Learning history isn’t just memorizing the dates of major wars and the names of major leaders. It can be most relevant and most exciting when researching family history and local events. One way to look back in time is to research the history of your house. This article will give you ideas about how to do that, including researching wills, deeds, historic registers, and finding maps and photographs.
There are some books that can also give you ideas about how to learn about your home. We recommend:
- An Uncommon Cape: Researching the Histories and Mysteries of a Property, Eleanor Phillips Brackbill
- Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bedroom? Researching a St. Louis County, Missouri Home, Kim Wolterman
Both books have practical suggestions and ideas about how to learn about your home. Do this project with kids to help them feel connected to history and grounded in the past. Here are a few ideas for incorporating kids in your project:
- With your children, write a list of questions about your house and neighborhood. Take the list with you and “interview” older generations who have lived in your area for some time.
- Visit a local nursing home and visit with people who have lived in the area. Take notes or record their memories about the town or your house.
- Create a timeline and add events from world, national, and local history. Also add events from family history including when ancestors lived, where they lived, and where they worked.
- Research the year your house was built. Find out what furniture looked like, what kinds of toys children played with, and what kinds of foods were popular. Visit antique shops for some samples and have a dinner with time period meals.
- Write a letter to a future owner of your house and find a secret place to hide it. You might try under a stairway, behind a loose board, or in a corner in the attic.