They say that our homes are our castles, but what do we really know about the history of our homes. Just by looking at them we can take a rough guess about when they were built but that’s about it. Can you find out more about the actual building and those who have lived in it?
Well the answer is yes, up to a point. You see it depends on the age of the house and where it is. And for the record it doesn’t matter if your home is a stately home, although that would be so much easier as there are probably records already existing within the building.
The best place to start is by looking at the age of the house. In most cases you can make a good guess by looking at the architecture of the building. If there are art deco features to the property then there is a chance you house was built in the 1920’s.
You should also consider the deeds of the house. Most people don’t actually have the deeds in their house, but the solicitor who assisted in the purchase of the house may have them. These may potentially give you an exact date for the building of the house. If you haven’t got access to the deeds you can always search the land registry for them.
The next place to look is on the census. You can search by address to find your house. From here the amount of information you can find is huge and frustrating. Your house may be on the census under a different number as more houses were built later, no house numbers may be given and streets can also change name as the road I grew up on but luckily the roadside said the old name.
The census can help you find out who used to live in the house. This can give you an insight into how many people may have lived in the house at one time. You may be surprised how many people were crammed into the space. In my parents first home on the 1911 census there were 6 adults living there. There were 2 adults and a baby when my parents were there. If you follow the census back you can find out when the property first showed up and thus this can help you establish at least a decade for when the house was built if previous research through the deeds hasn’t helped.
The census can also give you an insight into how the house’s fortunes may have changed. It may be that when the house was built it was lived in by a working class family but over the years the family may have become middle class or it may have stayed the same.
If we consider the Victorian house I grew up in built around the 1880’s, in 1901 the owner was the owner of a stay manufacturing company and lived with his wife and 2 grown up daughters. By 1936 (as found from a death notice) the house was in the hands of the 1901 owners Son in Law. On the 1939 census the house was owned by a steelworks engineer who lived there with his wife and 3 children. When my grandparents purchased the house in 1960 it became owned by an Officer of Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise and had 4 occupants. By the end of the 1970’s there were 5 of us spread over 3 generations.
Another way to find out information about your house is the newspaper archive. You can search for the street name and town and see what you can find out. This is how I found out who owned my childhood home in 1936.
If you live in a more modern house don’t despair. You can still research the area your house was built in. Old maps will show you what was there before you house was built. Where I live now and as a child would have been fields, but you may find there used to be mines or some other form of industry.
So it doesn’t matter whether you live in a stately home or a small terrace house, there is a chance you can find out about the families who lived there before you and how the area has changed. But remember it’s not always that easy and some people make researching a property their lives work and others make a living out of doing this.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!