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Archives and ARC

House and Building History Research

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Researching a Historic Property

There are many reasons why individuals choose to research a historic property, ranging from curiosity about one's ancestral home to proving the age of a particular structure for a lawsuit. Some university courses require an in-depth, primary research project on the history of a building.

The UW-Green Bay Area Research Center has several primary and secondary resources for individuals researching a historic property. The following sources contain relevant information specifically pertaining to properties in the northeastern Wisconsin region.

SOURCES INFORMATION YIELDED
CEMETERY RECORDS *Biographical information
*Tombstone art
*Religious affiliation

CENSUS RECORDS

  • Population
  • Agricultural
  • Manufacturing

*Number of residents occupying property
*Acreage, crops, livestock
*Manufacturing information
*Demographics of residents

CHURCH RECORDS *Biographical information (e.g. births, deaths, and marriages)
*Church history
CITY COUNCIL OR COUNTY MINUTES *Ordinances concerning the property (e.g. street names, licenses)
*Background information on public buildings
COMMUNITY/COUNTY HISTORIES *Information about buildings
*Biographical information about people associated with the property
*Information concerning specific dates or events

CORPORATE/BUSINESS RECORDS

  • Commercial histories
  • Financial histories
  • Minutes
  • Subject files
*Types/sources of items sold
*Economic history of the community
*Histories of local business and industry
COURT DOCUMENTS *Civil/criminal litigation involving individuals and companies
*Bankruptcy filings
DEEDS *Title (proves ownership of property)
*Valuation of property
*Transfer of property
*Dates of construction, remodeling, or renovation
DIRECTORIES *Alphabetical listings of occupants, merchants, or advertisements at a particular address

ESTATE RECORDS

  • Wills
  • Appraisals
  • Administration of estates
*Value of dwelling
*Property transfer
*Ownership transfer
*Sale of property possibly omitted by the deed
*Family information
*Property/building description

FAMILY PAPERS OR PERSONAL RECORDS

  • Letters/diaries
  • Family histories
  • Ledgers
*Detailed information about the building (e.g. descriptions, architectural plans, historical documentation, photographs)
*Family information

ORAL HISTORIES

  • Belgian-American
*Personal accounts by past owners, family members, or neighbors concerning the property's original appearance, significance, or evolution

MAPS AND PLATS

  • Town maps
  • Property plats
  • Private maps
  • Sanborn insurance maps
  • Atlases
  • W.P.A. survey maps
  • Land ownership maps
  • Belgian-American farm survey maps
*Location and boundaries
*Outbuildings
*Any added or razed structures
*Material composition of the building
*Ownership
*Specific uses of buildings

NEWSPAPERS

  • Centennial Editions
*Advertisements
*Articles about historical buildings
*Articles about an individual associated with the property
*Chronologies
PHOTOGRAPHS/POSTCARDS *Architectural and land information
*Remodeling/renovation
*Associated structures
TAX RECORDS *Date of construction
*Valuation (increase in value suggests building improvements or construction of new outbuildings)
*Ownership/transfer of ownership

These are just some of the sources available when researching a historic property. Local public libraries, county courthouses, city halls, local historical societies, and museums also possess helpful information to assist you in your search.