Although there is basic information about your city readily available, sometimes it’s more challenging to gather info about your home specifically. Here are the Top 7 Resources for researching your historic home:
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Take a look at the Sanborn Maps archive, dating back to 1867. Although these were used for different purposes in the past they are now a great tool to get information about homes and cities. It’s amazing how much history can be contained in such a simple illustration, including owner names and structure type. https://www.loc.gov/collections/sanborn-maps
Local Library Research Tools Get a library card at your local library district, and you’ll most likely have access to free tools and information. Depending on your library, research can be done online or onsite, often with free services of a librarian helping guide you in your research. There are a variety of databases you can access, including local newspaper archives and online maps which will probably be the most helpful for gaining insight about your house before you lived there. Side, note, the library can also be a great place to research your genealogy while you’re at it! https://ppld.org/databases/all
Local Historical Society or Pioneer Museum There are multiple Pioneer’s Museums that help retain and preserve the history of the region. Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum is a staple of El Paso County and has excellent online records. Additional similar resources would be Old Colorado City Historical Society and History Center and Florence Pioneer Museum and Research Center. Visit Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum https://www.cspm.org/research/ and with any of these locations, consider making a donation to help keep them running.
Title Research Typically when purchasing a home, a title company is hired to research the title history because they will be issuing your title insurance. Although they’re motivation for the title research is to protect their interest and future claims against the property, this paperwork can be very informative about the parcel of land and the home itself, as well as other structures and rights pertaining to the property.
Ask the Previous Owners When you purchase a home, especially an older home with a rich history, ask if the owners have any knowledge or documents about the homes’ history. Often, stories and information is passed down verbally but there may not be a written or permanent record of it in existence. If someone suddenly shows up at your home and says, “I grew up here – can I come in and see it?” – welcome them in! This may be your best opportunity to capture oral history of the home.
City Directories or Phone Books Before phone books were city directories, housing a plethora of information about who lived where, and even their profession. Use the online research tools at your local library, or even genealogy websites to scan old city directories for you home’s address.
Hire a Historian Finally, if you don’t have the time or want to spend the time doing your own research, hire someone who is familiar with the process and tools available. Just as with real estate agents, an experienced professional knows their field and can often create better results in much less time.