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Researching Your Pennsylvania House

A Guide to Exploring the History of a House

Every house—especially an older one—has a story to tell. Discovering that story can be a challenge but an interesting one. This guide can help you find the resources you need to explore the history of your Pennsylvania house. So, where do you begin? 

 
Delaware County Map

Deeds

Deeds record the names of buyer and seller, the date of the sale, the date of the recording, the county and state of residence, the amount of money paid, a description of the property, and the terms and conditions. Deeds in Pennsylvania and most states are available at county courthouses. If your home is quite old, you will want to begin with the Pennsylvania State Archives’ Bureau of Land Records. There is a searchable Land Records index to locate records through the 19th century.

 

 

 

image of several deedsProperty not quite that old? You can search many Pennsylvania deeds and county courts online in the Pennsylvania Land Records and Deeds Directory.

Online Resources to Assist Your Research

These guides to help you get started on your search:

Looking for a specific location? 


 

Older two story house

What Does Architecture Tell Me about the House?

How can you learn more about when your house was built, its original style and composition?  The first step is to identify the era in which it was constructed.  You will also need to learn more about architectural styles and to consult an architecture book or two, to identify the “core style”. Guide to Old House Styles and Architecture


 

It is also helpful to learn more about architectural styles and terms.  PHMC has developed a pictorial dictionary of Architectural terms. Since many older homes have undergone numerous renovations or additions, you may need to consult an architect to determine the general layout, as well as the styles of roofs, porches, windows and doors.  If you don’t wish to invest the money to hire a professional, simply take a tour of the neighborhood to discover houses similar to your own. 

What Happened in my House?

What can I find out about the former owners?  Did anyone die in the house?  Is anyone alive who remembers growing up in the house?

Historical Societies:  Other important information about your house and its’ former residents can often be found at your local historical society.  Historical societies often provide the best selection of sources—maps, city directories, newspapers, county histories and genealogical records. Pennsylvania Historical Societies

City Directories: are a great way to learn more about the people listed on your deed as previous owners. Genealogy Research Associates' US City Directories  

Newspapers:  In addition, search through the local newspapers for mention of the owners or the address of the house.  Check out the State Library’s collections of Pennsylvania newspapers to help with this effort.