How to Find Your Home's DNA

How to Find Your Home’s DNA


Jeroen Van Den Hurk, PH.D.
Assistant Professor, Program Director of Cultural and Historic Preservation  Salve Regina University

You've found your vintage dream home. When you bought it, the real estate listing said it was built in 1880's, but not much more than that. How do you go about finding out more about the home of which you are now a steward? Let's start with the deed to the house.

What to look for:

– Deeds are filed at City Hall, but first check to see if your state is on the US Land Records site.  Start by searching the name of the person from whom you bought your house. When you click on their name, it will go back another 'generation' to the person from whom they bought the house and so on.

– Search your State's “Land Records' or “Deeds" and you will be able to start your journey there. If that fails, head on over to City Hall where you can do a manual search at the Register of Deeds by looking up the most recent owner, finding the 'book' and 'page' search backwards from there.

– When your find the records online, look for an 'image' sign or click on the name and you should find a link to a photocopy of the actual deeds.

What to look for:


CHAIN OF TITLE CARDS– Town Hall or County Records

VISION APPRAISAL – Property Field Cards – Limited States

HISTORICAL SOCIETIES – Look at the State and Local ones to see if your old house is documented or mentioned. You might find such things as the chain of owners,  its value, size, when additions were added or when the property was subdivided. Many of these records are online.

You might find such things as the chain of owners, its value, size, when additions were added or when the property was  subdivided. Many of these records are online.

Where to find:

Ancestry.com ($) Check to see if your library has free access
FamilySearch.org (free account)
Archives.gov (free)
Old local newspaper records Check to see if your library has them online
Old Maps

What to look for:

Search the genealogy records for those who lived in your house you might discover where they came from, their
children and what they did. The newspapers might mention your homeowners or even when they applied for a
permit for an addition.

  • Be aware that it is the LAND that is recorded, not necessarily the house.
  • The owner of the house is not always the people who lived there. Often, homes were rented. Refer to old maps
    where possible for more information.
  • Maps will also tell you what other homes were in the area when yours was built giving you a sense of the
    community size

Jeroen van den Hurk, Ph.D

Assistant Professor, Program Director of Cultural and Historic Preservation
Salve Regina University

Dr. Jeroen van den Hurk has lived in the United States since 1995, but is originally from the Netherlands, where ge received a master's in architectural history from Utrecht University. In 2006, he received his Ph.D. in American art and architecture and architectural history (1550-1850) at the University of Delaware. His dissertation “Imagining New Netherland: Origins and Survival of Netherlandic Architecture in Old New York," looked at the 17th-century architecture of the settlers of New Netherland, the region along the Hudson and Delaware rivers.

Dr. van den Hurk is interested in cultural and historic preservation, and in particular in building documentation. He taught for three years in the Department of Historic Preservation at the University of Kentucky, and most recently worked in a small cultural research management firm in North Carolina for seven years, mainly on Section 106 projects in North Carolina and Virginia. He has presented papers at professional conferences in the United States and Europe, and have been published in the United States, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Belgium.

Jeroen van den Hurk, Ph.D

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