Research History of a House

How to Research the History of Your Own Home: 8 Tips for Success!

Owning your own home is a huge responsibility. You get to decide what you do with it, and how you take care of it. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about the history of your property. So before you buy, sell or renovate, why not find out where your house came from? There are plenty of resources online that can help you research the history of your home in just minutes! 

Here are eight tips for success when researching the history of your own home: 

1) Start by asking yourself what type of information you want
2) Make sure to plan some time for research
3) Start thinking about who might have lived there before
4) Consider looking into the history of the neighborhood itself
5) Research historic maps of your area
6) Use online resources to find information about your home
7) Check out local libraries and archives
8) Talk to neighbors and family members

What Type of Information do you want?

  • Do you own your own home and are just looking for basic information? Facts, Details & Past Values?
  • Do you plan on buying a particular home and want historic info? Do you just want to do some research on your old childhood home?
     (Is this place Haunted?) Who lived here before the current owners? Who has lived there, or even died here?
    Don’t forget, for really old homes, back in the day the “living rooms” as we call them today used to be called “parlors” as they were used as viewing rooms for those who died. It wasn’t until around the mid 1800’s that people started using funeral homes.
  • My home is OLD, maybe I can find some Pirate’s Booty somewhere in the house or hidden treasures! (just kidding. or are we?

Plan Some time for Research & Take Notes!

You’ll want to set some time aside to be able to research thoroughly. It may take some time, so plan to take some notes and keep good records in case you need to come back to it at a later time. 
We keep track of all of the information and photos we may come across in case it’s relevant further on in our research. 
Whether it’s in a notebook, printed copies, or a digital notebook doesn’t matter. But the more organized you are, the easier the task will be later on as you dig further into the history. 
 

Start thinking about who might have lived there before

If the house was built in 1890 for example, then start using the research tools we’ve provided for you below. 
From there, work your way forward to the current date.
Write out their names and those of their family members, boarders who also may have lived there, etc. 
What time frame did they own or live there for? Write those dates down, you may need to refer back to them later.

Consider looking into the history of the neighborhood itself

Sometimes, the name of a street may have been changed in years past.  
Head over to Google, and try typing in “history of my street address” or something similar. The results will give you an idea of what’s been happening at that location for centuries (or decades!). This is particularly helpful if there are old photos available on the site as well.
We’ll elaborate more on how to do this further down below with search tools.

Research historic maps of your area

Old maps can be a great resource for discovering where your property was once located and how it may have changed.

– Look for historic maps of your area. Many local libraries and historical societies have collections of old maps that can help you track the development of your property over time. 

– Compare the different maps to see how your property has changed. Looking at different maps from different years can help you track the changes in your property and see how it has evolved over time.

Use online resources to find information about your home

If you want to know the history of your house, look online. You can find information about your home on numerous different sites or through a Google search. Google search offers a variety of resources, including maps, images and old books and directories that may include information about your street address. Further down below, we’ll share with you a list of tools we use to do our research.

Check out local libraries and archives

Home owners seeking guidance for researching the history of their own home should also check out local libraries and archives.

Libraries often have a section dedicated to historic records, such as maps, census data, newspapers, and even old magazines. Archives may be less well known but are still an excellent resource for finding information about your house’s past use and occupants.

Talk to neighbors and family members

By gathering as much information as you can from neighbors and family members, you can create a more accurate picture of your home’s history and put the data you find into context. They often have stories and information that you just can’t find online.

 

Research Tools

Here are some research tools to get you started.

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 Archives

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 

Using Google to Research a Home’s History

– Use a search engine like Google, or type in “Historical Society” and your city name into the search bar. Perhaps you’ll find some information about your home online that’s already previously been researched and documented by someone else.

You can dig deeper by “googling” the address specifically. 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 remember to change the address to the one you’re doing research on.

EXAMPLE

Enter this into google search :
155 Cottage” AND “New Bedford” -Zillow -Trulia -realtor -real estate

Why?
We use quotations to “tell” Google that the string “155 Cottage” should be searched & found together.
This will ensure that it properly filters out what we don’t want. In other words, it won’t take EVERYTHING that has the numbers 155 as well as everything that has Cottage. This would give us way too many irrelevant results for what we’re trying to accompilsh.

Again, Type 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 the words St, Street, Road, Avenue, Blvd, etc.
I’ve seen way too many typos when it comes to 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.

To recap, Here’s exactly what I would be entering into google search:

155 Cottage” AND “New Bedford” -zillow -trulia -realtor -real estate

Feel free to 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)
  • Google Books

Genealogy Research

If you have an Ancestry.com account… the real fun begins!

I use 2 primary sources for the genealogy part of my research.
– Ancestry.com
– FamilySearch.org

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.

As we mentioned before, don’t forget to set time aside and take good notes to stay organized. 
We use an online tool called Evernote.com and 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. 

You can check out our blog post about 155 Cottage St which contains some of the results of our research. Scroll down about midway down the page & you’ll find it.


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!