Saturday, June 15, 2013

House History

Altho looking up the history of a house sounds simple it is a lot harder than you may think it is. You may think a simple trip to Georgetown to look thru the deeds will do the trick, well you are wrong. First dealing with the people in the Deed section is a trip in itself. Let me say the property deed section in Georgetown is orientated to lawyers and title searchers, not an amateur like you. Plus the deed is to the land, when a house is referred to on the land it could be the one you are looking for or a previous dwelling that once existed on the land. Sometime if you can find fire insurance maps they will give you a good clue but mostly they only good back to the early 1900's. As far as newspapers mostly you will find they have a comment like Joe Blow is building a house on 2nd street type of reporting. If you knew Joe Blow owned the property you may be in luck. The good news, most of the houses that are presently in Delmar were built after the first great fire so most were built about 1900, only a hundred and thirteen years of records searching to do.

Over on the blog Marian's Roots and Rambles she writes about house history and her clients for house histories. http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com/2013/05/why-house-history-clients-are-different.html
and she writes The New England House Historian http://nehousehistorian.blogspot.com/
again if you are thinking of researching the history of your home or even if you are not thinking of doing so you will find her blogs to be interesting.

Another blog on House History is The House History Man http://househistoryman.blogspot.com/
He had an interesting post on when he found a house had been moved. Houses being moved do occur so in researching your house history consider that. Even in Delmar it happens as next to my property in the 1940's the town had build Veteran housing for return serviceman and in the 1950's they sold those houses and they were moved.

Below is a good article on hunting down your house history.
From The Milwaukee and Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
By Michele Derus of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 24, 2006
Memories pile up in our homes over the years - the look and laughter of people who lived or visited, the view of trees shimmering in the wind, the graceful curve of a stairway banister, the golden cast of wood floors in afternoon sunlight.
From time to time, we may wonder: What is it about this place that captured my heart? And does it, like me, have a storied past?
This is what turns homeowners into detectives. They probe the recollections of long-time neighbors and scour public records from previous decades, seeking clues to their homes' histories. Some wind up at places like the Milwaukee Central Library, a repository for historic records.
"We can show you how to find information on your house and neighborhood, on the Web and in the published records," said Virginia Schwartz, the library's coordinator of arts and humanities.
Librarian Kristin Connell called house genealogy "a treasure hunt."
The 60 people at the Milwaukee Central Library's November seminar on house history research, a periodic event, were eager learners with constant questions.
Milwaukeean William Shaw, who said he bought his Sherman Park bungalow in 1989 for its "fantastic architectural features" and near-distress sale price of $63,000, learned a lot.
"I knew it was a neat building, with all those sconces, that Spanish plaster, crown molding and ceiling medallions," Shaw said. "But now I know it's on the National Register of Historic Places, and that it was built in 1928 for $8,000."
Shaw is proud of his home's prominence, especially after the neighborhood's rocky decades of white flight to avoid racial integration.
"Values used to be absurdly low, but all these central city neighborhoods are coming back now," he said. "My house is now assessed at $209,000."
Kathy Waites, born and raised in a 1960s northwest-side ranch near Timmerman Field, took the house history class in hopes of discovering more about her late father, Jim Walters, and his ancestors.
"Dad died a couple years ago," she said. "He didn't talk about himself. He was always at work, then out in his gardens in the backyard. When I was growing up, we always had homemade food from Dad's gardens."
Waites can't take comfort in the homestead itself. It was sold. Instead, she is probing genealogical records to illuminate the background of her reticent father, a painter for the former Pabst brewery here.
"My father's father died when he was young. His name was Frank Roth and he worked for a brewing company. I think he was a mason," she said. "I was born in '65 and my father built the house with (another man) a couple years later."

Feeling a part of the place

Stirring up the past can provide a stronger sense of belonging, George Wagner and Barbara Rasman have found.
Since 1985, they have lived in a 1903 American Four-Square brick and wood house on Milwaukee's east side, near the Milwaukee River and the old Chicago and Northwestern railroad tracks. The river is largely unchanged a century later, but the train route is now a bike path.
When they moved in, the couple vowed to yank off the reddish-brown fake brick veneer overlaid on the home's fa├žade as soon as time allowed. Over time, the veneer lost its power to irritate and the project was forgotten - until 18 years later.
"The house was turning 100, and we wanted to have a party," Rasman said.
"For the party," Wagner added, "I wanted to know more about the house."
Rasman, an artist and handywoman, restored the house just in time for its 100th birthday, while Wagner, a librarian, researched its past.
"We had found out from the previous owner that the original owners lived here about 75 years," Wagner said. He checked the 1910 U.S. Census report and discovered the original owners were a policeman, his Danish-born wife and their factory-apprentice son. Further research confirmed the son's lifelong stay. The house itself proved a common example of its era, erected about midway in the block's development.
"The neighborhood was made up of crafts people, small business people and some civil servants - not a whole lot different than it is today," Wagner said. Nearby Gordon Park sported a ski jump back then, and farther north, an amusement park operated. Wagner learned the area was dotted with commerce - grocers, pharmacists, hardware store owners and confectioners - operating in storefronts topped by living quarters.

Places to look

"Many people find that the more questions they get answered, the more questions they have," Connell said.
The hunt should include record searches at the public library, historical societies, courthouses and university libraries to learn about the house, she advised. To learn about who lived in the house, she said, read newspaper obituaries and death notices.
Librarian Schwartz says that people often strike pay dirt with these sources:
• The Sanborn Atlas, which dates to 1876, shows details of blocks and outlines of buildings, so you can tell if your house once had a porch or stables.
• Old city tax rolls show how many bedrooms the house had and whether it had a fireplace.
• The Sentinel index, with records from 1837 to 1890, has information on people, buildings and events.
• City directories reveal the identities and professions of a house's inhabitants.

Adding to the story

Reprinted photographs of those early 20th-century neighborhood scenes covered the inside walls at the Wagner's centennial house party, held just about three years ago today. Celebrants included neighbors who, spotting the photographs, fleshed out the scenes with their own stories and memories, Rasman said.
"Some had knowledge of the families who lived here before - how they lived, how many kids they raised, why they put on additions," she said. "We heard about how the doctor who lived in the house across the street used the parlor as his front office, and about the family who took in boarders during the Depression."
The house-history pilgrimage he started in curiosity gave Wagner a new perspective.
"I knew I'd found a place where I'm a good match," he said. "It's nice to know it has this history."

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