How do I find my father's house from thirty years ago?

When I was a kid, my parents were already divorced and I was shuttled to his house with my older siblings for weekends and summer vacations. He died when I was twelve, and I hadn’t seen that house since. I remember it being great (worth in today’s market, easily three-quarters of a million), perched on a hillside overlooking the town and the freeway and the ocean. Pool in the backyard. Just lush.

A sudden fit of nostalgia prompted me to try to Google Street View this place, but I haven’t the slightest memory of the street address. I have a vague memory of the trip to get to the place,but it has been thirty years. For reasons too complicated to go into, I really do not want to ask my relatives if they remember the address.

So, how do I go about finding an address of a house that my father owned over thirty years ago?

Can you ask your mother or older siblings? Do you have any other family or friends that might have known him?

What about phone books? If you know the name of the town, you could try to get a copy of the phone book from one of the years that he lived there.

Did your father attend a school where you might be able to get the information from the alumni office?

Were your parents living there when you or any of your siblings was born? The address might be on your birth certificate. My birth certificate has my parents’ address from the time on it. Also, what about school records (yourself or siblings?)

Local land records! In the county I live in, who owns what house (and who used to own it) is public record, available at the courthouse for anyone who walks in and asks.

Was it his place of residence when he died? If so, the death certificate should have his address on it. It should be available from the county records.

Oh a scavenger hunt. Using crowdsourcing:

Give us all of the clues you have:
Distance/time from airport, From Interstate, From highway
Any malls, shopping centers nearby?
Which direction did the house face? Sun rose or fell in which windows?
Numbered street? or name?
Curvy street or straight sidewalks?
Top of hill or just near top.
Anything else you remember?

Do you remember stores/malls nearby? Make a rough guess how far you have to go.
Se if there’s street view from the expressway that shows the hills and what’s on top. Were you right on the expressway or on a hillside with other houses between you and the expressway, you and top of hill?

yeah, things from on top look a lot different than from the side.

Plus, when I went back to my neighbourhoods after 30-40 years… One house was buried in trees that were only about 10 feet tall way back when; the empty field we played baseball in was a cul-de-sac of expensive houses. Another, the townhouse strip had been totally fixed up. What used to be ragged grass and boring patio blocks was now planters and fancy landscaping, plus decent-sized trees. Another had morphed into a bunch of 30-storey apartments; every house on the block was gone. Even the road was completely different, turned ito a dead end.

I think you’ll have hours of google ahead of you. If you aren’t even sure what area, maybe you can ask family what general area of the city without getting into specific addresses.

If you are really really really lucky, a library might have a city directory from that general era. I know some libraries used to have (in Reference) the “City Directory”, a commercially produced equivalent of the phone book sorted by address and name as well.

If your father owned the property the state property tax records would have his name listed in the list of prior owners for a specific property. Some states offer online tax databases which you can search. Unfortunately most are only searchable by street or tax ID not name.

Personally, the best tool I’ve found for looking up childhood houses is google earth (not streetview) . If you can key on some familiar point (ie movie theatre, shopping center etc) you should be able to get to the street. If you can get to the street you can call up the list of addresses for that street in the online tax database. The properties will usually have a list of prior owners and you can look for who owned the property in the time period your father did to confirm the match.

I really don’t want to consult The Relatives. I haven’t spoken to them in eight years and that’s the way I like it. I don’t remember nearly enough about his friends to ask any of them, assuming they’re still alive.

I live some distance (150+ miles) from that town, so a casual jaunt to the Hall of Records is out of the question. Land records: if I can access the records by his name, I could do that.

Phone books: that might work. I do know the town.

No, none of us kids were born in that house, so birth certificates wouldn’t help.

I think it was his residence when he died. He was in the hospital for a while, but I don’t remember if the house was still his.

Thanks for the suggestions!

I don’t think you have to be born in the house to have it on your birth certificate. I was born in a hospital but my birth certificate indicates my parents’ place of residence at the time under “Mother’s Address” or something like that.

I searched for the house I lived in as a nine year old. I KNEW the address, but nothing would come up with it. Finally found it. The lots back then were all odd shaped, had an alley behind, small houses large yards … The entire area had been redone. The alley doesn’t exist, the lots were sold to a developer, the houses razed, high end condos put in place, the condos aren’t even oriented in the direction the old houses were. The actual number address doesn’t even exist anymore. But by doing a google sat and street view search starting at my old school, I finally found where it used to be.

Reminds me of when I was working near the hospital where I was born. I wanted to see it, but the street it was on was reclaimed by the swamp. Salt dome collapsed. Wow. I feel like Marty playing with the band at the Under the Sea dance.

Are you willing to post some concrete details? E.g. name of town, local landmarks (e.g. “Thomas Brown Elementary School”, “Walter Creek Mall”, “North Haverbook Park”), name of father? Maybe there is someone here who lives, or used to live, nearby and might know something or be able to obtain local records much easier.

Can you narrow it down to a neighborhood? How about contacting the local historical society? If the town is small enough, there’s bound to be someone who can put two and two together.

If your county land records are like ours, there is no way to look up a former owner’s name unless you have a property address. Once a property is transferred, the online (and internal) databases no longer have the old name, just the new. And our county is one of the more progressive.

And even with a property address, it requires a trip to the courthouse to look it up in a big book, where you will find, next to the address, a list of all the recorded documents for it for many years back. Some of these are deeds, not all. Only the most recent 20 years or so are computerized.

Where I live the property records are searchable on line at the county web site, under taxes, because property taxes are paid to the county. Deternine what county the house is in and start poking around on the county website.

Your location is shown as Evildrome Boozerama, is that Las Vegas?

The OP said something about the house overlooking the ocean, so his father couldn’t have been near Vegas.

Danny Ocean

The county voter registration office may have his address, and those would likely be public records.

A phone book from the right years is also a likely source, and the local library may have them.

If you lived in Baltimore, you could go to the Enoch Pratt Public Library, and search his name in the phone books of the time, which are on microfilm.

Perhaps your town has such a library.


Briefly, some details:

The town is San Clemente, CA. It was about five to ten minutes from the 405(?) freeway, turning left off the offramp as you were heading towards San Diego. I don’t remember which offramp, however.

When I meant I wasn’t born in the house, I misspoke: I meant to say that my dad did not own that house until at least a couple of years after I was born, so it would not be on my BC.

The windows in the main living room of the house (BIG windows, lemme tell ya) faced west-to-northwest; we could see Dana Point in the distance. We weren’t at the top of the hill, but the street had a few houses alongside ours. I don’t remember the land below the property being developed, but this was thirty years ago so that might have changed.

Malls? This was the early-to-mid-seventies, in the Before-Time of malls.

Thank you all for your suggestions!

Do you happen to have any old medical records or report cards from when you lived in San Clemente? Do you remember a certain liquor store or Fast Food place you guys frequented?

Not the 405 freeway, but the 5 freeway.

You might be able to look in Historical Directories. That is the Orange county group, some of which are free. You might also be able to find it on, where you could make a free account and look it up.

There’s also the San Clemente Historical Society, you might be able to call them and see if they will do a quick look-up for you. Especially if you can give a name and year that you’d like them to look up.

I didn’t live in San CLemente; he did. I just visited on weekends and summer vacations. So, no. But thanks anyway.