If you are looking to research the history of a house, it can be fun, but it can also be frustrating if you don’t know where to find the information you’re after.
Popular reasons to research the history of a house:
- You own your own home and are looking for information on it’s history. Who lived there before you?
- Plan on buying a particular home (Is this place Haunted?) Who lived here before the current owners?
- I just want to do some research on your old childhood home.
- My home is OLD, maybe I can find some Pirate’s Booty somewhere in the house or hidden treasures! (just kidding. or are we?)
Whatever the reason, there are several online resources that can help you on your way!
The Local Registry of Deeds
Most Registries of Deeds websites have online public records you can browse from the comfort of your own home. Typically, they will date back only to a certain period of time as they are still indexing and digitizing many of the records, but if you need to go back farther, you can also go here: https://familysearch.org as they now have
Massachusetts Records from 1620 to 1986!
What you’ll find:
- PREVIOUS OWNERS: Everyone who has ever owned the property. This can be super interesting if you are researching a very old home.
- LIENS: Any current or past liens on the property.
- HISTORY OF FORECLOSURES: Were there ever any foreclosures, default notices or lis-pendens?
Internet Archive Directory – If you’re trying to research the history of a house in New Bedford Home, you’re in luck, and in for a real treat. If it wasn’t cool enough to learn about everyone who once owned the home, you can go a step further and find out everyone who once lived there (Tenants, boarders, lodgers etc).
Once you’re on the site, do a search, for example New Bedford inhabitants
Let’s not forget my favorite tool. Google!
You can dig deeper by “googling” the address. Yes, it may be hard to sift through the thousands and thousands of results but there are ways to narrow it down. Using advanced operators or boolean searches are helpful. Rather than go into a training course of how that’s done, just cut & paste what you see below.. but change the address to the one you’re doing research on.
Consider this: Doing a google search on this property will bring hundreds of thousands of results (many of which are Zillow or Trulia). Useless for what we’re trying to accomplish.
So, let’s filter down the results. Enter this into google search instead: “155 Cottage” AND “New Bedford” -Zillow -Trulia -realtor -real estate
Why: We use quotations to “tell” Google that the string “155 Cottage” should be together. This will ensure that it won’t take EVERYTHING that has the word 155 as well as everything that has Cottage. Only the entire string in the order you see above. You will do the same for the City/State… for example: “New Bedford”
AVOID using st, road, ave, blvd, etc.
I’ve seen way too many errors with this and if someone else entered incorrect information info into a website, then you will not see that information in your results.. and it might be exactly what you’re looking for.
You might then want to eliminate some of the results… like Zillow, Trulia, etc. and to do that.. you simply add MINUS (-) and whatever it is you want to omit.
Our END RESULT: Here’s what I would be entering into google search:
“155 Cottage” AND “New Bedford” -zillow -trulia -realtor -real estate
Your results should be MUCH less at this point. Just cut & paste the above search & replace our address example with your own. Don’t forget to look into google’s other tools such as :
- Google Images
- Google News Archives (I’ve found some cool stuff here)
If you have an Ancestry.com account.. the real fun begins!
I use 2 primary sources for the genealogy part of my research.
I go one by one, and research each person to gather up more info as to who the people were.
Putting together all of the above can be super overwhelming. So use an online tool like Evernote.com there is a free version available as well, this is great to keep everything organized and together.
Test Case to Research History of a House
We’ll use our example: research history of a house in New Bedford on 155 Cottage St
We then plugged in some data from the other research tips above (Google, NB Registry of Deeds, NB City Directories of Inhabitants, etc)
and found some cool stuff.
This page about 155 Cottage St shows some of the results of some of our research. Scroll down about midway down the page & you’ll find it.
*This blog post: “Research History of a House” is still a work in progress.. check back again soon as we’ll have more links, tools, and resources added to it to help you research the history of a house.
Do you have a historic home you’d like to list? Consider Silva Realty Group. We love historic homes, and we’ll go the extra mile to do extra research on it to get its story told!