Research Guides

We'll walk you through the basics

Property Research Guide

Betty Gibout Real Estate Listing Cards

Real estate listing cards showing information and a picture for houses listed through a realtor from the 1950s-1990s.

City Directories

Lists who lived at an address, or what business was there. They also show what people’s occupations were.

Note: Street addresses in Grand Rapids changed in 1911/1912. For any addresses in 1911 or earlier, you will want to cross-reference to the modern address. The 1912 city directory (available from HathiTrust) provides both addresses.

Google Books (various years from 1856 to 1924)

HathiTrust (various years from 1859 to 1933)

Ancestry, Grand Rapids Directories, 1889-1890

Ancestry, US City Directories, 1822-1995
Tip: Enter address in “keyword” or browse by location.

Architectural Database

Grand Rapids Homes and Architects
Index to articles and ephemera from over 2,800 houses and buildings


Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Show building structures, property uses and other information

Kent County plat maps – Available from 1855-2007, these maps indicate land owners and building locations for structures outside incorporated areas.

Master Map Index
Index to maps in the archives

City Plat Map Index
Index to the plat maps in Collection 240.

Statewide Plat Maps 
Database with digitized images of all plats recorded in Michigan, see instructions here.

Local Government Sources

Grand Rapids City Archives and Research Center
The Assessors Real Estate Property Appraisal Cards, 1936-2009 contain information on buildings within the city limits, including build date, structure description, and photograph(s). Open by appointment only.

GR City Property Tax & Assessment Search 
Includes basic property information, such as homeowner, value, legal description, recent sales, building information, and recent photographs.

Kent County Property Tax & Assessment Search
Basic property information, such as homeowner, value, legal description, recent sales, and building information.

Kent County Treasurer’s Office
Tax records from 1875 on are available at the Treasurer’s Office. Information includes owner, tax assessment, and limited description of structures. Search is by legal description, not property owner or address.

Kent County Register of Deeds
Property records showing transfers in ownership. Records before 1870 are available at the library. Later years are available at the Register of Deed’s Office in the County Building.

Other Resources

Your neighbors or local neighborhood association

Previous owners

Heritage Hill Association: Architectural/Historical Inventory Cards 
Prepared as part of the application for National Register of Historic Places nomination, these cards contain information on select houses in the Heritage Hill Historic District.

Oral Histories Research Guide

One of the most powerful ways to capture history is through formally recording citizens’ personal experiences and recollections.

The following archival collections contain primarily oral histories, or significant numbers of oral histories. The list is not comprehensive, and you may find oral histories in other collections as well.


Collection  Number and Name
163 Kent County Council for Historic Preservation Oral History Collection
This collection includes taped reminiscences of people from Kent County, detailing local history; business and economic conditions; agricultural, urban and rural lifestyles; suffrage; theaters; religion and Native Americans. Contains information on Grand Rapids, Rockford, Ada, Cascade, Fallasburg, Cedar Springs, Kentwood, Grandville, and Comstock Park history.
164 The Grand Rapids Public Library Oral History Collection
Contains oral histories conducted by library staff or those donated to the library. The interviews date back to 1945 and contain information on Grand Rapids, Michigan history, politics, Native American businesses, immigrants, World War II, the 1911 furniture strike and major natural disasters, such as tornadoes and floods.
166 Grand Rapids Press Monday Guest Oral History Collection
The Monday Guest Collection includes interviews taped between 1978 and 1984 by Grand Rapids Press reporters for a column entitled “Monday Guest.” Among the interviewees are: Donald Riegle on upcoming 1980 presidential election; Walter “Sparky” Anderson on his new position as coach of the Detroit Tigers; Richard DeVos on business at Amway; and Guy Vander Jagt with his views on Congress. The interviews detail the political, social, and business history of the area. Topics of emphasis are crime, drug abuse and ethnic diversity.
167 Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council Oral History Collection
Contains interviews conducted by the Council’s members, which preserve a spoken record of their personal histories, families, activities, values and times, from as early as the 1840s to the present. Reflected are broad topics such as medicine, society and race. Also included are details about the lives of descendants of early settlement families, racism, volunteerism, discrimination based on gender, education, and other topics.
168 Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids Oral History Collection
These interviews for the Oral History Project of the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids were conducted by Buck Matthews. Those interviewed are among the many who played significant roles in the life, activities, and accomplishments of the Council and other local arts organizations.
277 Hellenic Horizons
Hellenic Horizons was incorporated in 1979 to celebrate Greek heritage in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The collection includes over 110 hours of taped oral histories.
292 Hispanic American Oral History Project/Calvin College Latin American History Oral History Project
This devised collection contains oral histories of Hispanic immigrants in Grand Rapids, coming from a variety of Spanish speaking countries. The interviews were conducted by various individuals, through several different forums.
299 Eduard Adam Skendzel Polonian Historical Collection
This collection focuses on the Polish community in Grand Rapids and southwest Michigan, including 84 oral histories.
307 Grand Rapids Lesbian & Gay Organizations Project Collection
This collection relates to the local and Western Michigan gay and lesbian community since the 1980s. It includes a series of 10 oral history interviews.
339 Robert Raz and Alberta Massingill Oral History Collection
The result of a Friends of the Grand Rapids Public Library 100th Anniversary Project, this collection contains interviews with retired staff of the Grand Rapids Public Library conducted in 2004-2006. Those interviewed were librarians, library assistants, and administrative, support, and specialized staff.
353 The Arab American Community in Grand Rapids Collection
This collection was built by James Goode, a faculty member in the History Department at Grand Valley State University. It includes oral histories with members of the Arab American and Syrian communities in Grand Rapids.
369 Sharing Our Uncommon Legacy of Philanthropy:the SOUL Project
The S.O.U.L of Philanthropy project was a grassroots effort by a group of Grand Rapids, Michigan, historians and filmmakers working together during 2006-2009. The group researched and interviewed twenty-eight Grand Rapids philanthropists using high definition video technology.
370 Community Voices Oral History Project
Community Voices is a project at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan that aims to teach students to listen and carefully record life stories from the Grand Rapids community. This collection contains oral histories or video of community residents, completed from 2001-2010.
415 Calvin College Great Migration oral histories
This collection includes oral histories of Black men and women from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who were part of the Great Migration. The interviews were conducted as part of an interim course at Calvin College in January 2002, taught by Dr. Randal Jelks.