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University of Minnesota

Kathryn A. Martin Library

Researching the History of a House or Building in Duluth

St. Louis County Assessor

Use the County Land Explorer or Property Details Search to find the legal description of a property, and details about structures such as year built and assessed value. 

Duluth Public Library

Many resources are available on the second floor of the Duluth Public Library, including: 

  • Duluth City Directories include alphabetical listings of Duluth residents by name, beginning in 1930 directories include a listing by address. Track the residents of a house by starting with more current dates and moving backward. City Directories are also available at the UMD Archives.
  • Duluth Newspapers on microfilm. Newspapers may occasionally contain references to newly built or sold houses, come prepared with the date of construction from the St. Louis County Property Details Search.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps on microfilm show a footprint of buildings to scale. Years include 1884/1885, 1888, 1908/1909 (the most complete set of maps) with updates for 1932 and 1935. Additional Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are available digitally at the UMD Archives.
  • Clippings Files – Biography and Duluth Houses. Some individuals and some houses may have a file created by DPL librarians containing pertinent newspaper clippings.

Abstract of Title

A property’s “abstract” provides a summary of legal actions attached to a specific property. It includes a list of past owners of the land and the dates of their ownership. It is a record of the land ownership only, not of the building(s) on the land. The types of transaction, dates of transaction, and names of buyers and sellers may be useful in further research, such as a search of the Duluth City Directories.

The abstract of a property may be in the possession of the home owner or the mortgage holder. Mortgage holders, such as banks, will allow homeowners to examine the abstract in their office.

City of Duluth Construction Services and Inspections

Records include building permits. Not all houses will have complete information. You may find information on the first owner, the architect, builder, materials, additions to the original building, and once in a while, blueprints. Files on microfiche may be used by the public. Property address is necessary, and a legal description of the property is also helpful.

Volunteer Genealogist – St. Louis County Courthouse

An experienced volunteer genealogist is available at the St. Louis County Courthouse on Thursdays from 10 am - 4:30 pm, and can help with land records or vital records for individuals. It is recommended you call ahead to be sure the genealogist will be available on that particular Thursday. You may request a one hour time slot in person or by phone.

Phone: 218-726-2559


Contact Us:


Phone: (218) 726-8526

Location: Kathryn A. Martin Library
Library Annex 202 (see map)