Learning with OBHS

Before you begin, remember not to place your expectations too high.  Whether researching to satisfy your own curiousity or to provide details of your home to future generations, you may have to build the specifics out of some very vague material and perhaps be satisfied with less than a complete picture.  Be cautious in forming conclusions.  The records you will find can be full of gaps, errors, and tantalizing hints.  Do not be surprised to find conflicting information.

Plan to keep accurate notes on all of your research, including dates, volume numbers, and page numbers.  "Where did you find that?" is a very important question.  "I read it somewhere," is not an acceptable answer.

Note: although steps 1-7 are outlined below, it may be necessary to skip from step to step (and back again) in order to work in a linear fashion through time.

Now that you have spent some time doing research, it is time to start connecting the dots.  You may find that you reach a point where you can find no earlier records, and you will have to date your hoe according to the earliest mention of a building.  The chances of nailing down an exact date of construction for homes older than 80 years may well be impossible.  Even if you can take deeds back to the 1600s, there is no way to easily prove that the house you have today was the same one that was built then.  Houses get torn down, or even burn down, and get rebuilt.  Older homes could have been moved.  Even if the property is the same, the owners may have let the older home fall down while they built a newer home on another portion of the property.  Since deeds don't normally provide descriptions of the appearances of buildings on the land being conveyed, you may have to rely on architectural features of your house that are datable.

Even if you can't find the definitive date of construction you were looking for, you should now have a record of the persons that have owned your land, and who took care of the location you call home today.  You should have an idea of the lives that little piece of property touched, and a sense of the joys and griefs it saw.  Hopefully, along the way, you enjoyed breathing life into your home's past.

What now?  Consider turning the tale of your home into a coffee table book, writing a historical article for a local newspaper or Society newsletter, or just gathering everything in one place and passing some of the pride in your home to the next family that comes along.  You enjoyed the story; make sure others can, too!