Research tips: house history
If you’ve been enjoying David Olusoga’s House through time currently on BBC 2, you may be inspired to research your own house history. We’ve come up with a few top tips to get you started…
- Check your title deeds if you have them.
These record the sale or transfer of property and give the full names, occupations and addresses of the parties involved in the sale. They probably won’t go back as far as the example above, but can still be very useful. If you, or your solicitor or building society, don’t have the deeds, then try contacting HM Land Registry The Land Registry holds records about most property or land sold in England or Wales since 1993, including the title register, title plan, title summary and sometimes historic deeds.
- Look at the architecture of your property for clues.
If it’s a significant building, you might find information on the Historic Environment Record. An updated guide to using this is at: https://www.shropshirearchives.org.uk/blog/shropshires-historic-environment-record/
- Have a look at old Ordnance Survey maps of the area.
You may be able get a rough idea of the property’s date, but maps will also show you how your property fits into the development of the local area.
You can view these at varying scales from the 1840s – 1960s on the National Library of Scotland’s website and, yes, this does include maps for Shropshire. You can also get an idea of what earlier maps might be useful at www.shropshiremaps.org.uk
- Check our short guides to places series
We’ve produced guides to each parish in Shropshire at https://www.shropshirearchives.org.uk/advice-and-guides/place-guides/ These will help you establish which authorities are relevant for your house history and give an idea of some useful collections at Shropshire Archives – from local landed estates, parishes and district authorities. Knowing which parish covers your property is key to finding older sources – such as taxation records – as much administration was done on a parish basis.
- Look for inhabitants
If you are primarily interested in former occupants of the property, then some of the sites aimed at family historians can be useful. For example Ancestry and FindMyPast have census records showing the residents of each property on census night (every 10 years from 1841-1911) as well as the 1939 register which also shows occupants and some Electoral Registers.
- Check out our website
Do check our website for a basic introduction and also information about the various types of sources. You can also search our online catalogue. We’re currently updating our house history guide and our researcher will shortly be able to take on new house history searches for you. Click here for more details.