How to Find the History of Your House

Finding the History of your House

Before beginning your book research, the first place to start is in your neighborhood. Ask questions of long-time neighbors; they may be able to give you a lot of information about your property, such as who lived there, if the house was changed in any way or what the neighborhood used to be like. If they can give you names and dates, this will greatly help you in your research, so be sure to write them down.

Your first outing will be to the county recorder's office, usually housed at City Hall. It's here where you can find the deeds of all of the properties in the community. The deed will show you the progression of ownership of the house, so you should be able to trace back to the original owner. The deed will also tell you if there are any liens against the house. A lien means that someone has a legal claim on the property because of an outstanding debt. While you're looking at records, pay close attention to the addresses, they could be different than your current one if the property around it changed hands at some point. Street names are known to change over the years as well.

While you're at City Hall, you can also look for records of any surveys done on your land, as well as appraisals, tax assessments, building permits and inspections. This will let you know if any work has been done on your house, or if your property once belonged to a larger piece of property. See if your town has Sanborn maps. These are extremely detailed maps of urban areas produced until 1970 by the Sanborn Company. They were originally used for assessing fire insurance liability, but if your city has a Sanborn map and your house was built between 1867 and 1970, they can be incredibly helpful in piecing together information. They include details like the outline of the building, the shape, size and construction materials used, and the location of windows and doors. They also give street names, which can help you determine if your street has changed since the house was originally built [source:]. Some cities also have old aerial maps, which offer helpful exterior details.