Restoring the Glory: How to Find the Details of Your Old House

Shannon Lee

Your old house could hold a secret history. Restoring your home to its original glory can entail a great deal of research into that history, including the details of what it was used for, what the neighborhood used to be like, architectural details that were common to the time period in which it was built, and of course, who owned it over the years.

When you're ready to do the research on your old house, these tips can get you started:

  • Have patience. Your old house has been around for a long time, and it has a rich history--but that history might not be documented. If you don't have a clear history or timeline of the house, there are plenty of avenues for research. Patience, however, is the key to finding the answers.
  • Talk to your local historian. Every town has a few people who know everything about the history of the area. Start by asking your local Chamber of Commerce about those who might be helpful in giving you great leads and interesting stories.
  • Try the library. All kinds of records are available at your public library, including census records that can give information about who once lived in your old house. Some libraries might even have a treasure trove of archived newspapers and photographs that can help you in your research.
  • Look for the builder. Each town has a few prominent builders who handle much of the construction in the area. Who were those builders during the time your old house was built? If you're lucky, you might be able to find the old records those builders kept, and learn much more about your house than you ever dreamed you would.
  • Hit up the Internet. Once you have some information on your house or those who once lived in it, you can start surfing the Internet for information. Trying different names and phrases in search engines can lead to some very interesting facts about your old house. Genealogy websites can offer deeper insight into those who lived under its roof.
  • Look through old photos and postcards. What did your old house look like when it was younger? This is a valuable piece of information that can help you with restoration projects. Go through old photographs at your local Chamber of Commerce or historical society--and keep your fingers crossed that you find a photograph that tells the story of your home!

About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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