Opinion

There’s a lot of history in a home

Do you know where your ancestors lived?  Was it on a farm, town, or in a great city?  Did they own their home or rent?  Did they build the house they lived in or buy it?  In short, what is the genealogy of the family homestead?  What is its history?

Finding the history of a house is really much easier than some people think.  You need to start with the current owner. Once you have their name(s) your next stop is your county courthouse and the Registry of Deeds office to begin following the trail through time.

All Registries I’ve visited have indexes and you start your research by finding the volume that records the name of the current owner of the house in question.  In that deed you will find the name of the person(s) the owners purchased the house from and then you track the previous owner’s deed and so on back until you find the original owner.

How long this will take depends on the age of the house in question.  My own home, built in 1825, has only had six owners, half in my family.  Some homes remain in one family from the time they are built while others have numerous owners over the years.

Another source that can be useful in tracking some of your home’s history is your Town Assessor’s records.  There is always a card and photo of the house and there will be basic information included.  Usually, a date the property was built will be on the card.

Also, talk to relatives and neighbors.  I grew up hearing the story of our home, how it was built as a general store, post office, and meeting place; how the family lived over the store so to speak; how it was moved 100 feet back from the four corners to its present location using teams of oxen.  How the ell was constructed before 1900 as the “new wing.”

I know my grandmother had a neighbor build a cupboard for her that still exists and will always be “Charlie Bolton’s cupboard” to me.  I know my great-grandfather died in this house and that Great-Grand Aunt Jennie spent much of her later years in one of the other bedrooms always called “Aunt Jennie’s Room.”  I know our master bedroom was the “Open Chamber.”

I know the changes my grandparents made and my parents as well.   Jack and I find evidence of the house’s history everywhere including where the trap door that led to the storage cellar was and the location of the original entrance door and where the counter in the store existed.

Owners after us will make other changes.  Houses are like human families in that regard — each generation alters things and puts their own stamp on a property.

If you have a house, old, young, or middling be sure you write down its history for the future.  It’s an important element in your family genealogy and it’s a story worth telling.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com. Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.

 

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