Thursday, November 4, 2010

What is a House History?

What is a House History?

Believe it or not this is not an easy question to answer. It all depends on who you ask. But I'll take a stab at it.

A house history is a compilation of information that relates to the history of a house. At the very minimum a house history can be a collection of old photographs showing a house at various times through the years. Perhaps is a scrap book that contains photos and newspapers clippings of neighborhood events or mentions of the people who lived in the house.

Others might interpret a house history as an architectural or structural history where the style of the house is described and physical changes of the house are noted.

Still to others, a house history is the story of the lives of the people who lived in the house over the years.

A house history can encompass some of these things or all of these things. It's really up to the individuals who live in an older house.

For me, a house history starts with the deeds. I like to have a copy of all the deeds to the house (or at least a list specifically referencing the deeds). I also like to have census records for all the the years the house existed. I like to write a summary of the history of a house to tell the story of the folks who lived there. The summary is drawn from a myriad of information such as tax records, census records, newspaper articles, various primary source documents, town histories and on and on. I also like to include two kinds of photographs. The first set of photos are what I call the baseline photos. They are images of the house at the time the house history was created (ie present day). The other type of photo I like to include are historical photos - as many as possible. To that, add a smattering of historical maps and plans. Pull that all together and you have yourself a house history.

The Finer Details

I find that people often have specific questions about their house such as why is there a gravestone in the basement or was the house moved.  Another important aspect of a house history is trying to answer those questions that people are specifically interested in.  Part of the fun is the journey to discover the answer.

What is a house history to you?

Does a house history mean something completely different to you?  What would you like to know about your house?  I'm sure I've left out many possibilities.


  1. I enjoyed your article. I have been researching the history of some houses in St. Louis County, MO and find it fascinating to get to "know" the people who walked the halls before us. You might be interested in taking a look at which is my website.