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by Kim Buchanan

I've been asked this many times, and have even been asked to research peoples' own homes for them. As much as I love to see other peoples' homes, this is a long labour of love which can take years, so here are some tips to make you a better house genealogist.

LOCAL COUNCILS usually hold files on all properties within their jurisdiction. Sometimes you can get a lot of information, such as original plans, architect and builder's names, additions made, and interesting correspondence. This information is free to view, and you may be able to photocopy some of it for a small fee. OLD AERIAL PHOTOS  and a friendly COUNCIL ARCHIVIST may also be of use.

TITLE. You should hold a copy from when you bought your house. This will show the original date issued (i.e., as close to the year of building as you can get), and all owners since it was new.

PREVIOUS OWNERS or their relatives can provide a wealth of information and photographs. Use the telephone book or electoral roll to track them down - hopefully they still live in the same area. If you find them, invite them round for a cup of tea. We once had a whole family come from Auckland to Napier to visit their old home. They were thrilled to see it again and we learnt a great deal more from them than we had from any other source.

NEIGHBOURS, especially elderly ones may give some insight, particularly if the original owners cannot be found. Previous owners and neighbours may think they have no photos of the house, but ask them to pull out their old family albums anyway. There are bound to be a few shots with your house in the background somewhere.

LOCAL LIBRARIES often hold small local histories about your area which the city library does not hold. Sometimes you can find out about the original farm and farmhouse which may have existed where your house now stands. Study old photos for glimpses of  your house, road or immediate area.

RECOMMENDATIONS
Document all information and its source immediately as you find it.
Once complete, provide copies of your home's history to the local council to be held on your property file; and to your local Art Deco or Historical Society. Also save one for the next owner when that day comes.
Please start your research NOW. In years to come, these elderly verbal sources will not be around to share their memories with us. Let's document the past now for future decophiles and others in the years ahead, when our recent past has become distant memory.