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How to Research Your House's History: Part Two


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Part of living in an old house is being lucky enough to live in a place that was witness to dozens of lives. But if you don't know its history, where can you start? Check out this toolkit for part two of how to research your historic house's history.

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How to Research Your House's History: Part Two

  1. 1. 7 (More) Tips to RESEARCH YOUR HOUSE’S HISTORY
  2. 2. 1. Don’t forget about recent history. Your city or county's GIS database will include the latest deed book or plate book page, recent sale prices, and information on if your house was altered in the past 20 or 30 years.
  3. 3. 2. Visit the Registrar Mesne Conveyance (RMC). Here you can find records like deeds, titles, probate records, and wills that will give you information as to when your house was built and who owned it throughout its history, as well as how the house changed ownership over the years.
  4. 4. 3. Know how titles, deeds, probate records, and wills can help you. It’s best to work backwards—find the most recent title or deed (prior to you, of course), and keep moving backwards until there aren’t any records.
  5. 5. 4. Learn the lingo. It will save you time and make your search less stressful if you have a great reference book that clearly explains what words like "conveyance," "grantor," "grantee," and "plat" mean.
  6. 6. 5. Sanborn maps are a huge help. You can gain a wealth of information from a standard Sanborn map. Each overlay tells a specific fact, including the number of stories, roof material, and the type of building (dwelling, commercial, etc.).
  7. 7. 6. Talk with your local preservation and historical societies. They often will have their own archives that could include maps and photographs, as well as personal collections from the people who lived in your house.
  8. 8. 7. Take advantage of online databases. Libraries and archives usually have subscriptions to online databases that have digitized thousands of historic newspapers. You can learn more about the neighborhood and, if a past owner was prominent, find useful articles about them.
  9. 9. The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s historic places. Preservation Tips & Tools helps others do the same in their own communities. For more information, visit Paul Hohmann/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0; Florida Keys Public Libraries/Flickr CC BY 2.0; Sha in LA/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0; Sha in LA/Flickr/CC BY- NC 2.0; Carolina Prysyazhnyuk/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0; Jerry/Flickr/ CC BY-SA 2.0; Henry de Saussure Copeland/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0; Marcie Casas/Flickr/CC BY 2.0.