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How to Research the History of Your House: National Sources

A guide to help homeowners research the history of their home.

National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places is the country's official list of sites and locations that are considered worthy of preservation.  The purpose is to have national support for local and private preservation efforts, and to make an ongoing list of the country's most signficant historic sites.  The National Register of Historic Places was federally authorized by the Historic Preservation Act of 1966.  It is a division of the National Park Service, which is a part of the Department of the Interior.

Due to the volume of nominations, only a small number have currently been digitized.  If your house has not yet been digitized then contact the National Register for help. 

What to Look For

The Statement of Signficance is arguably the most helpful part of a National Register nomination form.  The Statement of Significance informs the reader of why the listed property is significant.  It will include the historic name, historic function, years of significance, and any facts that directly support the significance of the property.  A great deal of information can be obtained from a well-written Statement of Significance.

The Architectural Description is also very useful.  It will provide infomation about the physical aspects of the house.  It should include an approximate date of construction, style, materials, and any other defining features of the property. 

There are other individual parts of the form that may be of use.  For instance, a boundary description, photographs, possibly a floor plan, etc. 

DNR's SHAARD (Indiana)

This is helpful if the home is listed on the National Register or if it is contributing in a National Register District.  The state of Indiana has digitized most nomination forms for National Register designated districts and sites.  After loading the website click on the link that says SHAARD ACCESS.  Next click on the link that says Enter SHAARD as a guest and agree to the terms.  On the drop down menu click the National Register option.  Enter the known information and search.  Once the correct property is loaded, navigate to the Photos and PDFs page and search through links of interest.   Most often this will contain the National Register Nomination, which will have information about the structure and its significance.  The page will also likely include pictures.

Subject Guide

Rebecca Torsell's picture
Rebecca Torsell
Architecture Building Room 120
(765) 285-8441