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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.