The Home Category The Home: family money matters

How to Find Out Who Has Lived in Your House Before You

It's your house now, but someone else left his mark on it before you.

You probably already have a few clues about your home's former occupants, from their taste in paint colours to the occasional piece of junk mail you still receive with their name attached.

But you may not know about the people who lived in the house before them. Whether you want to learn your home's history or merely are tired of being in the dark when neighbours gossip about your house's former occupants, with a little detective work you can find out who has lived in your house before you.

Find the legal description of your property on the property tax statement. This will include not only the address, but a lot number and a property tax account number. Knowing this information will make your research easier.

Consult your county's tax records. Many counties now have this information online, accessible through the county website. If the records are not online, you will need to go to the county tax assessor's office and request the records for your property. These records will show a history of who paid taxes on the property through the years.

Request property tax detail, using the legal description of the property. Some systems will also allow you to search by name, in which case you would use your own name. Search for the property history. This should give the names of all previous owners of the property.

Visit the local library and request copies of the city directory if you live in an older home and your county's tax records don't go back more than a few years. City directories were the forerunners of modern phone books. You can search for your address and find the names of people living in the house at the time the directory was published.

Consult census records. Census records are available every 10 years. Most libraries store these on computer disks or microfiche. Search the records for your town or county to learn who was living at your house at the time the census was conducted. You can also learn the marital status, names of children and occupation of your home's former residents.

Things Needed

  • Property tax statement
  • Property tax records
  • City directory
  • Census records