Friday, 15 March 2013

Have you ever wondered about the history of your home? “How to Research Your House” Archives Program, March 7, 2013

Have you ever wondered who owned your house before you? Or when it was built?


The Chinook Club House originally resided
in Lethbridge's downtown area. However, the
lot was sold and the house was moved. Now a
Bed & Breakfast, the building can be found
in one of Lethbridge's new south side developments

Last week’s Archives Program outlined the many resources available to research your home here at the Galt Archives as well as other local resources. If you are interested in the history of your house, we've recapped the information here - read on!

Before you start your search, consider:
  1. Street names may have changed, This is significant because many of the records you will find will be under the original address 
  2. Some areas in Lethbridge started as separate municipalities and were later annexed. For example, sections of the North side of Lethbridge began as the small community of Stafford. 
  3. Houses can be identified differently. This means that your home may be described as a district, block, or lot in the early records. This can be confusing because of the large subdivisions created in Lethbridge.
After you have considered original street name, municipality, and description of your home you will be able to research your home more easily. To start, try a title search. This can be done at any local registry or the Alberta Land Titles Office in Calgary. You will have to pay a fee to have a title search done for your house. To learn more about title searches check out the Government of Alberta website.

The next resource to research your home are the house Inventories, or “Black Binders,” at the Galt Archives. These binders include photos and information on each house. The binders are organized by street addresses and are very easy to work with. The Henderson directories, also available at the Galt Archives, will complement the House Inventories in your research on your home. These local directories range in date from 1909 to 2000 and are organized by name and address. These directories can tell you who lived in your home, as well as other interesting facts about that person. For example, some residents’ occupation, marital status, and tenant/owner status. These were a popular and fun item at the program last week! They are very interesting and give you a lot of information on the houses inventoried.

If you are a very thorough researcher or none of the above resources help you with your search you can also investigate local fire insurance maps. These maps are housed at the Galt Archives and range in dates from 1891 to the 1950s. The fire insurance maps provide the most detailed view of the buildings, including the materials used in the construction of each building.

There are many other resources available for your house research! The Galt Archives has published sources in the ATCO Gas Reference Library that outline local histories which may have information on some houses, streets, or neighbourhoods in Lethbridge and other Southern Alberta communities; if you are researching a rural community, such as Coaldale, the Atco Gas Reference Library is an excellent place to start. You can also check out the Galt Archives online database to explore online maps, photos, and documents.

Another alternative resource is your house itself! For example, if you have the original wall paper you may be able to find the approximate date the house was built. You can also search your basement, attic space, under your stairs, etc. for clues about the history of your home (if you do renovations you can also look inside your walls). Some homeowners have found old newspapers and other interesting items that can tell you a lot about your home, the first or early owners, or give you an excellent start for your research.

So if you are interested in the history of your home try the different strategies and check out the resources listed for you. You are also always welcome to come and talk to us at the Galt Archives!  We would love to help point you in the right direction.


Make sure you join us next month for the Archives Program: Volunteering at the Archives!


By Karissa Patton

Karissa Patton is a fourth-year History major at the University of Lethbridge who is interested in Southern Alberta Women’s History. This spring she is the archives assistant social media contributor for the Galt Museum & Archives, earning Applied Studies credit while sharing stories uncovered in the archives.

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