Discover the History of Your House

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Every house has a story, what does yours say? If you are living in an old or historic home, you may be wondering about its history. Who lived in it before? When was it built? Is it “historic” or just old? The Fauquier County Public Library has some tips and the resources available to help you on your quest.Old Town Warrenton

Getting started

Begin by writing down the details of your house, starting with the address, block or plot number, the lot size and the type of architectural style. Jot down everything, even if it see’s insignificant, it may just be that one detail that leads to a clue! Check with your neighbors. If they have lived in their home for a long time, they may remember who has lived in your house previously. If possible, talk to the previous homeowners as they may be able to fill in some of the missing information for you. Perhaps they have old photographs of what the house once looked like, this could help with a restoration project or repairs. Previous owners, may also have information on the neighborhood or special events that may have occurred.

Your next stop

Next, you will want to conduct a deed search. Deeds show the possession of ownership of a house and any legal notices against the house. You should be able to trace the property back to its original owner. To initiate a deed search, visit the Records Room at the Fauquier County Clerk’s Office. Pay special attention to any address changes or street name changes.

Visit the Virginiana Room at the Warrenton Library

The Virginiana Room has resources available in assisting your research, from telephone directories to newspapers and census records. Here is a breakdown of what sources are available to you:

  • Telephone directories: Polk’s Directories for most years dating back to 1963. Use these to find previous owners and property addresses. Also helpful for locating neighbors.
  • Newspapers: Local newspapers are one way to locate articles mentioning the house or its occupants. The Virginiana Room has an index to articles in The True Index newspaper and the Fauquier Times Democrat (1936-1966).
  • Census Records: Federals census records for Virginia are available from 1810 to 1940. Taken every ten years, census records give you information on the houses owner and may include information such as the names of family members, their relationships and age. Census records are available on microfilm or you can view them via the library’s in-house subscription to and Heritage
  • Books on the local area: All Fauquier County Public Library locations have books containing information on the county’s history, historical events and locations and even some historic houses. Check out Old Homes and Families of Fauquier County.
  • Historic Records Surveys: The Works Progress Administration (WPA) 1930  and the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission (1970) have conducted surveys of properties of “historical significance.” These are available in the Virginiana Room or online from the Library of Virginia website.
  • Photographs: Visit the John Gott Library in Marshall, VA which has a collection of Fauquier County photographs, including some houses. Call before visiting, 540-364-3440.
  • Vertical Files: These files include information on Fauquier people and places, including some houses and buildings.

Get Organized

With any research it is important to be organized. Consider keeping a binder or folder of your findings. Keep information such as dates, locations and names of persons you talked with during your research. Write down what was successful and what did not work –  you may be able to approach it in a different manner. While it may be rewarding and fun, it can also cause frustration. Realize that a search of this detail will take some time!  If you have questions or need assistance in your research, stop by the reference desk at any of our locations.

This is just a sampling of what is available to you at the library. Please stop by for a visit during your research; we just may have what you are looking for.

To learn more about discovering the history of your house, visit the Fauquier County Historic Research Workshop on Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. Hosted by Fauquier County Community Development at the Warrenton Green Building, 10 Hotel Street in Warrenton.

Jody, Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library
with special thanks to Vicky Ginther, Virginian/Reference Librarian

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