Have you ever wondered about the history of the house you live in? If you aren’t the first owner then your house has a story to tell. Tracing your home’s history can be a fascinating project. There are basically two types of research you can do on your home: architectural research and historical research.
Architectural research begins with looking at the type of construction of your home and will help establish the time period your home was built. Talking to your neighbors may help you learn more about the former owners or even the builder of the home. Most neighborhoods consist of similar homes built in a similar time period and if you are lucky enough to have a long time home owner as a neighbor, they may have a wealth of information about the history of your home. If you live in an older neighborhood with charming brick or stone 2 story homes, they could easily be over a hundred years old. If you live in a neighborhood of smaller wood frame ranch style homes, those were popular post war time with young families. The style of your home may help you determine the era it was constructed.
Historical research usually begins with a search of public records and can help you discover previous owners and other events that may have happened on the property. The first place you might want to search is the county Recorder’s office to obtain the deed records for your home. This will help you establish a chain of ownership. You may also be able to locate and old abstract of title which shows all the owners of a particular piece of property from the very beginning. Other records that may be useful are building permits which can show the initial construction as well as any modifications that have been made to the home and insurance records which may show any claims that have been filed on the property such as fire or flooding.
Once you have located names of the previous owners you can expand your search to find out more information about them as well. City directories or old phone
books can help you determine who lived at your address and who your neighbors were. Census records may also give you insight in to the former owners with such information as birth, death and marriage records, number of children in the family, the countries they came from, employment information, and sometimes even the sale price of the home. Most of these records can be found at the local library or online. Newspapers and obituaries can also give you clues in to the history of your home. Obituaries can provide a wealth of information about the former owners and local newspapers may have stories about the former owners or even the property itself. The county historical society is also an excellent resource on local history.
If you are an internet user there are tons of online resources that can also help you be a property detective. You can look at the Google Street View of your home which may go back to 2007, you can look up past sales records and old listings on Zillow or Trulia or you can look at historic photos of some neighborhoods at whatwasthere.com. Chronicling America is a nationwide newspaper site with archives that go way back in history organized by state. If your curiosity is on the morbid side, for about $12.00 diedinhouse.com will give you a report that will tell you if anyone died in the home and also if there were any fire incidents on record. You can also just type in your address and do a Google search to see what pops up.
Your home is probably your biggest investment and knowing its history can be an important part of your home’s story. Everyone that lived there before you made a contribution to the place you now call home.