Research Your House

Researching your house is a fun and rewarding experience that will connect you more deeply to your home and community. In addition to the resources below, the MHPC hosts a monthly “Learn About Your House” event at the Robert H. Grasmere Local History Center to help residents and tourists with their research.  The Local History Center is located in the Hilton Branch Library, through a separate entrance by the rain garden.  See the events page for more details.

There are three main ways to research the history of your house:

  1. Documentary evidence
  2. Physical evidence (e.g. style; period details, materials)
  3. Oral History

First Get the Big Picture

Learn about the History of Maplewood and its neighborhoods:

Then Piece Together Your House’s Story

Search Basics

  • Tax Map – Showing block and lot (Hall of Records or a friendly realtor, MHPC Survey)
  • Title Search (Chain of deeds/mortgages at Essex Co. Hall of Records)
  • Find info about local notable people, businesses, etc. (Maps, Atlases, Photos, Maplewood Library Maplewood File and digital newspapers)
  • Create a Timeline

When was your house built?

  • Building Permits–1916 – present (actual – Building Dept; inventory – 1916-1954 -RHG Local History Ctr., soon to be on Township website)
  • Essextaxboard.com – date (90% accurate 1900 on; unreliable pre-1900.)
  • Deeds/Mortgages- clue to ownership of land, only occasionally the house
  • Find clues through your house’s architecture – roof form – doors – windows – moldings, etc.
  • Fire Insurance atlases: 1881, 1890, 1904, 1922, 1924, 1928, etc. – When does it appear?
  • Old Real Estate brochures – (Maplewood Library Maplewood File, RHG Local History Ctr)
  • City Directories – 1911, 1888-1970 – BEWARE of address changes – Maplewood & SO Libraries

Who designed your house? 

  • Building Permits–1916 – present (actual – Building Dept; inventory – 1916-1954 -RHG Local History Ctr., soon to be on Township website)
  • Word of mouth? Neighbors, long-time residents, previous owners
  • Blueprints handed down? Some available at Building Dept. Ask Township Historian to see.
  • Building Permits–1916 – present (actual – Building Dept; inventory – 1916-1954 -RHG Local History Ctr., soon to be on Township website)
  • Old Sewer Permits – back to 1907 (RHG Local History Ctr. – log)
  • MHPC Surveys of neighborhoods (RGH Local History Ctr., Twp. Clerk Office)
  • Info on local architects, developers (Durand-Hedden exhibits, durandhedden.org. on architects, builders, etc.
  • Research binders on architects, developers (RHG Local History Ctr.)
  • Vintage books or articles in house magazines by architects (Libraries, Google Books, RHG Local History Ctr.)
  • Real estate promotional booklets (Maplewood File, RHG Local History Ctr.)
  • AIA Historical Directory of American Architects

What did your house look like?

  • Real Estate Multiple Listing Files (additional photos may be available at the RHG Local History Ctr.)
  • Books picturing Maplewood Houses – e.g. Vintage: Orange Screen Co., Real Estate or Developer Prospectuses, postcards (actual – RHG Local History Ctr.) Pictorial histories, postcard history (Arcadia books)
  • Vintage architectural articles in magazines or ads (RHG Local History Ctr;, Google Books)

Who lived in your house?  What were they like?

  • Real Estate Multiple Listing Files (digital -Maplewood Library website; actual – RHG Local History Ctr.)
  • Deeds/Mortgages – title search (Essex Co. Hall of Records)
  • City Directories 1911, 1888-1970 (Maplewood and SO Libraries)
  • Census – org ; Ancestry.com at Newark Public Library, Cyndislist.com
  • Obituaries (actual – Maplewood File – Maplewood Library and digital – Maplewood Library website, NYTimes online, com, geneologybank.com, newspapers.com
  • Local narratives – Local history books (see list)
  • Newspapers: News-Record of Maplewood and South Orange (digital only available at Maplewood Library), SO Papers (SO Library microfilm), Courier of Oranges & Maplewood (Orange library microfilm), Historical NYTimes online (at Maplewood  Library; remote through SO Library, Proquest k –12 Columbia HS),  Oldfulton.com, Millburn Item (Millburn Library on-line),  Newark Sunday Call, Newark Newspapers (Newark Public Library), NJ.com
  • Columbia High School Yearbooks
  • Genealogy sites and surname message boards such as found on Genforum, Rootsweb, Cyndi’s List

*MML = Maplewood Memorial Library Main
*RHG Local History Ctr. = Robert H. Grasmere Local History Center (at Hilton Library Branch)