What is a House History?

Believe it or not this is not an easy question to answer. It all depends on who you ask. But I’ll take a stab at it.

An example house history report

A house history is a compilation of information that relates to the history of a house. At the very minimum a house history can be a collection of old photographs showing a house at various times through the years. Perhaps it is a scrap book that contains photos and newspapers clippings of neighborhood events or mentions of the people who lived in the house.

Others might interpret a house history as an architectural or structural history where the style of the house is described and physical changes of the house are noted.

Still to others, a house history is the story of the lives of the people who lived in the house over the years.

A house history can encompass some of these things or all of these things. It’s really up to the individuals who live in an older house.

For me, a house history starts with the deeds. I like to have a copy of all the deeds to the house (or at least a list specifically referencing the deeds). I also like to have census records for all the the years the house existed. I like to write a summary of the history of a house to tell the story of the folks who lived there. The summary is drawn from a myriad of information such as tax records, census records, newspaper articles, various primary source documents, town histories and on and on. I also like to include two kinds of photographs. The first set of photos are what I call the baseline photos. They are images of the house at the time the house history was created (ie present day). The other type of photo I like to include are historical photos – as many as possible. To that, add a smattering of historical maps and plans. Pull that all together and you have yourself a house history.

The Finer Details

I find that people often have specific questions about their house such as why is there a gravestone in the basement or was the house moved. Another important aspect of a house history is trying to answer those questions that people are specifically interested in. Part of the fun is the journey to discover the answer.

What is a house history to you?

Does a house history mean something completely different to you? What would you like to know about your house? I’m sure I’ve left out many possibilities.

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