House History - How and where to start your research!
Do you know the history of where you live? The history of the house you now occupy?
Would you like to but don't know where to start? Then, read on.........
So, how and where do you get started?
I'm going to go out on a whim here and assume that you've already 'googled' your house.
But! After that, here are 6 things to do to get you well on your way with researching the history of your house.
6 things to do after you've 'googled' your house!
#1 - Check the Deeds and Papers which came with the house
All sorts of papers and letters can be found. Take a look through and see if you get any evidence for who lived there, what their profession was. If you find a woman as head of the house then that's a great clue that she is a widow as women could not own property in their own right usually, unless widowed.
#2 - Is the house listed?
You will already be aware if your house is listed.
If it is look on www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk to read the full listing and look for when it was built, any changes to the building, why was the building altered. It could be a change of purpose or the family became more wealthy and enlarged the property or perhaps the property was divided into smaller dwellings when it became too expensive for the owner to run.
#3 - Map Search
Search old maps to see if your property appears and within which area/county/hundred boundary it appears (this will become relevant in the next stage). Different maps were created for different uses so look to see the purpose of each map to glean information.
Because maps have had different uses over time, don't expect it to, necessarily, be easy to find your property. Many maps were not created purely to record the lay of the land but for taxation purposes or to define boundaries and division of land and so don't have all typographical features.
#4 - Census record search
Now, these can be extremely useful but be warned, to look through them is time consuming and easy to make errors and follow irrelevant lines. So my tip is be diligent, take breaks and review your last step before following the next one.
It isn't possible to search by property name, only area and name. This means it helps to have an idea of who may have lived at your property to get you started. Otherwise, look line by line to find your property.
Census records were taken at 10 year intervals and the information gathered, the way it was gathered and the accuracy by which it was gathered differed depending on the year, area and the individual clerk. It is worth, where possible to see the original records because errors are often made in the transcription process when records have been digitised. For instance, an area I am familiar with was recorded as Saint, which could have led me to think there was a church or church grounds here, when in fact it was the much more mundane 'Street'.
#5 - County Archives
Here you may get access to census records for free, rather than needing to get a membership of something like ancestry.co.uk.
Speak to the archivists as they are extremely knowledgeable and will be able to show you how to find the maps, books and records you need. Ask them about Tithe Plans (used to determine taxes due to the church), Enclosure Plans and old area maps,
#6 - Look up a history of the area
You're looking for things like, what was the dominant industry in that area; was it farming, needlemaking, weaving etc Were these industries where people did their work in their homes or did they go out to work?
Where did they worship, where was their parish church? - this can be a lead for research into marriages, births and deaths later on in your quest.
What to do next….
- Book Recommendations: There is a brilliant book called 'How to research your house' by Pamela Brooks, which I carried around with me when I began researching client's houses.
- Speak to your local archives for advice. They may have other ideas of where to look for information based on their knowledge of the area.
- Call on us! We have recently launched our 'House Provenance Research' service, see below for more details.
House Provenance Research Service launched!
The prices for research differ depending on the level of research you wish to be carried out, your location and if any travelling is involved. Desktop research packages begin from £65.