Finding Your Home’s History

One of the things I love about living in Minnesota is the preservation of local history. It has been going on here for over 150 years and a wealth of information is available to those seeking to learn a little bit more about their home. Here are some ideas for your detective work:

  • Look at your home’s abstract and figure out the timeline for your home’s previous owners
  • Visit your city/county records office and find the original building permit. Many time this will list the builder/architect/year built/cost of construction/home owner.
  • Speak with the State Historic Preservation Office – they have information on properties surveyed for historic designation and those nominated to the National Register of Historic Places
  • Visit any local Historical Societies near your home to gain further knowledge and maybe find some cataloged information about the home or home owner
  • If you live in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and some other larger towns in Minnesota, the Sanborn Insurance Maps (1880-1960s) have structural footprints of buildings and other detailed information. Some other maps to look at are the Rascher Fire Insurance Maps, which cover St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth, and the Fire Underwriters Bureau Maps.
  • Check out the Minnesota Historical Society photo database and see if there is an old photo of your home.
  • Look through the Dual Cities Blue Book, a city directory of owners and occupants. Some even feature reverse address indexes.
  • The Northwest Architectural Archives have house plans, books, architect information, etc available for you to look through.

Becoming a detective can be a daunting task and cannot be done overnight, unless you already have tons of info from previous owner. But if you check into some of these resources, the history of your home can come to light. Do note however, that there will be many instances where the history has been lost, so don’t get discouraged. Happy researching!

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