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Using Written Archives to Discover the History of your House

By Dr Nick Barratt

Tracing the history of your home can shed light on the lives of former residents, key events in your neighbourhood's past, and even the original design of the interior. Follow these tips for finding out more about uncovering your house's history.

Getting started
If you want to find out more about the history of your house, like all good detective stories, your research is likely to lead you down many avenues, some of which will prove to be dead ends. However, this guide should whet your appetite for research and introduce the main documents that you will need to consult to piece together the clues. These will include maps and plans, legal material, records for house occupancy, manorial records, tax returns and sources for 'national' events. In addition it is also possible to reconstruct the original interior appearance of your house through design registers, inventories and insurance records, and bring the past back to life.

First steps
Try to get as much information from previous owners, neighbours, estate agents and solicitors as you can, as there might be old title deeds, photographs or sale catalogues waiting to be uncovered. Similarly, you will find a vast array of sources relevant to your research in Local Study Centres, usually situated in your nearest Branch Library.

For example, local newspapers, printed maps and local study publications carry vital information, and will help you to piece together a clearer vision of what the local community was like.

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