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House and Building History Research

Every building has stories to share about its history and occupants! 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 preservation/restoration purposes. The UW-Green Bay Area Research Center has many resources for individuals researching a historic property. The following sources contain relevant information specifically pertaining to properties in the northeastern Wisconsin region.

Black and white photograph of a farmhouse

Assessment cards

  • Layout of building
  • Interior/Exterior composition
  • Date of construction
  • Map of dimensions, shape, etc.

Cemetery records

  • Biographical information
  • Tombstone art
  • Religious affiliation
  • Occupation

Census records

Population, agricultural, and 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

City directories

  • Arranged by address and surname of occupants (individuals and businesses)
  • Advertisements
  • Frequent publication

Community/county histories

  • Information about buildings
  • Biographical information about people associated with the property
  • Information concerning specific dates or events
  • Especially pictorial histories

Corporate/business records

Including commercial histories, financial histories, minutes and 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


  • Title (proves ownership of property)
  • Valuation of property
  • Transfer of property
  • Dates of construction, remodeling, or renovation

Estate records

Including wills, appraisals and administration of estates

  • Value of dwelling
  • Property transfer
  • Ownership transfer
  • Sale of property possibly omitted by the deed
  • Family information
  • Property/building description
  • Personal possessions

Family papers or personal records

Including letters/diaries and family histories

  • Detailed information about the building (e.g., descriptions, architectural plans, historical documentation, photographs)
  • Family information

Fox Valley Historical Records Survey

  • Searchable by address and business names
  • Includes photographs

Maps and plats

Including town maps, property plats, private maps, Sanborn Insurance maps, atlases, W.P.A. survey maps, land ownership maps and Belgian-American farm survey maps

  • Location and boundaries
  • Outbuildings
  • Any added or razed structures
  • Material composition of the building
  • Ownership
  • Specific uses of buildings

National and State Register of Historic Places

  • Searchable by county, building name, street address
  • Includes photographs


Including centennial editions

  • Advertisements
  • Articles about historical buildings
  • Articles about an individual associated with the property
  • Chronologies

Oral histories (Belgian-American)

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


  • 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.