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Researching Historic Houses

A guide to the process and resources for researching historic properties in Maryland.

Census Data

The census is taken every ten years, and household specific data from it is made available seventy years later. This means the 1930 census is the latest complete census available. Many libraries, including the Maryland Room at the University of Maryland, have the census available on microfilm. If your house was built prior to 1930, examining the census from the earliest available to 1930 may be helpful in establishing your chain of title. The census also collected other data, such as children, the level of each resident's education, the cost of the home, whether the home had a radio, and other interesting details.

Click here for more detailed information about the census.

City Directories

City directories, the predecessor to modern phone books, are a useful tool in learning the previous occupants of your home, as well as their occupations. The directories are held in many local libraries, including the Maryland Room at the University of Maryland and list both by address and by last name. Some city directories are available in their original book form, while others are on microfilm. If you are unfamiliar with city directories, be sure to ask a librarian for assistance.

Can't get the Census on microfilm?

If you are unable to find the U.S. Census on microfilm near you, there are some online resources that have the information available digitally. Genealogy sites, such as ancestry.com, typically have digital copies of the census that are searchable by name and geographic location. Although there is a fee to use most of these sites, some local libraries have a subscription that is free for use for library patrons. If your local library does not have the census on microfilm, ask if they have a subscription to a site that provides the census data online.