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How to Trace Your House History

If you've ever wondered about the history of your home and who might have lived their before you, this article will give you some useful tips and advice on how to trace your house history.

Finding out about a property and its history can be a fascinating journey into the past, whether you are just curious about what makes the house unique, or are looking to purchase a property that has a historical history.

Researching a house can seem like a daunting task, especially if you do not know where to get started. If you have any experience in searching for past events or people, such as family history searches, then you know how overwhelming yet fascinating it can be.

Keep reading to learn more about various methods of starting your journey to tracing your house history.

Identify the Structure of Your House

The first step in discovering the history of your house is to identify the structure and specific clues that tell you the era in which the house was most likely built. This means that you will either need to reach out to someone who knows about house structures or do a bit of research on what type of house you live in.

If you know anything about houses, then you may already know if your house is Victorian, Cape Cod, Craftsman, or the many other housing structures. Keep in mind that guessing may not get you very far in tracing the exact history of your house, so you may want to reach out to someone who knows a bit more about houses.

Knowing the structure style of your house can give you a good idea of when the house was possibly built. This, however, may not be a foolproof plan, since many houses are reconstructed to look completely different over time.

Talk to Neighbors and Former Residents

In many cases, talking to neighbors or tracking down people who used to live in the home may afford you the information you are looking for. At the very least, it will provide you with some information that you may not have had before.

Some neighborhoods are built by the same or similar builders and architects, especially during more historic times. This means that the people who live in the neighborhoods may have traced their house history and can give you some important information about how to do your search.

Tracking down people who have lived in the home before may take some time and can be frustrating at times, however, when successful, you may be able to find exactly what you are looking for. Depending on whether the home was in a family for decades or centuries, these residents may be able to guide you in the right direction.

The information you can get from talking with neighbors and former residents can give you the names of others who may have lived in the house. If you have this information, you may be able to search for their obituary, which can at least give you a timeline to continue your search.

Find Out More By Searching Through Public Records

With the advancement of technology, there is more and more information available on the internet when it comes to public records. In many cases, you can find free resources to help you locate the history of your house.

Here are some of the public records you may want to consider searching:

  • Property Tax Records
  • Property Deeds
  • Title of Property
  • Census records
  • Other historical documents

Searching for and through these types of records can give you more information about the house you live in. You may even get lucky enough to find out some of the names of the people who lived there before you.

Once you have the names of people who may have lived in your house, you may be able to use some of the free genealogy websites on the internet to search for more information about these people and their history.

Search Online Resources and Databases

Another way you can trace your house history is through the various online databases that exist to the public today. While there are plenty of databases and online resources that you can pay to search, there are also many that offer their service for free.

Since paying for particular services can become somewhat costly over time, most people prefer to use free databases to do their research. This is mostly because one website may not give you all the information you may be looking for. Using a variety of resources can give you more data overall.

Read on to discover some of the online resources that are available to help you trace your house history.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

The NARA is a federally operated website that has a plethora of resources available to those who are searching for information on their house and other data. They have various documents and historical records about land ownership that may be helpful in your search.

Family Search

This website is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which they offer free to anyone. They are said to have one of the most thorough databases available for those searching for family history and other historical data. The database allows you to filter the information to exactly what you are looking for to make your search that much easier.

National Register of Historic Places

Much like the NARA, the National Register of Historic Places is run by the National Park Service to allow people to search for records of historic locations and properties. The great thing about this website is that when you enter the information for your home, you might find that someone else did a search which will allow you to have access to that information.

Chronicling America

Most people know that newspapers, whether online or on paper, hold quite a bit of information that can be traced back quite a long time. Chronicling America is a database of older newspaper publications that have been digitized for better access. Most of the information from these papers can be traced back to the 1860s through the 1900s.

Library of Congress Maps

This section of the information you can find at the Library of Congress, or LOC, focuses on the mapping of neighborhoods around the country. This means that if you are looking for a specific town, city, or other information, you may be able to find resources here. The database will mostly tell you whether or not there were maps in circulation during the time of your house's origination.

Final Thoughts

Whether you live in a home that has been in your family for years, or you have just moved into a new house, you may be interested in finding out more about the history. While the task seems overwhelming, keep in mind that there are many resources available that you can use for your research. Finding the right resources is the key to finding out everything you need or want to know about your home.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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