3 essential records for house history research

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27 August 2021
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Kathryn Feavers, a member of the 'House Through Time' TV series research team, shares three essential house history records that will help you uncover clues to tell the story of your home.

Kathryn Feavers has worked on the house history research team from series 1 of ‘A House Through Time'. Here, she shares three of the go-to records she uses in her research.

1. Newspapers on British Newspaper Archive

Datespan useful: particularly 19th & 20th century

It is surprising how frequently addresses were publicised in the 19th century. The collection is especially useful for birth, marriage and death announcements, also advertisements. Also, sometimes the name of the person you’re looking for can just pop up in a newspaper search so this can give you a starting point into their
life story.

I love the British Newspaper Archive. If I were allowed to access only one website for the rest of my life it would be the British Newspaper Archive. I’m not convinced this series [A House Through Time] would be possible without it. It has everything!

  • Birth, death and marriage 

    announcements can help you out with genealogical brick walls

  • Rental notices for a property sometimes include its value and occasionally give descriptions of the layout

  • And once you start searching residents’ names you don’t know what you might find!

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2. The Census and 1939 Register

Datespan useful: 1841-1911 (1921 coming 2022 for England, Wales and Scotland)

The census (and we’ll include the 1939 National Register here too) gives you names, ages, origins, relationships and occupations, the amount of information increasing each decade as you work forwards in time. The 1939 National Register also provides a full date of birth, which can be useful.

What’s not to love about the census? I only wish is that the census had been taken every year! My favourite thing about census returns for ‘A House Through Time’  is that they are usually the only way we can see the ‘other’ residents – the servants, the visitors, adopted children etc.

3. National Library of Scotland online maps

Datespan useful: OS particularly, from early 19th century

Examining historic maps allows you to see how the local area has changed over time (especially Ordnance Survey maps). They are also useful for working out house numbering.

Personally, I always start with a map when researching a new house. I pull up a recent map and compare it with the National Library of Scotland maps going backwards. If it’s a 19th century house, this can help give you a sense of when it might have been built. Seeing how its surroundings have changed can also give you clues as to whether the house number may have changed, whether it has been divided and, in some cases, you can see how it has been extended/altered over time.

About the author

Kathryn Feavers writes: ‘I inherited an interest in genealogy from my grandparents, but my interest in house history started when my grandfather gave me some photographs of his grandfather at work as gamekeeper in Annesley Hall in Nottingham. I was interested to find out more about what his day-to-day life was like but it only took a few sessions in the archive to kick off a full blown house history addiction. Getting a job on the first series of 'A House Through Time' was a dream come true and I’ve come back every year since! I’ve learnt so much over the last four series and hopefully there will be plenty more to come!’ 

Extract taken from an article in the October issue of Family Tree magazine. Get your copy today!