click to view original photo

Genealogy of Your House

The places in which we live help to affect how we see the world, and these buildings also have a family history of their own.


Content Details

Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Larry Naukam
Word Count: 553 (approx.)
Labels: Social Aspect 
Short URL:

Add Comment

Unless we have been living out of suitcases in hotels for all of our lives, the places that we have lived in have an effect on the way we grow up, live our lives, and eventually look at the world.

Those who have always lived in the high-rise apartments in a large city have a different viewpoint than someone who grew up in a one-family house and lived there for many years. An example is a lady I recently met who lives in an 1830's farmhouse in rural, upstate New York. That old date is noteworthy in itself, but her neighbors live in houses that are not only old, but were the original houses of some of the early settlers of Oregon before they moved West from New York State. There is history in the walls that surround her, as well as in the people that live there.

So, how does one go about doing the genealogy, as it were, of a house? First thing - do you have a property abstract? This is the history or chain-of-title to a piece of property; it is compiled when a bank lends money for the purchase, when a title insurance company insures the ownership, etc. Often only 50 years are required for a valid chain to be established, but it is not unusual, in the Eastern section of the US, to be able to go back 150, 200 years, or more. Of course the house on the property may be younger. These abstracts are compiled using data in your county clerk or recorder's office, where all sorts of documents affecting people and their property are filed. You can usually find buyer, seller (grantee and grantor), and miscellaneous indexes, together with mortgagor and mortgagee.

Property can also be mentioned and valued in wills. I once wrote a local history pamphlet which had an inventory of a farmhouse, made in 1892. It showed what the man owned at the time of his passing; among other items, he had broken dishes, a few utensils, and so on. He was a modest farmer and not a squire of the land.

Ask your local librarians and historians for help. They can help you identify who lived in a house, using directories; find what kind of architecture it was; or when it may have been built, using old plat maps and the like. Where the house is located may have an interesting connection, and why it was built might be useful--was it a residence that became a private hospital, as one researcher whom I recently helped found?

Are there newspaper clippings in the house? Are these significant because of who lived there or who owned the property in bygone days, when nothing or another building stood on it? Does the local landmark or architecture society have any blueprints--those are the house's baby pictures. If a tax assessor has records, that may also show date of building. Governmental maps and survey offices may be helpful; and water bureau or gas and electric companies may have records of when service was started, or when the property blew up or burned down and was replaced!

For more on this subject, you may wish to consult the following:

Web Sites: -

Cyndi's List - House & Building Histories

University of Delaware -


House Histories: A Guide to Tracing the Genealogy of Your Home, by Sally Light

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

Recent Feedback:
  • No matches for this listing.
  • << GenWeekly

    << Helpful Articles


    Suggested Next Steps (BETA)

  • Would you like to keep up-to-date with the latest releases from Genealogy Today, along with news from a variety of other sources by receiving The Genealogy News (a FREE service) by email? Yes, sign me up
  • Would you like to become a Genealogy Today member and be able to manage your research experience, post messages to forums, add comments to resources and much more? Yes, show me how
  • Would you like to tap into our community of over 85,000 members by posting a query and get assistance breaking down your most difficult brickwalls? Yes, show me how
  • Would you like to go shopping in a marketplace of over 700 items, including charts, scrapbooking materials, books and a variety of unique gifts and supplies? Yes, take me there
  • Would you like to search for your ancestors in a collection of over 6,000 transcribed documents that includes Masonic lodge rosters, funeral notices, school catalogues, telephone directories, insurance claims, directories, church member lists, prison records, etc.? Yes, take me there