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 to uncover.

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 only.

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 name. 

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 search.

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.


© 2012 yellowkeyrealty.com, Inc. - Policies  |  Articles   |  All Counties   |  Counties-For-Rent   |  Counties-For-Sale   |  Cities-For-Rent  |  Cities-For-Sale