Help Us Solve a Mystery

One of our favorite collections is the Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs. The Salt Lake County Assessor’s office took pictures of all of the properties in the county starting back in the 1930s and again several times in the intervening years. The collection includes some photos that have no identifying information – hence the mystery. Tax parcel numbers used by the assessor to document and arrange the photographs often change, sometimes multiple times throughout the years, and the link between the tax number and the address is occasionally broken.

Several staff have identified many of the mystery properties over the years – and we’ve figured out a lot of them, but we still have a number left. So, we’ve decided to crowd-source the investigation. Below is one such mystery property – does it look familiar to you? If so, contact us with your leads. Also feel free to share on your social media to get the word out!

Mystery photograph. Do you know where this house is located in Salt Lake County? If so, please leave a comment!

Entry contributed by Michaele Smith, Processing Archivist.

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As We Continue to Work….from Home

The archives reading room has now been closed for more than a month, but our staff are still working. We have been working from home on developing standards to better preserve born digital records that we receive, applying metadata to already digitized records so that they are more accessible, and uploading as many collections as we can to our website.

As many of you may know, the archives manages hundreds of thousands of records, in every format including paper, audiovisual materials, photographs, and artwork. Not to mention digital records including born-digital, digitized, records existing on external hard drives, flash drives, CDs, and even some floppies.

We are currently working on Tax Appraisal Cards from the 1970s – 1980s, as our archivist Michaele is constantly uploading new records to our existing online collection and indexing them so they are searchable by address or parcel number. She was also the main force behind digitizing the Marriage Applications and Licenses that just recently went up online.

Our archives mascot, Rusty the Super Dog, working tirelessly at the home of our archivist, Michaele.

As our Reference Archivist, Daniel, hasn’t been able to answer your research questions lately, he is working on getting Land Title Certificates ready to go online, adding metadata and working on quality control of digitized images. He is also busy working on setting up additional guidelines for county agencies transferring electronic records to the archives.

Daniel’s cat, Oliver, preferring to leave the work to the lowly humans.

We are also working on uploading the Salt Lake County Library System Historical Collection to our Digital Archives pages online. Our volunteer, Ruby, has been diligently working on digitizing this history up until the virus quarantine temporarily halted this project. Items will continue to be uploaded to this collection every week.

We continue to work hard on providing access to record collections online, and are looking forward to reopening the reading room as soon as we can assure that our patrons and staff will remain safe. Meanwhile, check out our online records, our online exhibits, and also see if your question about our records has been answered in our FAQs web page.

Thank you for your understanding, patience, and continue to stay safe.

Thanks to our archives staff for allowing us a sneak peek in to their home work spaces! **No animals or humans were injured during the creation of this blog entry, although one grumpy cat was awakened from his nap to have his photo taken.

Posted in Archives staff, records online, Resources for research, Salt Lake history, Utah history | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Wandering Tax Appraisal Cards

The collection of Tax Appraisal Cards, 1934-1987, were cards used to assess the value of residential and commercial property for tax purposes in Salt Lake County. The cards are one of the highest used collections in the archives for patron research and county business, and contain some of the only documented records of building history in the county. Just one of several large sized appraisal card collections in the archives, these records are valuable in multiple research disciplines from historic preservation and environmental aspects, to genealogical, land use, and building materials history. 1700 boxes, over 11,000 linear feet (about 2 miles) containing approximately 60,000 cards exists in this collection.

We recently uncovered a wandering box of assessor cards. This box of white appraisal cards from 1973-1975, was in the records center sitting cozily with other records series, pretending to be tax rolls on microfilm.

These particular appraisal cards add another level of history, description, and documentation for parts of the county in the areas of Sandy, White City, Midvale, and Cottonwood Heights. During the development of these areas in the 1970s, the Salt Lake County Assessor began to use large format white cards instead of the earlier (1936-1970s) small rectangular cards, potentially providing much more descriptive information about the buildings.

Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal white card, serial 35E-54-01.
White Tax Appraisal Card showing sq ft tax calculations and drawing of home, serial 35E-18-25.
Predominant format for the other 99% of the 60,000 assessor cards, 1930s-1970s. Pictured is card 13-1019.

The archivist was able to take additional time to fully process the cards and provide up-to-date identification and verification of the photos and cards to aid in research of the property information. Often this included the ability to locate the home on Google maps, provide a current parcel ID, and find the legal description of the card such as lot and subdivision. Nearly all cards contained a black and white photograph attached to the card and the assessors who documented the homes often wrote on the back of the photos the lot number, date, and older serial number. The archivist was able to format a printer to print onto photo sleeves to save time and add as much information as was found for the cards and photos.

Pre-label for the white appraisal cards, box 2, cards 35E-2 through 36-1581.
Final reprocessed box of white appraisal cards.

