Archive for 'house history'

Tracing the History of Your House in America

Whether your house is a historical landmark or just a simple, fairly modern abode, researching its history can be a fascinating experience – and you may find the story of your house more interesting than you expect.

I have a limited number of my book on House History available. You can purchase your personally signed copy  

Price: £10.00


The process is actually fairly simple, though it may require a bit of time and research. If you’re willing to look, there are very likely plenty of resources that can be easily accessed or obtained to help with your research.

Building Permits

Going straight back to the beginning is the best way to start your search. Even if your house is old, it’s quite likely that the original building permit is still available in your city’s archives.

The permit will provide some useful bits of information, including construction dates, architects and contractors, the original owners and the original cost of the house. Depending on your city, the records may not be accessible to the public, so be aware that you might need to pay a small fee to obtain copies of the records.

City Directories

Many city directories date back a hundred years or more, and provide detailed information on local history. City directories will list all adult residents of a house, as well as their professions. This provides a very useful insight into previous owners of your house, and can give you a much better picture of the house history.

Census Records

At times, the city directories are too vague or don’t provide sufficient information on previous residents of your house. In this case, it may be helpful to look through census records. For over 200 years, a regular census has been taken across the country, and these records are on record both at certain libraries, as well as online (though you may need to pay a subscription to gain access to this information online).

Census records will provide a much greater understanding of how many people lived in your house, where those people were born, how many children they had, and even their ages and occupations.

Abstract of Title

The Abstract of Title is going to be one of your most useful pieces of information when you’re putting together the history of not only your house, but the land it’s built on. The Abstract is a document that contains records of every legal transaction associated with your property.

The Abstract of Title will provide details on all previous owners of the house and how long it was owned by each subsequent owner. It will often also provide information on the construction of the house, as well as any large-scale renovations or additions.

Plat Maps

This is potentially one of the most fascinating pieces of your house history puzzle. A plat map will give you a picture of the neighborhood as it was envisioned by the original developers. The map will list owners of the land, and will show a detailed plan of streets, street names, and any pre-existing structures. It will give you a clear picture of your property’s footprint at its beginning.

How do I find out the history of my house

A few weeks back I mentioned the various means by which you can find out where your family once lived. Well I have come across an increasing number of people eager to find out how I would find out the history of my house. For many property buyers there is quite a bit of romance to buying a house with a history. The history may have to do with the previous owners or with the property’s architecture. New developments can be all well and good with spiffy conveniences, but a house that has stood for over a hundred years is bound to have some juicy history attached to it, or so many of us hope. It is the kind of thing that really makes for delightful dinner party conversations.

For a newly purchased home, I would make the first inquiry on the history of my house with the realtor. They are able to give information on when the property was built and details on new additions and renovation work. If the house is in a less urban locale, and the realtor is familiar to the property, they should be able to give information on the previous owners and the work that has been done to the property. Estate Agents often like to relate stories about a property and its owners, particularly if it will help clinch the deal.

The local council and record offices are also a good resource on the history of my house. Information on permits issued will give a history of the work done to the structure. Also, you should be able to tell if the house was part of a bigger estate on the maps. Legal records and census returns will also give data on the history of ownership. For much older properties, these records are probably going to be under the custody of the local archive.

At the local archives service or library, I do find there is a dedicated section on the area where I can look up my house history. This resource should be really useful. There will be everything from tax records to the private papers of the estate manager. When researching the history of my house, I find it is easier to actually know what I am looking for, this helps me narrow down the search to the relevant government department. Even if the property is in town, estate records should be able to yield information on developments done on the property. Census records are a good way of finding out the details of the occupant past. Be sure to check online for information that may already be available to the public.

Whether my house history interest concerns how the house originally looked when new or who lived there in the early 1900s, my local records and archives office would be the safest bet. If you are not familiar with your family’s genealogy, then use the same tips to find out more about your past.

I have a limited number of copies of Signed Copies of “Tracing the History of Your House: The Building, the People, the Past”

if you would like to buy a copy

Price: £10.00


New Ways of Connecting

I said I’d talk a bit about the valuation office survey for house history and family history, which I foolishly promised last week. I will do, but first…

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

I’ve spent the last couple of days in the world of tourism, pressing the case for ancestral tourism as a domestic market to keep people in the UK, and a huge international hook to reach out to people around the world with British and Irish ancestry. On Thursday, I was speaking at the Aberdeen and North East Scotland Ancestral Tourism seminar, held in Inverurie. It was a fascinating session, and great to hear from Gillian Swan from Visit Scotland who curates the Ancestral Scotland brand to a predominantly international audience, but wants to generate more interest internally. We had delegates from hotels, restaurants, family and local history societies, tour operators, tour guides, archives, museums, libraries and council representatives, as well as local businesses interested in the commercial potential. It was great to see that there was already a marketing platform and website, bringing resources together, but the general consensus was that more could be done to unlock a huge market, with benefits to all. Lessons to be learned south of the border, which was emphasised on Friday when I attended the Historic Towns Forum conference on heritage, culture and tourism at Blenheim Palace; Lady Cobham, Chair of Visit England, confirmed that this was an area they were interested in but wanted to talk more about the potential, whilst recognising that it was a large area of interest. There were several fantastic presentations, but one that stood out as having immediate benefit for practitioners of family history and genealogy was, which allows people to create and offer bespoke local services for people wanting to find out more about an area. What better way to connect with visitors from other parts of the UK, or indeed overseas, so that you can share your passion for research, local services, graveyards and museums and create a mini-business showing people around? The Ancestral Tourism Partnership will be talking more closely with the company about how the resources online might be tweaked for genealogists.

And so to the 1910 Valuation Office records; these are at The National Archives, and come in two parts – the maps, in series IR121-IR135 which can be located by the postcode of your house through the onsite terminals that provide access to TNA’s Labs; or via traditional finding aids in the Map and Large Document Room. Once you’ve found the right map and located your property, make a note of the red hereditament number that was assigned to it, and look it up in the field book – these are in series IR58, and each property has four pages full of detail, including owner, occupier, type of property, date of former sales, and a description. These are great records, and link closely with the 1911 census so well worth checking.