Do you ever sit there and wonder who has walked the halls of your home before you did? What did they do for a living, did they influence history, did they change the world in their own way? Maybe your house history involves significant events or a change in location.
Or maybe it is more practical things that you are interested in, like renovations and modifications. Were they completed correctly, did the required permits get issued, or how long ago did they happen?
Even if nothing historical happened within your walls, your home still has a history. But how do you discover that house history? Let’s look at how you can…
You could take the old fashioned route and ask the neighbours. Especially if your home is old and iconic, it will have some local history that the neighbours might be able to shine some light on.
Local historians or historical societies can also have records that you can access.
Sale of the century
It can be useful to know the past sale value of your home. This can tell you a lot about its popularity and worth. It can also let you know how many people have lived in it and how long for.
To check the recent sales value of your home and those around you, you can go to www.homes.co.nz for a nosey into the records. It also has basic information about the decade the house was built, as well as your land and property area.
The house itself
You can find a lot of clues by looking around the house itself. If it has an attic or basement then have a search around,
you might find some old treasures from years gone by. Literally peel away the layers of history by removing wallpaper and revealing the patterns underneath.
If you want to get super-sleuthy, then head under the house and see if you can find any relics under the house. The dark depths of garden sheds often hold a few secrets too.
If you have an old home, then you can check the New Zealand Heritage list (www.heritage.org.nz) to see if your home appears there.
It has heritage sites listed, reports on the properties, and also any archaeological reports that might have been conducted.
You can hunt through Archives New Zealand for the deeds and certificate of title for your property. That is a legal document that give the description of your piece of land and the transactions recorded against it in chronological order.
There are local reading rooms in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin where you can go and physically view local archive records. It is recommended that you take a smartphone or camera with you as many of the documents are too fragile to be photocopied.
If you are not near any of these centres, you can use their online software to search www.archway.archives.govt.nz instead.
The local council
Local council’s hold rates and valuation records for land in the area. These will show the owners and occupiers of the property and what has been on the land. Whether it has always been a home, or if it had history prior to that as a farm, a place or work, or something else entirely.
Get in touch with your local council, or have a hunt on their website to see how you can gain access to this information.
Your local library will have plenty of resources that you can check. This includes local images and photos, like aerial shots and pictures taken at local events. You can also check old directories where listings used to be by name, but also by address.
Newspapers used to one of the only ways to report on local news. So they are a wealth of information about anything and everything that has happened in the past. They might even have some information about your house history.
Your local library should have access to the editions, but you can also hunt for them online here
What to do with the information
Once you have all the info about who owned your home, or when it was bought and sold, then you can hunt further about the people or places. Find out more about previous owners from Births, Deaths and Marriages, and find out more about locations by searching online, or in local libraries or museums.
Every house has a story to tell. Not all of the them are as exciting as Government House, but each house history is interesting in their own way!
Disclaimer As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.