6 Ways to Discover the History of Your House

By  //  March 10, 2021

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Tracing the history of your house can be like making your way through an overgrown garden maze. The journey of finding out who built the house and its past owners could be challenging and fascinating at the same time.

In some cases, knowing the history of your house could make you appreciate its charm. Fortunately, thanks to modern technology, there are various ways to discover your house’s history.

Here are the most practical ways to find out the history of your property.

Establish Key Facts

It may be necessary to first figure out exactly what you want to know about your house’s history.  Are you interested in the building or who lived in the house before you moved in? Local resources like the tax assessor’s office or census records can help you find answers to those questions.

Have some idea of how old your house is. You can learn about the approximate year your house was built by reading about the neighborhood or surrounding buildings or even by asking your neighbors.

Once upon a time, builders would carve a building’s construction date on the cornerstone or on some other part of the building.  If you live in an older building, see if you can find a carved date on any of its walls.

Be familiar with which county your house is in, as this will certainly help you locate the house’s historical documents faster.

There could also be visual clues hidden in or around the building if you live in an apartment building that was converted from a church or school. Also, keep in mind that street names might have been changed over time, so instead of looking for information based on the street name, search based on the property’s location.

Other resources for finding historical information about your house include:

The National Registry of Historic Places

If you happen to live in a historic building, the National Registry of Historic Places could be a treasure trove of information for you. It maintains historical records of old buildings, structures, and sites worthy of preservation.

If your home is old but you are not sure whether it is considered to be officially historic, check the official list of homes published and managed by the National Park Service, a government agency under the United States Department of the Interior.

It is worth mentioning here that some buildings which are listed with the national register are subject to certain rules and regulations designed to preserve the original look and condition of the house. If you are planning to buy apartments in financial district nyc that’s listed with the national register, be mindful of the restrictions and rules in place.

Ask Your Agent

An experienced agent would be able to tell you the previous owner’s history of your house. Considering real estate agents have access to property data that most other people don’t have, asking them about your house’s history is a plausible option. Plus your agent would know whether or not the building you’re asking about has been deemed historic.

Review Census Records

Are you curious about who lived in your house before you moved in? One of the best ways to find out the history of a house is by searching census records. These records will give you the names of past occupants and when they lived in the house.

Visit a Local Library

Libraries archive all kinds of information and house histories are no exception. Visit your local library to find historical records on your home or even your neighborhood.  It may be necessary to schedule an appointment with a librarian who can assist you with pulling historic designation reports, newspaper articles, maps, and if available photographs in the archives.

Also, if you happen to have a historical society in your city, consider visiting them as well. These groups usually maintain historical records and, unlike the library, may have more detailed neighborhood records.

Conduct a Title Search

Title searches are beneficial in that they provide historical information about the house or property you intend to buy. This method is generally used when someone buys a property through a mortgage.

As part of the loan approval process, the bank requires a title search to ensure there is no tax lien against the property.  Title searches aren’t free, but the information you get is based on tax records from which you can get previous owners’ names.

Books

Books are unsung heroes of historical information. Regardless of your city or town’s size, there’s bound to be a book written about its founding and development, especially if you live in a city that attracts tourists. If that’s the case, bookstalls at the airport are great places to find books jam-packed with historical information that could include your neighborhood.

The Bottom Line 

For most people, uncovering the history of a house is a way to trace their roots and learn more about their ancestors. Finding out if your house is registered as a historical building would be interesting and financially helpful since you would then be eligible for certain tax incentives.

Similarly knowing the history of a house can simply provide food for thought that you could share over coffee or dinner with family and friends. Whatever the reason, taking time to find out the history of your house is worth it.