Discovering the History of Your House…and Your Neighborhood

Home may be where your heart is at, but what do you really know about the house you live in? Old or new, Betsy J. Green believes your house and property have a unique history. Her book, Discovering the History of Your House…and Your Neighborhood, was written to help uncover your home’s history and “show you how easy it is to create a cherished legacy.” Listed here are just some of the topics covered in this book:

  • Beginning your search
  • Finding and contacting former owners of your house
  • Discovering the architect who designed your house
  • Finding the original plans for your house
  • Re-creating long-lost woodwork, porches, even historic landscaping
  • Locating building permits for your house
  • Finding the original price of your house
  • Researching subdivisions and neighborhoods
  • Finding deeds for your house and land
  • Getting information from a deed
  • Finding old photos of your house and neighborhood
  • Using old maps to learn about your neighborhood
  • Discovering your house on a postcard
  • Using vintage architectural magazines
  • Writing up your house history
  • Includes a state-by-state guide to resources

By looking at the list above and the contents listed below I would estimate that Betsy has left nothing out, except maybe the kitchen sink. Then again, the sink probably counts as one of the “visual clues” covered in the second chapter. About the only thing this book does not explicitly state is that all the great information found here won’t just lead you to the history of your own home, but can also be use to uncover the history of any home any one of your ancestors every lived in. This may even include homes no longer standing.


Get Discovering the History of Your House…and Your Neighborhood from Family Roots Publishing; Price: $14.65



Where to Start?

  • Introduction
  • House Research in Your Area
  • Getting Started
  • Even Your Subdivision Has a History
    • Story: How I Got Started
  • Supply List for Beginners
    • Story: Only Believe Half of What You Hear
  • “You’re Not Using a Pen, Are You?”
    • Story: “Follow That House History Writer”
  • Surf the Internet
  • Go to Class
    • Story: House Histories Sometimes Mirror Local History
  • Follow the Paper Trail and the People Trail
    • Story: Reach Out and Touch Someone
  • Take a Genealogist to Lunch
    • Story: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear About Your House
  • Historical Information is Here and There

Looking at Visual Clues

  • “What Style is My House?”
    • Story: Houses Are Not Always What They Seem
  • Where Are the Plans for My House?
  • Look for Old House Plan Books
  • Finding Hidden Treasures in Photo Files
  • Your House could Be on a Postcard
  • Finding Your House on Fire
  • Insurance Maps
    • Story: Sanborn Maps and Spies
  • Bird’s-Eye Views Are Not Just for the Birds
  • Never Pass Up and Old Map
    • Story: Finding the Truth on Old Maps
  • Don’t Overlook Vintage Aerial Maps
  • How Was My House Decorated When it was Built?
  • Using Vintage Architectural Magazines

Searching for Physical Clues

  • If Your Wall Could Talk
    • Story: Does Your Home Have a Secret Room?
  • Do You Have a Sears Catalog House?
    • Story: The Mystery of the Name on the Window
  • Did Your Home Come from Another Catalog Company?
    • Story: The Porch Swing That Was Meant to Be
  • Have You Tried a Metal Detector in Your Yard?
    • Story: Front Doors in the Basement
  • Digging Up the past in Old Privy Holes
    • Story: A House-Raising Story
  • Was Your House Ever Moved?
    • Story: House Moving Stories
  • Uncovering the Original Colors of Your Home
    • Story: You Never Know What You’ll Find in an Old Basement
  • My Home’s Not Historic, But I Want to Fix It Up Right

Using Your Address to Find Information

  • Who Was the Architect for My Home?
  • Locating Building Permits for Your House
    • Story: Don’t Let FOI Forms Scare You
  • Utility Records Can Provide Clues
  • Finding the Original Price of Your Home
  • Contact Local Insurance Companies
  • Thank the Tax Man!
    • Story: Tax Records Can Be Misleading
  • Ask for Street and House Files
    • Story: Just Because It’s Written Down, Doesn’t Mean It’s True
  • Is Your Home in a Subdivision?
  • Is Your Home Listed on an Architectural Survey?
  • Old Address vs. New Address

What Families Owned Your House?

  • House History Equals Homeowners’ History
    • Story: Klondike or Bust!
  • Where and How to Find Deeds for Your House
    • Story: A Deed Does Not Equal a House
  • “Chaining the Title”
  • What Your Won’t Find on a Deed
  • Understanding types of deeds
    • Story: Signed With an X
  • Squeezing Information from a Deed
    • Story: Does “Pfingste” Sound Like “Kingston” to You?
  • Using eh Document Information Forms
    • Story: Name Misspelling Can Drive You Knutz
  • Deciphering Old-Style Script
    • Story: No Saloons or Asylums, Please
  • Your Home May Have Been Rented

Investigating Owners to Learn Even More

  • Let Your Fingers Do the Walking
  • Census Records Yield Fascinating Details
  • Ask Churches About People Records
  • Listening to Oral Histories
  • Look at Any Lists of Peole That YOur Find
  • Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!
  • Go to Court
  • God Bless the Mormon Family History Centers
  • Ask About Donor Files
  • Look for Homeowners in Local History Books
  • Search for Vintage Who’s Who Books
  • Don’t Overlook Old Newspapers
  • Social Directories Tell You Who Was Who
  • Newspapers Contain Interesting tidbits
    • Story: Seasick Researchers
  • Farmer’s Directories Left Nothing Out
  • Contacting Former Owners of Your Home
  • Sample Letter to the Former Owner of Your Home
  • Sample Questionnaire for the Former Owner of Your Home
    • Story: Ghostly Faces at the Windows

Clues from Beyond the Graves

  • Death Indexes Lead to Obituaries
    • Story: A Ghost Named Julia
  • Cemetery Indexes Help You Find Obits
  • Funeral Homes Can Be Helpful
  • Obituaries are Marvelous!
    • Story: Obituary Information Solves Puzzle
  • Where There’s a Will, There’s Information
    • Story: A Wealth of Information in Wills

Curious About the History of Your Land?

  • Going Back to the Beginning of History
  • Who Owned Your Land Before Your Home Appeared?
  • Understanding How Land Was Surveyed
  • Land Management Trivia
  • “N 18.5 Degrees East 13 Chains, East 8 Chains…”
  • Untangling Land Measurements
  • Landownership Maps Contain Landowners’ Names
  • Agricultural Censuses Yield Farm Information

Making Your Own History

  • Put Your Research Finds in Order
  • Save Your Research and Memorabilia
  • Start Your Own Photo Archive
  • Give Something Back to Your Local Historical Society

Other Sources of Information

  • State Historic Preservation Offices
  • Regional Depository Libraries
  • State Libraries
  • Vital Records Office
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography





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