Our houses may not be anywhere on the tourist map as heritage buildings or famous landmarks. But rest assured every house has a history. Did you know that in some parts of the world, the worth of a house goes up if it has a legacy behind it? A legacy adds to the history of the house and its value. That aside, knowing the history of your own house is an exercise in understanding your own roots.
Tracing the history of your house by following even boring information like who built it, what stood here before, when was it built etc. could hold remarkable stories for a future fireside story. If you are lucky, you will get it all in one place. That’s rare, so you have to dig around a bit. Maybe even take the online route to discover more about your house…
If you just stepping into uncharted territory, then this About.com guide is a fast and simple read on tracing the history of your house. The three page helpful resource takes you through the step-by-step research process that starts with getting to know the building itself. The rubber has to meet the road as you have to sift through public records and even take the help of newspaper archives and your local parish.
Read this WikiHow page too on how to research the history of your house.
The federal agency is the official keeper of records in the United States and that includes historical genealogical and land records. The land records section contains a wealth of information hidden in land patents, land case entries, farm ownerships, rehabilitation records and more among the ten million individual land records archived with the office. The site is a complete guide to federal records and could be a useful jumping off point. NARA also links out to powerful search aids (and other databases) like Heritage Quest Online, Fold3, and The Ancestry Institution. Some indexes may be password protected and only for registered members.
FamilySearch.org is a genealogical search engine that can help you trace your ancestral line to a few generations back. The search engine lets you search by Residence Place, a field you can use to do a ‘reverse’ tracing to find out the occupants of your house, or for getting clues to the movements of your forefathers. Family Search is a free website run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The site contains records and details spanning census data, birth and death certificates, church parish tallies, military enrollments, amongst other types of data.
It is one of the most comprehensive resources on the web that collates links to genealogy research and tools. You can use only this site to kickstart your house history search. 189 categories with 300,000+ links is a lot of research to dip into. The House & Building Histories page could be your first port of call. Do say thanks to Cyndi for this one-woman show!
If you finally manage to piece the history of your house together, you can come to this simple site and let the world know. Inspire others by sharing your history, photos and personal stories. I am not sure if this site is getting any updates, but even then it makes for an interesting read if you are really going about with your own search.
Now, if you are in the United Kingdom, start with this BBC page on Family History and the two sites below:
If your house or your ancestors is in the United Kingdom or Ireland, then this online guide could be a good starting point. Jean Manco is a historian, so it’s pretty fair to assume she knows what she is talking about. The resources on the sites are sequentially arranged. The first step deals with the basic research which starts with the local library. Jean gives you a lot of external links too if you really want to dive into the history and heritage of British towns.
The National Archives is the UK government’s official archive, containing over 1,000 years of history. If you are tracing the history of your house, head to the Records section. The records are searchable by place. Names may have changed, so try different variations or consult the alphabetically arranged guide. There is a Maps section which has more than six million maps and plans ranging from the fourteenth century to the modern day. The National Archives links to myriad sources like a National Register of Archives and The Online Historical Population Reports website among many to gives you a complete set of tools for your house history search.
Also, check out Hidden House History which is an entertaining look at homes and the stories that make them. It also aired as a TV series in 2006.
Tracing the history of your house will call upon your detective skills. Plus, add some research sweat to it too. It is a painstaking process but should be worthwhile because you will learn not only about a house, but also a bit about yourself.
Here are four more articles from our archives that can give you a blast from the past:
- Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find Ancestors
- 3 Sites To Check Where Your First & Last Name Come From
- 4 Great Websites to Find Abandoned Places & Old Ghost Towns
- 6 Places To Read Old Newspapers & Archived News Online
Do you have an interest in genealogy in particular and history in general? Have you ever tried to trace the history of your house? Tell us about your successes and failures.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons