Many homes in our area have stories to tell. If you live in an older home, you may want to know its hidden secrets. You may have wondered who slept in your bedroom or when the home was actually built. Your home holds many clues to its history and its prior owners. With some detective work you will be well on your way to uncovering your home’s hidden past. Here are some hints to get you started.

Gather Information

In order to get started you will need to uncover all of the information you have, you will want to gather your deed and title paperwork. Make note of the first owner, year built, and the year the original owner sold it. You will also want to know the names of all the owners, as well as the years they bought and sold the property. All of this information may not be available on your deed but you will be able to find it at town hall or the registry of deeds.

You may find clues in the names of owners and years owned. Pay attention to details and look for clues. Some clues to the history of the home may be: a family that owned the home for a long time, multiple property turnovers and inconsistencies in property or land descriptions.

Tackling the Records

Wading through the mountains of information may be difficult but don’t get discouraged. Information about your home’s owners will most likely be contradictory. Census records dating back to the year your house was built are likely available at your public library, a nearby university or your local historical society or museum. Review census rosters from the year closest to the one your house was built. Census records from the 1800s and early 1900s have lots of fun and interesting information and often include the names of all those living in a household at the time, their ages, occupations, places of birth, and sometimes more. You may also want to search for census data on the U.S. Census website.

Getting Help

Some of the language on deeds and title paperwork can be hard to understand put older language in the mix and it can be even more confusing. Ask friends who are lawyers, title-company employees or experts in historical documents for help. You can also turn to the internet for help. Use the internet to dig up any information you can find about the families who lived in your home, as well as the surrounding streets, neighborhoods, and landmarks. If prior owners of your home are relatives you can use genealogy web sites for research.

Getting a Feel for the Times

Read through newspapers from the year your house was built. You will start to get a sense of the historical times. Keep notes on everything you find that mentions your house and its occupants. In those times local papers covered social news of all kinds—dinner parties, haying trips, visits from out-of-town relatives—in addition to chronicling everything from world events to weather. They often covered construction of new homes, and may offer you information on where the builders got the materials used to build your house, why they made certain design decisions, and more.

More Information

For more information regarding researching homes you may want to try some of the books listed.

American Shelter: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Home, by Lester Walker, Overlook Press, 1981
How Old is This House? by Hugh Howard, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1989
House Styles in America, by James C. Massey and Shirley Maxwell, Penguin Studio, 1996
Old American House, by Henry Lionel Williams and Ottalie K. Williams, Bonanza Books, 1957
A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia and Lee McAlester, Random House, 1984

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Salt on popcorn, as a seasoning, or even to melt ice but did you know there are many other unexpected ways to use salt around the house? Salt is something you will want to stock up on when you see how many great uses there are.

Here are some unexpected household uses for salt:

Salt will help get out fruit stains. Rub salt on the while still wet, and put it in the wash.

Mildew spots can be removed by rubbing salt in some buttermilk, apply it to the stain and then let dry in the sun.

Wine spills can be absorbed by salt. Pour salt on the spot immediately.

Remove heat rings from your furniture by applying a paste of salt and olive oil. Let sit for about an hour and then wipe with a soft cloth.

Kill unwanted weeds by pouring boiling salt water over them.

Freshen those smelly sneakers by sprinkling their insides with salt. Wait 24 hours for the salt to absorb the odor, and then shake them out.

Dry out dirty, muddy footprints from your carpet by sprinkling salt on carpet before vacuuming.

Can you think of any other great uses for salt? Please share.

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