The History of Your Home
Have you been inspired by TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are? and A House Through Time? Researching your family tree has long been a favoured pastime in this country, and it’s no longer just the prerogative of people of a certain age! But have you ever wondered about the history of your house?
We have a wealth of old properties throughout the UK, and whether you’re lucky enough to live in a historic country pile or a humble Victorian terrace, your home is sure to have some fascinating stories to tell. If only walls could talk!
If you fancy finding out more about the previous occupants of your house, where on earth should you begin? Assuming you haven’t got a team of TV researchers to help you along, read our guide to help you get started.
The deeds to your home are the best place to start. They will usually contain the details of the previous owners of your property, although they may not go back as far as you would like. Unfortunately when the Land Registry system was created, many old title deeds were thrown away.
Visit the library
Once you’re armed with the names of some of the previous occupants, head to your local library to search through electoral rolls and census records. House numbers changed quite a lot in Victorian times, so do cross-reference entries that you find with known surnames.
Censuses recorded each householder’s address on their returns, making them useful resources for finding out who lived in your house hundreds of years ago. Most censuses took place every 10 years so they’re a great way of keeping track of how the occupancy of your house changed.
Electoral Rolls and Registers also offer an incredibly detailed insight. Remember there were no electoral rolls during the World War 2. Fill in any gaps during this period by looking at local taxation records (also library-based), which lists home dwellers. It may also be worth looking at bomb shelter maps to see whether/how much your house and street suffered during the war. You can access these via the National Archives and the London Metropolitan Archives.
The 1939 Register is one of the best tools available for checking what the housing landscape looked like at the beginning of World War 2, before so much of it was destroyed.
Going back even further, the 1910 Lloyd George “Domesday” Survey is another treasure trove of information, as it recorded every single UK property in a book with names of owners and occupiers, details of freehold and leasehold, and even the condition of each building along with ink drawings.
Although the idea of trawling records in the library for hours on end is a romantic one, it’s also very time consuming! Remember, Google is your friend! You may be able to use it from the comfort of your sofa to unearth old news stories or historic mentions of your home’s previous owners.
Chat to people
Talk to people in your local pub (the older the better), your neighbours or your local history group. You may find that you’re not the first person to have started researching your local area, and you may not have to start from scratch. If you have older neighbours and locals that have lived in the area for a long time, they’ll be an invaluable source of information.
The following useful websites will also help you unlock the history of your home.
With these resources, plus a lot of time and patience, you should hopefully be able to build up a fascinating picture of the people who once shared your four walls. Imagining what they were like and how they lived and died will give you a whole new perspective on your home. Happy history hunting!