How to research the history of your home

Every house has its own story to tell so when the layers of wallpaper are peeled back, so too are the years. Discovering the story of your home is an intriguing adventure, but where to start? Happily – right here!

How to research the history of your home

Rsearch falls broadly into two categories: documentary evidence dealt with in the first part of this article and physical evidence in the second. Here’s to the start of a great new project!

Do your footwork
Get out and about and talk to local enthusiasts and older members of the community. They may be able to fill you in on previous inhabitants and other valuable ‘clues’ regarding the history of your house and also the community. Churches, local museums and branch libraries are full of old photographs and local study information to help in your quest.

Do your homework
Started back in 1899, the Victoria County History is a formidable piece of encyclopaedic research into English local history and records a county-by-county history of England’s places and people from earliest times to present day. For local contact details visit Victoria County History website.

Delve into the archives
The National ArchivesArchon directory will give you contact details for your local archive where you can research the ownership and occupation of your property and its architectural history, using census records, census maps and historical directories.

Be prepared to set aside more than one afternoon in your sleuth work; local archives are fascinating places full of books, maps, electoral registers and family and estate papers to sift through.

Unearth the title deeds
It’s worth asking previous owners or solicitors for the original title deeds which record the transfer of property and are therefore useful in determining property ownership. Bear in mind however that registration was not compulsory until 1990 and also, prior to 1733, all legal materials were in Latin!