I found a great website on another blog this week about recording the history of your home. The website is called History of Homes. On this site you can register and then begin recording facts about your home and your ancestors homes. They have a great form to fill out and an extensive How To section which goes through recording the history, doing your research and answering your frequently asked questions. Check out this site when you have time. This site makes me want to move house history toward the top of my research list. Maybe I will.
I recently wrote an article about tracing family through street addresses and am now interested in finding the history of some of those houses. While the PDF file mentioned here, Your House Has a History, is specific to Chicago research, some of the tips included can be used in any city.
This booklet is composed of six steps. Step One – Checking the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. Step Two – Finding a copy of the building permit filed when your house was constructed. Step Three – Research information on the construction of your house (and any additions), its architect (if known), and its builder. Step Four – Finding information on the previous owners of your house. Step Five – Finding early or original plans, drawings and photos of your house. Step Six – Your Neighborhood’s history. The end of the booklet contains an extensive list of resources to find records.
In our collection of old family photographs, there are probably a few of the homes in which our ancestors lived. Does that home still exist today? One way to find out is to go on Google Earth and enter the address. The program will pinpoint the address and you can zoom in to look at the area. Sometimes a street view is also available. If I enter 2122 W. 18th Place, Chicago, IL, Google Earth will take me to 18th Place and the closest address, which is next door. 2122 does not exist. It was a wooden home, as tall as the ones on either side of it, and is no longer there. Instead, an empty lot filled with grass and trees is where the home stood. The houses on either side of the lot are brick. It will be interesting to find out what happened to the house. Did it burn down? Was it purposely taken down?
What about your current collection of family photographs? Does it include the house where you parents grew up? Where you grew up? Do you have a photograph of the house as it looks today? We can never forget to continue to record our current family history.
For more information specific to Chicago you may visit the Chicago History Museum’s webpage on Architecture. http://www.chicagohs.org/research/resources/architecture
The Smithsonian has a great booklet online Finding History in your Home.
The Internet Public Library also has an extensive listing of resources on their Guide to Researching the History of your House page.
Have you traced the history of any homes? What interesting things did you discover?