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Researching Historic Houses

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

Newspapers

Once you know the date of your house's construction, style, and some of the owners of your home, you can begin to research through newspapers and vertical files available at many libraries. In these newspapers and files you may find information about the architect or builder of your home, the neighborhood, and information about the previous occupants, including their professions and affiliations.

When you visit a repository be sure to ask if they have any vertical files that would be of use. Libraries can also provide access to microfilm and electronic databases of major metropolitan newspapers, which will allow you to search for information about your home and its occupants. You may also find photographs of your home or its occupants in the newspapers or vertical files.

Obituaries

Obituaries are also a great way to learn more about the former occupants of your home. You can learn where the person or family moved from, their children, and their local affiliations.

For people living in Prince George's County, The Washington Post is an excellent source for obituaries. Most local libraries offer access to Washington Post Historical database on their computers.

Alongside obituaries, many people have memorials posted in newspapers by organizations of which they were a part, such as the Lions Club. Some people may even be featured in a full length article about their life.

It is also worth checking in a local or county library for area newspapers which may feature obituaries of local people. The libraries may have these papers archived, or may have vertical files with obituaries in them.

Online Newspaper Searches

Recent efforts to digitize historic newspapers have enabled many of these publications to accessed on-line. Since the digitized versions are indexed and serachable, it is much less time consuming than scanning through microfilm. 

 The Library of Congress' Chronicling America website has a large collections of newspapers sorted by state. Although the project is still in progress, and the state of Maryland is not yet online, some useful information may be found in nearby states such as Washington D.C. and Virgina.

Furthermore, your local library may have a subscription to historical newspaper archives, such as the Baltimore Sun Historical, or the Washington Post Historical.