Blog post contributed by Daniel Cureton, Salt Lake County Archivist.

Posted in Resources for research, Salt Lake history, Utah history | 1 Comment

Land Title Certificates

One recent project that the Salt Lake County Archives has begun is the digitization of its Land Title Certificates. These certificates and associated documents determined, through sometimes length court processes, the rightful owners of parcels and land and made it official through the retroactive issuance of these certificates. The retroactive nature is due to decades of strife between the territorial government of Utah and the Federal Government in Washington D.C wanting to lay down its survey. For an in-depth discussion of this subject, see an earlier blog entry posted on this site.

Reconciliation between the territorial and federal land distribution systems required Congressional legislation to establish a land office in Salt Lake City, integrate Utah Territory into the national land system, and provide relief to the inhabitants of cities and towns on the public domain.  The federal government opened a land office in Salt Lake City on March 9, 1869.

This reconciliation included appearances by pioneers to the probate court to make claims or settle disputes about property ownership. The courts would notify settlers to appear and submit applications to sort out the process.

Notice to appear from folder box 5, folder 62, “William Burns, 1872-1873.

Often times more than twenty years had passed between the settler and the need to reconcile the proper ownership for the federal survey. When settling, it was common for the court to question all parties involved and to make a decision based on testimony and claims by fellow pioneers. One of the most valuable components of these statements, besides tracking of ownership history, is the genealogical information contained within them. The testimonies contain information about relationships, marriages, and often when people traveled across America to settle the new frontier.

Court testimony from box 1, file folder 5, George F. Adkins, 1864 – 1875.

When the process was concluded, various certificates and written statements by the court were issued.


Written decision by the probate judge from box 1, folder 4, Thomas Adamson, 1872-1873.


Deed for parcel, from box 1, folder 5, George F. Adkins 1864-1875.

Land Certificate from box 4, folder 37, G.W. Boyd, 1872.

In the wave of digital demand, the archives will be posting the certificates online to the public as free access documents to promote genealogy, research, and a critical part and overlooked component to Utah’s territorial history.  Currently, a name index for these records is available on our website.

Post contributed by Daniel Cureton, Reference Archivist

Posted in Salt Lake history, Territorial Records, Utah history | Leave a comment

Got the flu?

A revisit to a blog entry we originally posted back in February of 2013, referencing the flu season at the time. It seems appropriate to post it again in our current COVID-19 situation.

Salt Lake County Archives

Credit: National Library of Medicine. Credit: National Library of Medicine.

This winter’s flu season has been especially bleak and widespread, with residual symptoms lasting up to a month or more.  Back in 1918-1919, the Spanish Flu Epidemic hit the United States in three waves, and Salt Lake County had to take measures to try to hinder the spread of the illness.

In November of 1918, the Salt Lake County Physician received reports of 1,000 cases of the influenza, with a total of 48 deaths in just one month.  The entries below are from 1918 County Commission Minutes directing the public to wear masks, and that County offices should close early each day.

Spanish flu 2jpg Salt Lake County Commission Minutes, November 22, 1918.

Salt Lake County Commission Minutes, December 4, 1918. Salt Lake County Commission Minutes, December 4, 1918.

Spanish flu Salt Lake County Commission Minutes, December 18, 1918.

For more information, visit a great site created by the United States Department of Health and Human Services about the history of  The Great…

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Allen Park, aka. “Hobbitville”

1328 Allen Park in 1937. Image from the Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs.

Many of our readers may remember when Allen Park, a community located close by Westminster College on 1300 East, was in the news in 2019. It was originally started as a bird sanctuary in the 1930s, but the community was closed down and tenants were ordered to leave the property last year. We previously posted images of several of the houses in Allen Park, taken by the Salt Lake County Tax Assessor in 1939 and 1941.

Recently, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that this 7-acre property has been purchased by Salt Lake City for a park, and many of the eclectic structures and artwork will be preserved.

1401 Allen Park in 1941. Image from the Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs.
Some of the residences had names, such as the “Roost.” Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards, 1937.
Plot plan drawing of bird pens in Allen Park in 1965. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards.

Good luck to you, Allen Park!

Posted in Salt Lake history | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Archives Closed Until Further Notice

Due to a public health notice issued by Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, the Archives is closed for an indefinite period, effective immediately. Staff will not be able to fill any requests for records during this time.

If you would like to leave a request, please do so via email. Once it is safe for the public and for employees to reopen the Archives, we will reply to your request.

Meanwhile, please check out the records that we have available online, including Salt Lake County Birth Records from 1890-1915, Salt Lake County Death Records from 1847-1949, and Salt Lake County Marriage Applications and Licenses for 1887-1904 were just put online recently!

We also have online exhibits, including our Ghosts of West Temple exhibit in two parts.

As always, we appreciate your understanding and patience during this time, and hope that everyone stays safe and sane.

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