Thursday, February 26, 2009

Researching the History of Your House

Discovering the history of your house can be fun and exciting, but often a difficult task that takes time and perseverance. Library patrons have many reasons for researching the history of their house, from learning of the people who lived their before, determining the age and architectural style, or perhaps to discover historical events associated with one's home. The research and discoveries are countless.

If your interested in tackling the history of your house, below is a guide for the process. It provides an idea of how to begin your research. Stop by the library and the staff of the Mary Talmage Local History Room will be happy to assist you.

Researching the History of Your House

The Office of the County Clerk holds land records dating from the mid-1600’s. These do not always contain descriptions of the house or other buildings found on the land. Even so, a deed is a good place to begin researching the history of your house. The following steps should start you on your way.

1. Read your current deed. Make a note of the Liber (book) and page number which is listed on the upper right hand corner of the deed. At the end of the description of your property, you may find references to the prior deed and the Liber and page number where it was recorded. Make a note of those numbers as well.
2. Go to the Records Room in the Office of the Suffolk County Clerk at the County Center in Riverhead.
3. Go to the rows of numbered Deed Libers and find the lowest numbered Liber you found on your deed. This deed may refer you to an earlier one. Work your way backward through earlier deeds.
4. If you have no Liber numbers on your deed, you can still research your property. Begin with the last name of the person from whom you bought your house and look that name up in the indexes in the Record room. If you bought your home after 1969, you will need to use the terminals in the Public Access Room to look up this information. Land records before 1969 are indexed by both Grantee (buyer) and Grantor (seller) in large index books in the Records Room. These volumes are located on opposite sides of the room. The aisle containing the Grantor indexes that reference the oldest of the deeds are not indicated by a sign, go to the Historic Documents Library and the archivist will show you where to find those books.
5. The Grantee/Grantor indexes are organized as follows: From 1660-1950, all of Suffolk County is indexed in one set of books, arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the last name, inside each volume, the records are arranged by the first letter of the first name. Beginning in 1951 and continuing through 1969, the records are divided by town and within each town they are arranged as described above.
6. There are also Mortgage Libers in the Record Room. Many times the mortgage on a property is referenced in the deed. In the cases of earlier deeds, this may sometimes be a good indication of when a house was constructed on a piece of land.
7. As you work your way backward, you may come to one that is deeded to someone as the heir of a deceased person. Make a note of that person’s name in order to look up the will at the Surrogate’s court. Many times wills are more descriptive of houses than are deeds.
8. Building permits were not issued before the early 1920’s, but you may find reference to a “date of origin” for a house on early permits. These will be on file at your Town Clerk’s Office or in the Building Department. Keep in mind that this date was given by the person applying for the building permit and may be an approximate date.

Other Helpful Records

Records in the
Historic Documents Library include several large bound atlases of various portions of Suffolk County. The earliest one is dated c. 1873. Many of these include the property owners’ names. Buildings and houses are also indicated on several of the atlases, sometimes with numbers that signify the number of stories in the house.

There is also a collection of Sanborn Company maps. This company, started in 1867 by D.A. Sanborn was the major provider of maps to the insurance industry for more than one hundred years. Although the collection here does not cover all of Suffolk County, the entire collection of Sanborn maps for the state of New York can be found online here at Huntington Public Library. These maps show buildings and are coded to indicate the type of construction such as wood or steel frame.

One may also want to check the
SPLIA (Society for the Preservation of Ling Island Antiquities) list of surveyed historic houses all over Long Island. Patchogue-Medford Library, the central reference library for Suffolk County, has an inventory list located in their local history room.

1 comment:

Reference Services said...

Your web site is outstanding!

Here is the url to the blog from the Archives of the Sandusky Library, if you would like to take a look:

http://sanduskyhistory.blogspot.com