Curiosity

How To Find Out The History Of Your House

Have you ever wondered about your home's past?

If you live in an older home, you may have wondered about its past. Whether you suspect your house is haunted or you just want to know a bit more about its history, it can be super-interesting to learn about your home’s roots. If you’re looking to learn what the walls of your house would say if they could talk, there are some great resources out there that can help.

Determine The Time Period

First, you need to accurately pinpoint the era in which your house was built. If that information was not made available when you purchased the home, you can probably figure it out by checking out some architecture books that show styles that were predominant in different time periods. Sometimes, revealing the true original style of your home requires some digging, as renovation can hide elements that time forgot. If you have the desire to really dig in, official records can help confirm your guesses and findings.

“Around the turn of the century, owners had to start getting permits for alterations, for plumbing, that sort of thing,” architectural conservator Andrea Gilmore explained to This Old House.

victorian house photo
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Get To Know Former Residents

When it comes to learning details about the people who used to live in your house, that’s a bit trickier.

“It’s easier to get info about the home — deeds, mortgages and so on, than about the people, such as census lists,” Lauren Glant, a Brooklyn, New York, resident who researched her own home’s history, told This Old House.

Glant suggests making your desire to learn about your home’s history known so that those in your community can fill in the blanks and put you in touch with people who might have further information. Once you have some names and dates, you can use genealogical sites to dig a little deeper.

Another surprising source of clues about former residents of your home may lie in the attic, basement, shed or yard. If you poke around in these areas, you may turn up artifacts that can help you learn more about the demographics of the people who lived there, such as toys indicating children or tools indicating craftsmen.

Find Out Whose Ghosts May Lurk

If you’ve ever suspected that someone died in your home, there’s a pretty straightforward way to find out. It’s a website called DiedInHouse.com, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a service that searches over 118 million records to see if a death has occurred at a certain address. But it’s not foolproof. According to Architectural Digest, while there are instances in which real estate agents are required to disclose information about a death in a home, many states do not require it.

creepy house photo
Flickr | paul_houle

Utilize Free Resources

Don’t forget to utilize the many free, public resources out there that can help you access history, including the State Historic Preservation Office, city or county offices where you can conduct deed or title searches, your local library and your local historical society.

library photo
Flickr | Ruth and Dave

If all else fails, the DC Historic Preservation Office, HumanitiesDC and the Library of Congress hold an annual House History Day, a workshop that provides participants with information on property research tools and strategies, including maps, city directories and online databases.

Are you inspired to start digging?