check if the property is listed in the District of North Vancouver’s Community Heritage Register (2020) or part of the City of North Vancouver’s Heritage Registry (2013).

Search the property maps online at CityMAP for the City of North Vancouver and GEOtools for the District of North Vancouver. These sites are also where you will find the legal description for your property.

The legal description provides you with:

  • Lot number
  • Block number
  • District Lot (DL) number
  • Plan number.

Be sure to keep a copy of this information as it is very useful for finding other records related to the same property.

In CityMAP for City of North Vancouver residents, enter your address in the search box and select Property Report from the dropdown menu under ‘Tools’ for more details.

You can create a Property Report as a pdf with a lot of information about the property, such as building year and legal description.

With the legal plan number on hand, City of North Vancouver residents can contact the Archives of North Vancouver to find a copy of the plan.

For District of North Vancouver properties start your search on their GEOtools website. First, enter the app by clicking ‘Launch Application’. When the map appears, click on the ‘Toolbox’ tab and select ‘Property Information’. Type in the address of your property and hit return.

Be sure to take note of the Lot number, Block number, District Lot number and Plan number as they do not change over time like addresses can. This information is very useful for finding other records related to the same property when you visit the Archives of North Vancouver. Note that while the archives has copies of legal plans for the City of North Vancouver, it does not have them for the District. Plans are available for a fee from the BC Land Title and Survey.

Find your property assessment.

The BC Assessment website also provides you with access to your property value, the legal description and parcel ID, as well as a map. Simply type your address into the search bar and hit return!

Who owned the property? Who lived in the house?

Published yearly, the City Directories are an excellent source for tracing occupancy history of your home and the context of its neighbourhood. The directories are similar to telephone books, but provide access by address as well as by name. View them online from the Vancouver Public Library’s website from 1860 to 1955.

In each City Directory, there are two sections:

  • An alpha-numeric street guide
  • An alphabetical index of names of individuals and businesses

Once you know the year that the property was built, use the alphabetical street guide to look up the home by address, and find out the names of the people who lived there and for how long they stayed. Once you know their names, you can look them up in the index of names, which lists their occupations, where they worked, if they were the homeowner (h) or resident (r), and often the names of their spouses.

Additional tips:

  • Demographic omissions: married women, Chinese who spoke no English, and children.
  • Squatter communities are not represented such as the Maplewood Mudflats, Cates Park, and early Japanese immigrants at the foot of Capilano River.
  • Married women’s names were excluded or represented as follows: not mentioned before 1934, secondary to the husbands’ from 1934, and, if working, as a separate entry from 1976.
  • Early directories (before 1923) have a separate section for Chinese immigrants.
  • Early directories do not include the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Reserves.
  • Churches can be found alphabetically by their names throughout the directories, except Catholic Churches, which are found alphabetically under “Catholic.”

If you are interested in consulting City Directories from 1955 onward, contact the Archives staff at: archives@dnv.org.

Research can be conducted on your behalf by the Archives staff. The first half hour is free; additional time is $30 per hour.

Is there a photograph of the house at the Archives of North Vancouver?

If you are interested in finding a photograph of the property, the best place to start is online at the Archives of North Vancouver database here: https://eloquent.dnv.org/nvma/public. The database includes thousands of scanned photographs of houses, apartments, street views, and interiors.

To search for a specific address, type the address into the Keyword search box. It’s important to use abbreviations such as Ave. for Avenue, E for East, 1st for First. To narrow a search to photographs only, choose ‘Photograph’ from the drop down menu in the search field ‘Media Type’. A list of items will appear. Each item can be expanded to see a full description.

Once you have found what you are looking for, there is an option to help you organize your search results. You can save specific results by clicking on “Save to List” at the top of the item description page.

As you select and add resources from the search results to your list, they are saved and can be viewed as a list by clicking ‘View List’. The list feature allows you to save and print selected items for future use or email your list of archival records to the archives staff who can provide reproduction services for a fee.

To order an image click on ‘Request’; the database will ask to open your email program on your device to send the email request.

Photograph by Pacific Airways Ltd. NVMA #15883

Even if you don’t find an image of your home, your neighbourhood is probably represented in the archival database; possibly through aerial photographs like this one from 1926.

Finlay’s Row, 200 Block of East 19th St., ca. 2000. Photograph by Suzanne Wilson. Fonds 140-217-E19a

Some photographs from the 1970s onwards are useful for those who would like to see the previous colours of the property and specific features that may have been added over time. 2000 houses in North Vancouver were photographed as a millennium project for the year 2000. Also, construction and demolition photographs have been taken over the years to capture what may be the only graphic records in the Archives of a particular building.

  • In some cases, the photograph of the property you are interested in has not been digitized and only a description is available in the database. You can always contact the Archives staff and request a scan be made available of the photograph and a digital file can be sent to you through our fee-based reproduction services.
  • To order and purchase a high-resolution digital copy of the photograph, please contact the Archives Staff at archives@dnv.org or 604.990.3700 ext. 8011. Photograph Reproduction fees can be found here.
  • In most cases, if a record can be seen online the copyright for that record is either owned by the North Vancouver Museum & Archives, the City or District of North Vancouver, or it’s in the public domain. For any presentation, display or online sharing please credit the source as North Vancouver Museum & Archives with the inventory number and if known, the photographer’s name.

Fire Insurance Plans

Fire insurance plans show details of individual properties, gathered at various intervals, for insurance purposes.

Find downloadable files of the 1910 and 1912 insurance plans for the City of North Vancouver at https://eloquent.dnv.org/nvma/permalink.html?key=125. Once you open the page in the database, find ‘Digital Content’ and select a link to the pdf that shows all the pages of the plan. A view of the plan will appear which gives options to zoom in and out as well as download the document to your computer.

