How Do You Research the History of a Building?

One method for researching the history of a home or building is by completing a chain of title search, which provides a chain of ownership, and may provide information on construction dates and plot maps of the building. If possible, acquire a copy of the original building permit or permit card, which can provide information on the first owner of the building, architect and builder, as well as original construction documentation.

Obtaining historical fire insurance records, by contacting local insurance companies and asking them to check their records for the address, may provide documents on the building including information about construction materials and property boundaries. To further research the building, also consider talking to previous owners and neighbors.

If there is no easily accessible documentation for the building, researching the land may provide further information. Your local library may have a library catalog containing maps, photographs, or county property tax and assessment rolls for the land.

To find more information on the people who inhabited the building, search old phone books and city directories, if the home is in an urban setting. This helps determine a time line for when previous owners occupied the home. Census records, local church and parish records, newspapers, and obituaries, if date of death of one of the occupants is known, also help provide more information on previous owners. If the date of birth, marriage, or death of any of the previous occupants is know, it may help to obtain records of these events, such as a birth certificate. Your local library may have pamphlets or articles with information on how to further research previous owners.