Researching Your Home

Here are a few straightforward ways to find out more about your Bernal Heights home.

The San Francisco History Center has a helpful guide (updated Jan. 2011) on how to research San Francisco buildings.

1. The S.F. City Assessor's Office

Enter your address to get your "parcel information" -- your block and lot number. For example, 533 Ellsworth is block number 5725, lot number 025. Then click on that number to see the most recent records for your home, including number of rooms, construction type, zoning code, and year of construction.

Warning: Many city records were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. Many houses that were built before that date are often listed only as having a 1900 construction date as a default setting.

2. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Sanborn large-scale maps contain a wealth of useful information. (A key to the symbols used.)

SFPL library card holders can view the maps for free via the library's Web site. Bernal streets can be found in the 1886-1893 files in volume 5, 1886, pages 136-144; 1899-1900 files in volume 5, 1900, pages 571-596; and in the 1913-1915 files in volume 8, 1914 (pages 771-773, 779-780, more to come), and volume 9, 1915.

Note that some Bernal street names have changed over the years. In some instances, house numbers changed, too. You may have to figure out which house is yours by counting the lots on the block.

3. City Directories

These are like phone books that also list residents' occupations. SF Genealogy lists directories available online. Patriarchal caveat: In many directories before 1907, women are not listed unless they are employed or widowed, so you'll need to check Census records to find all the inhabitants of a house.

Bernal History Project has compiled city directory information, street by street, for 1922, 1915, and 1907. More coming soon, along with Census and voter records.

4. The Bernal Journal and the New Bernal Journal

The Bernal branch library has the physical archives for this hyperlocal bulletin/newspaper (1962-present). Ask at the main desk.

5. Contact the Bernal History Project

We have photographs, oral history interviews, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, and many members with long memories!