Do you know your HOUSE-story?

Your home may have a story to tell and a place in history. You and your family can become house detectives and discover the history of your home.

1. START AT HOME. The best source about your home is the building itself. Look at the separate parts of the building — roof, walls, chimneys, doors, windows, and foundation. Note what materials they are made of and how the different parts are joined to one another. Try to distinguish original materials from later additions. Look at the style of the house, too, inside and out. The style of a building is a clue to its age — but not proof. Keep careful notes and take pictures. The clues you record will be useful later on in your investigation.

2. GO TO THE COURTHOUSE. Using deed records, you can create a chronological list of all of the owners of a piece of property. The list you compile will be the backbone of your home's history. Ask for the index to deeds by buyer. Start with the deed to the present owner. Note the seller's name and the legal description of the property. Then use the index to find the seller's deed to the same piece of property and note whom the seller bought it from. Work your way back through the deeds to the original owner, making a copy of each deed and keeping track of the volume and page numbers. A sharp increase in the value of the property could mean a building was added to it.

3. LOOK AT OTHER PUBLIC RECORDS, especially if you find gaps in the deed records. Sometimes property passes from one owner to another through a mortgage or a will. Mortgage records often contain detailed descriptions of buildings. Wills and other probate records may list one or more of the previous owners, and you can examine the records filed under their names to see if there are any mentions of the property. Local tax records may reveal the dates of additions and improvements to property by change in its valuation, and maps of property made by surveyors can show a tool shed or a well that no longer exists. Be sure to make photocopies of all the records that you think will be helpful.

4. GO TO THE LIBRARY to learn more about the people who lived in your home. Check the local history section. Ask a librarian to help you find indexes to town and county histories, manuscripts, and other materials about local history. City directories often list people's occupations as well as addresses and can help to establish the dates that a person lived at a particular address. A librarian also can direct you to federal and state census records, which contain vast amounts of information about households. A good library or Internet project for children is to create a timeline of American history starting with the approximate construction date of your building. When the kids have completed a simple timeline for the nation, the family can work together to combine it with the timeline for your home and look for connections. You might find a link between a big event in American history and a small event in your home's history.

5. READ A MAP. Your librarian can guide you to city and county maps that may show your building with the owner's or resident's name written beside it. Such maps often show the location of old roads and other landmarks that may have disappeared. Insurance maps, especially those produced by the Sanborn Map Co., contain a wealth of information about individual structures, including the materials from which they were built.

6. LOOK AT A PICTURE. The Tyrone-Snyder Public Library or the Tyrone Area Historical Society may have old photographs of your building, or there may be some in your neighbor's attics. Postcards can be helpful, too. Tyrone is represented in a nineteenth-century lithograph called a "bird's-eye-view," which provides a fairly accurate picture of every residence in town. Don't forget to take a few photographs of your home for the project.

7. TALK WITH PEOPLE. Try to track down former residents or their children. They may be able to help you date changes or tell you stories about their lives in your home. Neighbors can be helpful, too, if they have lived in the neighborhood for a long time. While you're talking with them, ask if they have any family pictures that might show your building in the background.

8. PUT IT ALL TOGETHER. When you have finished your research, you'll have a stack of written notes, photocopies of documents and maps, and photographs. These are like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Use them to create a timeline of your home's past and to write a narrative history. Enlist everyone in the family to help create a scrapbook that weaves together narrative history, photocopies, drawings, and photographs. Then make enough copies to give to your family and friends, and be sure to place a copy with the Tyrone Area Historical Society so that your home will have a place in history.

9. IF THE HOME YOU LIVE IN IS NEW, then start your own history of your home. Using some of the steps outlined in the foregoing, find out what was there before your home was built and why the neighborhood changed. Then take photos of your home and write about your experiences living in it. You'll be making history for your family and community.

— From a brochure published by the National Association of Realtors and the National Museum of American History