How to Find Property History

By Deb Powers - Updated June 16, 2017
House with stone trim

There are many reasons that people may want to learn about the history of their homes and other property. Some are looking for information because they need it for a title search or other legal reason. Others are seeking information about how their houses may have looked in the past so that they can restore a historic home. Whatever the reason, there are some tried and true methods that will help you research the history of your home and learn all that there is to learn about it.

Trace the transfer of deed for your property at the registrar of deeds. Start with the county clerk's office in the municipality in which the house is located. The office of the Registrar of Deeds can give you tips on searching for information on deed transfers for your property. Many cities have transferred the information to a database that can be searched online. Make a note of the names of previous property owners for further research. The deed to your property may have the best information about the age of any structures on your property, including your house.

Check with the office of Buildings and Inspections to learn about any inspections or violations of city ordinances in your property's past. The records at the Buildings and Inspections Office can tell you about when specific improvements were made to your property.

Check for tax records at the city auditor's or tax collector's office. In addition to information about the owners of your property, you can often surmise the date of various improvements to your property from the tax assessments and other records.

Check probate court records for references to the names of previous owners. The probate records will contain information on births, deaths, marriages and other legal matters that can help you construct a history of the families who lived in your home. Wills and estate inventory records may even tell you the history of some of the items that you may find in and around your home.

Research your property parcel at the county recorder's office for any information about plat records, deed records or property abstracts. Property abstracts can give you a wealth of information about your home, including the name of the architect who designed it.

Do an internet search for the names of previous property owners. Many genealogy sites have remarkably complete records that include birth, marriage and death records, as well as former addresses and other relatives.

Check with your county historical museum for any information about your property. Older homes may be in the county's historical register, or may have been featured in old collections of photographs or writings about your town.

Research in local books and newspapers in your local library for your address and for the names of former owners of your home. Local newspapers are among the best sources of information about older properties.

Talk to neighbors and long-time residents. People often overlook one of the best sources of information about local history — their own neighbors. Older residents of your town may even remember having visited in your home as children and can help reconstruct details of decoration and construction.


Old weekly newspapers and gazetteers may have information about those who lived in your home before you. Make use of resources compiled by genealogy and historical societies.

About the Author

Deb Powers is an avid urban gardener who works with a community collective to promote sustainable urban agriculture and build partnerships between local business owners and community organizations. Powers serves as a social media and marketing consultant for local non-profits and businesses, and is collaborating with a coffee roaster to publish a cookbook highlighting coffee as a culinary ingredient.

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