The Archives of North Vancouver also have the 1930s insurance plans for both the City and District of North Vancouver. To gain access and view these plans remotely, contact the Archives for assistance.

Details include the following:

  • Type of construction of the building
  • Number of storeys
  • Position of buildings on the lot
  • Verandahs and porches
  • Lot features such as driveways
  • Location of water hydrants
  • Creeks that once ran through properties
  • Neighbouring buildings that existed

Pamphlets

The pamphlets collection at the Archives of North Vancouver includes brochures, magazines, and similarly published items that depict home styles, floor plans, and other architectural features particular to the West Coast style of the 1950- 1960. Other pamphlets may contain maps that reveal details about the neighbourhood.

When searching the Archives database, type the name of the neighbourhood, street or architect name into the Keyword search box. To narrow the search to promotional material, choose ‘Pamphlets’ from the drop down menu in the field ‘Media Type’.

Above is an example of the well-known publication, Western Homes and Living, as you can see there are no scanned images available online. You are welcome to contact archives staff, or make an appointment to view the material in the Archives during their open hours.

Not all pamphlets are available as scans in the Archives online database. If you would like to view and image, use the ‘Request’ button in the menu bar. Provide details of the request such as, “I would like a view of both sides of the brochure” or “Does this brochure have information about my address on Grand Blvd.”

Maps

City of North Vancouver and Vicinity, 1912. NVMA, Map #126.

Old maps are excellent graphic sources of information on the development of transportation and other industries, changes in infrastructure over time, zoning, water levels, routing of streets and creeks, and old names of places. Many maps like the one above, can be found in the archives database.

To search for maps, go to the field ‘Media Type’ and select ‘Maps’. Names of streets and parks will not necessarily yield the maps you seek so keep the ‘Keyword’ search general such as the types of maps one would find of North Vancouver, eg. logging, waterfront, cadastral, tourist, transportation, parks or topographical or leave the ‘Keyword’ field blank to survey a list of maps. If you want to narrow your search further, use the ‘Date(s) field’ and enter ‘1920…1950’, or ‘…1910’ for anything dated up to 1910.

Dial map of Greater Vancouver and suburbs, 1950. City of Vancouver Archives: Ref No. AM1594-: MAP 1196-: LEG1283.1

You can also look at the City of Vancouver Archives database to find maps that cover the Greater Vancouver area.

Many maps from their database are viewable in close detail such as this segment shown here, captured from an item found on the CVA database.

Building Permits

It is important to note that the City of North Vancouver started issuing building permits in 1910; the District of North Vancouver in 1922. The Archives of North Vancouver has some of the City’s original permit applications as well as the District’s permit registers from 1922 to 1963. The Archives also has an index of building permits compiled for both the City and District.

Registers have the following details:

  • Date of the building permit
  • Applicant’s name
  • Estimated cost of construction
  • Names of any architects involved (in some cases)
  • Construction details found in miscellaneous remarks (sometimes)

Ask staff to look up information for you by giving us a year and legal description of the property.

Property Tax Records

Property tax records can be used to determine previous owners of your home, and its value over the years. Changes in property value can be indicators of structural additions. The Archives of North Vancouver holds tax assessment records for the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver. Contact archives staff to view materials.

Research into property tax records can be conducted by Archive’s staff. The first half hour of research is free; additional time spent is charged at 30$ per hour.

Architectural Plans

Most of the architectural plans at the Archives of North Vancouver are for public buildings or other significant structures. Currently, we have very few plans for individual homes.

Note: Permission and proof of the registered owner of an existing property must be obtained before access can be granted to view architectural plans. Please contact the Archives Staff regarding access to restricted architectural records.

Water Service Applications & Permits

Water service or plumbing records can be used to determine the date of initial and subsequent water applications. They are also useful for determining the approximate date of completion of a building since water service is usually applied for just as a building is nearing completion.

In some cases the records provide details on the buildings use. They indicate what fixtures and services were installed, what plumber did the work, name of property owner, date work was done, and related permit number. Ask us about Water Service records for information about property in the City of North Vancouver from 1911 to 1953.

Publications

As many public services are inaccessible to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, archives staff will be able to look up some information from published sources. Here are a handful of publications that may be relevant to your research.

Francis, Daniel. Where Mountains Meet the Sea: An Illustrated History of the District of North Vancouver, Harbour Publishing, 2016. Available for purchase online.

Luxton, Donald, Ed. Building the West: Early Architects of British Columbia, Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2003.

Luxton, Donald and Associates. The Modern Architecture of North Vancouver, 1930-1965, North Vancouver.

Proctor, Sharon J. Time Travel in North Vancouver: a peek into the past, Hancock House Publishers, 2018. *Available for purchase online.

Sommer, Warren. The Ambitious City: A History of the City of North Vancouver, Harbour Publishing, 2007.

Additional Online Resources to support your Residential Genealogy Research on the North Shore

North Shore Heritage – North Shore Heritage is a non-profit society representing heritage homeowners and supporters in the three adjoining municipalities on the north side of Burrard Inlet: the City of North Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver.

Deep Cove Heritage Society – Browse Deep Cove Heritage Society’s online gallery of old photographs, read their bi-annual newsletters, share stories from Deep Cove’s history, and more.

West Vancouver Archives –The Archives’ holdings include West Vancouver government records, and records donated by the community, such as historical photographs, diaries, newspapers, maps and plans, correspondence, and manuscripts that document the social life and development of West Vancouver.