A Guide to Finding The History of Your Home
Finding the history of your dated home can be an interesting journey. While researching
the house’s history, you may find information, such as its earlier occupants
and when it was constructed. Gathering a detailed history of your home can lead
to a sense of attachment to your home and surrounding environment. Answers to your
questions about your home’s history may come easily, while some may be difficult
There are various sources that you can look to in order to find information regarding
your home’s history. Public historic records are a good place to begin your
research but should not be the only source as these records are created by humans
and therefore, subject to human error. Resources that should be included in your
research include tax records, deed records, newspaper articles, city directories,
local and oral histories and insurance maps.
Extensive research may not be needed if your house is of a unique architectural
design, or if it was once owned by a distinguished individual. For these reasons,
it’s best to review the documents of the Historic Resources Survey. These
surveys were conducted in various communities in the 1980’s and early 1990’s
in order to establish and preserve local historic areas. Results of these findings
were then published with a photograph and summary of the building and estimated
construction date. You can find copies of the published book at the Public Library.
Survey materials were also preserved for each historic location found in these books.
These materials can also be found at historic buildings in your area as well as
a physical description of the home and information on prior owners. Depending on
your specific home, you may find large amounts of detailed information, very little
or perhaps none at all. If you unable to find a wealth of information consider trying
the methods listed below to find more history on your home.
Not all historic homes have the chance to be analyzed and documented in the original
survey. This is why it’s extremely important to share any researched information
about your home the Public Library and local historic chamber of commerce’s.
Your research may help benefit future generations.
Studying your home’s specific architectural design can also be beneficial
in your search for your house’s history. Review an architectural guide to
determine when that particular design was popular. This can narrow down your search
and help discover the time period and era when your home was constructed.
When you begin your home history research, be sure to stop by the Tax Assessor’s
Office to request a copy of your home’s Tax History Card. These cards were
developed in the 1930’s and will provide easy access to finding prior owners
of your home. The front of each Tax History Card will give the name of the home
owners, date of the deeds, deed transaction page numbers and quantity of transactions.
The back of the cards will provide a brief physical description of the home, including
interior and exterior building materials and roof type. It will also give the house
construction date. One or more construction dates may be given. This concludes that
home improvements were constructed periods after the initial house construction,
such as the attachment of a garage. These add on constructions are often marked
in a colored pencil. When gathering these materials, ask for original documents
Although you may have discovered a prior home owner, it may not be the original
owner of the house. To find this information, visit the County Clerk’s Office
with the name of the person found on the Tax History Card, as well as page and volume
numbers on the deed documents. A clerk may assist you in reviewing the deeds on
microfilm to discover the original “grantor” or the individual who sold
the property initially. With this information, you may be able to trace the house’s
deed back to discover who first purchased the property. The Grantee Index will provide
a date of when the property was purchased. Deeds typically provide only an owner
name and not information about construction dates. An increase in property value
can usually indicate that the home has had improvements over time.
The name of the architect or contractor that planned and constructed your home can
be found using the Mechanic’s Liens. The name of the “Grantor”
or property owner should be used when searching through the liens. If you believe
your home was constructed prior to 1927, the Mechanic’s Liens will be found
in general indexes. After this date, the liens were kept in a separate index.
If you were unable to find a definite date of construction using the Tax History
Card, deed records or the Mechanic’s Liens, there is one other method of revealing
this information. A complete list of City Directories can be found in the Public
Library. These directories range from 1926 to present date with City Directories
prior to this date located on microfilm and microfiche at the library. These directories
are organized numerically by address and street name, and alphabetical by resident
When checking the City Directories, be sure that the street name in which your home
is located has not changed. As new additions are built and communities grow, it’s
not uncommon for street names to be changed. Check to see if your street name was
changed by locating an original copy of a plat map for your neighborhood. The name
of this area will be given in the deed abstract or on your Tax History Card.
Once your street name has been confirmed, find the address of your home in the City
Directory. You may have to look through multiple years to discover your address.
If you find your address in a given year, go back to the previous year to try and
locate your address. Continue going back until you reach a year where the address
is not found. By doing this, you can assume your home was built during the time
of the last date found. City directories do not always cover all constructions on
these streets and this is why this method should not be your only source for locating
a construction date. House numbers can also be changed over time so it’s important
to try to confirm this information using various sources as well. Houses can also
be moved from one area to another, making it difficult to find an original address.
This means that the date found in the City Directories could possibly be older due
to the home being moved.
Another method that can be used to determine the construction date of your home
is by using insurance maps. These can be found via microfilm at the Public Library.
The insurance maps provide the footprint of the building, as well as the number
of stories, exterior materials used, and additions located on the property. Alternations
made on the property can be found by tracing back on the maps. They can also be
used to locate house numbers, addresses or street names that may have been changed.
Construction dates can also be found by checking records at the Appraisal District.
Search for data on your home by logging onto your local district website. Although
the information given on the website is not always reliable, it can be a good place
to look if the previous methods have not been helpful in your search.
Construction costs and names of contractors can be found using old building permits.
Information on these documents can reveal construction dates and updated home alternations.
These records are not for the public use but city staff may be able to aid you in
the search for an hourly fee. You may need to fill out a request form prior to the
Once you have confirmed an estimated date of construction, you can search through
old newspapers to find building permit notices, real estate notices or photographs
of your home. You can search through old newspapers by microfilm at the Public Library.
This process may take some time but you can learn a vast amount of knowledge about
your community through the research.
Locating historic photographs or postcards of your home can give a great interpretation
of the appearance of your house at that time period. Dates written on the back of
these historic photographs may not be completely reliable and should only be used
as a guideline. Help from local archivists or librarians may also lead you in the
right direction for finding information on your home.
Other important information may be needed, such as prior occupants of your house.
The use of City Directories can provide this information. Locate the address section
of the directories and find your address. Compare the names found in the directories
with the names found on other research sources, such as the tax card and deed. If
the names appear different, the house may have been rented and the individuals listed
may not be the original owners. Skim through the alphabetical section to locate
the owner’s occupation, spouse’s name or the number of individuals who
resided in the home.
Additional information about prior occupants of the home can be found through various
other sources. Individual obituaries can be located to find information on past
owners in local newspapers. Look through the clippings file at the Public Library
to find information on the individuals through newspaper articles. Published histories
or dissertations may also contain information on prior owners. This information
can be found at college or public libraries.