RESEARCHING THE HISTORY OF A PRIVATE HOME
by Jamie Davis
Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums: Inside Abandoned Institutions for the Crazy, Criminal & Quarantined
View the trailer here
If you suspect your house might be haunted, you may be thinking about conducting some historical research into the property to get a handle on what might be going on. Not surprisingly, the internet is the first place you should begin your research.
Your local Tax Commissioner's website: Most counties have websites now which will allow you to input the property address and will give you a list of transactions so you can obtain the names of the previous owners. If you cannot obtain this information online, you will have to go to the office in person. This information is public record, so do not be dissuaded by an unhelpful clerk!
- Your local news sites: Once you know the names of the previous owners, you can search the newspaper sites for their names your address. Note that you may not be able to access archives online. In that case, you will need to submit a request or arrange to access the stored archives yourself.
Submit Open Records Requests
- Submit an open records request to your city and county police department, sheriff's department, fire department, and 911 center. These results will generate reports for every event that resulted in law enforcement coming out to your home. Maybe there will be evidence of a traumatic accident, or even evidence of a death on site.
In Person Research
- Historical Society and Library: After you have completed your internet research, you need to contact your local or state historical society and arrange a visit. Many times, the historical society will keep a file on neighborhoods or specific homes. They may have records of floorplans that will show how the home has been renovated throughout the years. You may be very surprised to find that a private home was turned into a funeral parlor at some point and then turned back into a private home! Old City Directories will list out the heads of household, family members, and possibly even occupations of residents at certain addresses.
- Courts: Probate court records will turn up marriage and divorce proceedings, birth and death records, and even inventories of estates.
Lastly, do not overlook networking in your community. You need to speak with your neighbors and local realtors who may have information about the property. Long-term neighbors may be able to point you to additional sources that can shed some light into the history of the property. Old photographs and documents are fascinating, and certainly important pieces of evidence, but do not overlook oral histories that can only be obtained from tracking down people! With social media, you should have no problem getting in touch with former occupants of the home. In many instances, the former occupants will be your best sources. If nothing else, they can corroborate your personal experiences in the home!
Jamie Davis is a licensed private investigator, certified paralegal, and author of Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums
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