How to Find Out Who Has Lived in Your House Before You

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You may have a few clues about your home's former occupants, from their taste in paint colors to the occasional piece of mail you receive with their name. Learning more about them can be as simple as asking around, or as involved as delving into historic property and census records. Whether you want to learn your home's history or contact a former occupant of your home, that research can be come an absorbing hobby in its own right.

Housing Records

Start by locating the legal description of your property on a recent property tax statement. This will include not only the address, but a lot number and a property tax account number. Armed with that information, you're ready to consult your county's tax records or registry of deeds. Often this information is available online, accessible through the county website. Otherwise you'll need to go to the county offices and request the records for your property. Some systems will also allow you to search by name, in which case you would use your own name as the property's current owner. When you search for the property's history, it should give the names of all previous owners.

Hit the Books

If you live in an older home and your county's tax records don't go back more than a few years, visit the local library and request vintage copies of the city directory. City directories were the forerunners of modern phone books. You can search for your address, and find the names of people living in the house at the time the directory was published.

Census Records

Census records provide another useful avenue for research, providing a snapshot of the community at 10-year intervals. Most libraries store these on computer disks or microfiche. Search the records for your town or county to learn who was living at your house at the time the census was conducted. You can also learn the marital status, names of children and occupation of your home's former residents.

Just Ask

In neighborhoods with longtime residents, just talking to them can provide you with a useful starting point. Their memories might not be 100 percent accurate, but they can provide insights and personal details that bring prior residents to life in your imagination. If your section of town has one or more small local museums or historical societies, they may also have information about your home's previous residents.

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