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How to Research the History of Your Home?

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   Have you ever wondered about the history of your house? When was it built? Why was it built? Who owned it? What happened to the people who lived there? Over the years, I have received several inquiries into this topic. Below I have listed a few different ways to go about learning about your homes history.

   When conducting research on buildings there are usually two types of information that people search for: 1) architectural facts, such as date of construction, name of architect or builder, construction materials, and physical changes over time; and 2) historical facts, such as information on the original owner and other residents through time, or interesting events associated with the building or area.

How to look for Architectural Facts

   Begin your search by looking closely at the building for clues about its age. Look at the type of construction, the materials used in construction, the shape of the roofline, the placement of the windows, etc. These types of features may prove useful in identifying the architectural style of the building, which helps in establishing the general construction date. Walk around the property looking for obvious alterations or additions to the building as well as roadways, paths, trees, fences and other features. It is also important to look at nearby buildings to see whether they contain similar features which will also help to date your property.

   Talk to relatives, friends, neighbors, former owners/residents - anyone who might know something about the house. Ask them for information about the building, the land upon which the house was built, what existed at that location prior to construction of the house, and the history of the town/community.

How to look for Historical Facts

   Again, talk to relatives, friends, neighbors, and former owners/residents - anyone who might know something about the house. Ask them for information about former owners and the history of the house.

   Examining all of the deeds concerning your home is a big step toward learning more about its history. In addition to providing the names of property owners, deeds can also provide information on construction dates, changes in value and use, and even plot maps.

   Begin with the deed for the current owners of the property and work your way back from one deed to the next, with each deed providing details on who conveyed the property to whom. This list of property owners in succession is known as the "chain of title." Though often a tedious process, a title search is the best method for establishing a chain of ownership for a property.

   Visit the registry of deeds (or location where deeds are recorded for your area) and use the grantee index to search for the last owner in an index of buyers. The index will provide you with a book and page where a copy of the actual deed is located.
If you are fortunate enough to live near the courthouse you can do your deed research there. Find the office of the Registrar of Deeds. The registry is usually found in the clerk and recorder’s office. Ask for the registry of deeds for your particular property.

   Once you've learned the basics, one of the best ways to expand on the history of your home is by tracing its owners. This can be done using several different methods:

   Census records, depending upon the location and time period, may tell you who lived in your home or building, where they came from, how many children they had, the value of the property, and more. Census records can be especially useful in narrowing down birth, death, and even marriage dates which, in turn, can lead to more records about the homeowners. Census records can usually be found at libraries and archives.

   If you are able to narrow down a death date, then obituaries can provide you with a wealth of details about the former occupants of your home. Newspapers can also be good sources for information on births, marriages, and town histories. Another good source is genealogy searches. There are MANY websites that allow you to look up family histories.

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