How to find out who previously lived in your house

Written by maggie mccormick
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How to find out who previously lived in your house
Find out who used to live in your home. (house image by jimcox40 from

Knowing who lived in your home before you will give you a sense of your home's history. While you probably met the people who sold you the home, there could have been many families that lived in the home before, especially if you are living in an older home. Finding out who previously lived in your house can take a lot of time and require a lot of digging, but it can help you gain a better understanding of your house.

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    Visit the county registrar's office. Every time the house changed hands, the new owners would have filed the deed with the county. The deed history will be at the county registrar's office or an office called the "recorder of deeds." Looking up the past deeds of the house will give you the names of the owners. In many cases, these are the people who lived in the home. However, sometimes the owners rent out the home to others.

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    Look through the street or city directory. You can find old street directories in your local library or in the city or county archives department. These are listings of all the people who lived in the town, and it was updated once a year. Through the street directory, you can sometimes find information about the occupations of the people who lived in your home. The street directory will show home renters, who won't show up in a deed search. However, the street or city directory may not list all of the residents' children.

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    Learn more about all of the people who lived in your house. With the names of the people who were listed as living in your house, you can now look up the entire family through census data. Find the census at the state archives or national archives departments, or use the USGenWeb project, which is working on transcribing the data online; you may find the information you need there. Additionally, your county's Department of Records and Archives will have birth certificates of those living in the area. Ask the county historian to help you find the information you need.

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    Ask elderly people in your neighbourhood if they remember who lived in your home. Searching through all the available public records may give you names, but it won't tell you about the personalities of those who lived there. An elderly person living in your neighbourhood may be able to tell you all about the family that lived there. This information makes the history of your house come alive.

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    Take your research deeper. You may be able to learn even more details by reading local histories or biographies of people who lived in the area. You may even be able to see old photographs of the house's original state and stories about the people who lived in your home. Talk to your local librarian or historian about the resources that would work best for you.

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