Friday, June 12, 2015

Researching the History of Your House and Property

Learning about the history of your house and the land it sits on can be fascinating.  The characteristics of your house can offer clues about the times in which it was built.  You can also usually find out who owned your property, from the early years of Licking County onwards.

Be advised, though:  it can be difficult and time-consuming to find a lot of information.  In many cases it is not possible to learn exactly when a house was built, but you can usually at least surmise an approximate date.  And when you learn the names of the people who lived on your property, you can often gather more information about their lives.

Government records were not usually kept which specifically indicate when a house was built.  Sometimes, though, you can find a good clue about the construction date by looking at old tax records.  If a tax record from a certain year indicates a major increase in the value of a property, this suggests that a substantial new structure was built.

For Licking County, there are unfortunately gaps in the tax records that are available.  The Ohio History Connection in Columbus has the Licking County Auditor's Tax Duplicate records from the years 1809-38, and 1863-1913.  To find out how you can search these records, call the OHC Archives/Library at 614-297-2510.  The Licking County Auditor's Office here in Newark has a very small number of tax records from the 19th Century, as well as some 20th Century records.  The phone number for the Auditor's Office is 740-670-5040.  At this point, we do not know if any records from 1839-62 survived.

Another important route to follow in researching your house is to study architectural styles.  Your house will have certain features that give clues as to when it was built, such as the general design, the design of the window frames and surrounding material, the materials that were used on the outside walls, etc.  You can find useful books about the history of house design at a public or academic library.  There are also helpful websites such as and!historic-homes-more.

If you are researching a house built in the late-20th Century or afterwards, the Licking County Building Code Department might be able to help, since they have records of building permits.  They can be reached at tel. 740-349-6671.

To find out who owned your property throughout the years, you can search deed indexes and records.  These are located at the Licking County Recorder's Office, tel. 740-670-5300.  There are grantor indexes, which index the names of persons who conveyed the property, and grantee indexes of the persons who acquired the property.   Searching through several decades of these indexes can require a lot of time.

The Recorder also keeps plat maps that show properties from ca. 1920 onwards.  If your house is in a platted subdivision, or if you live in a condominium, the Recorder's Office probably has an associated plat.  Also available there are 19th-Century maps and atlases of Licking County which show property boundaries and owner's names, and on rare occasions, the "footprints" of houses.  These maps and atlases are also at the Licking County Historical Society, located in Veterans' Park at W. Main and 6th Streets, tel. 740-345-4898, email

Rural properties shown in the 1866 Atlas of Licking County, Ohio; the Records &
 Archives Library has digitized copies of this atlas
The Licking County Engineer's Office, tel. 740-670-5280, has a Licking County atlas published in 1875, and plats from 1935 and 1974.  Staff there are in the process of digitizing plats.

Annual books called city directories indicate the names of the heads of households who were residing at particular street addresses, and sometimes their occupations.  There are city directories of Newark from the 1800's onwards, and you can find them at the Licking County Genealogical Society, which is at the Newark Main Library, tel. 740-349-5510, email, or the Licking County Historical Society.  You can then find more information about many local people by searching newspaper articles, county histories and other resources at the Newark Main Library.

One of the items in our Records & Archives collection which might help you with house and property research is our volume of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, which shows Newark property and building outlines in the year 1920 and later.  You can search other Sanborn maps online by going to and entering an Ohio library card number.

We also have Mortgage Indexes from the years 1850-92.  If you know the name of a person who occupied your house during that time, you might be able to find them listed in these.  And we have the corresponding Mortgage Records.

You are welcome to stop by our office if you would like to look at our material.  We are normally open 7:30 AM-4:30 PM, Monday through Friday.  Contact us by calling 740-670-5121, or at