House History Research Basics

Resources for your house history.
If you are looking for a story about your house, here are some easy ways to find out more and research the history.  The key is getting a name/family associated with the house so that  you can personalize the home and occupants.  Here are places to start:
1)  Salem Deeds – start with your street address or last name, picking “Newburyport” as the city.  Work back from there by using the book/page numbers as a ‘chain” backwards through time.  Pay careful attention to the names of the seller/buyer (grantor/grantee) to make sure you are following the chain of sale correctly,  Keep notes as you go through it. Some times the deeds will include occupation.  Most times (especially pre-1900) the name will help in a google search to get more on the individual(s)
3) Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) –  Newburyport is fortunate to have an extensive historical survey done for its application to the National  Historic Registry.  Your home may be listed, and many details about the home and occupants may already be researched for you.  Printed copies are available at the Library’s archival center.
2) Newburyport Library Archival Center – call or visit.   They can help!  There are costly online genealogy resources (like which are accessible only from the library.  While you are there, explore your family tree!
3) On line library resources:
  1. Historical Newspapers – use your library card number to access old newspapers.  Seach by your street name and “newburyport”, or by the name of a prior occupant and “newburyport”.
  2. Heritage Quest – use your library card number to access a genealogy web site.  Look for prior occupants.
  3. Clipper Heritage Trail website – use the extensive resources and narratives on this website to find out more about your home and/or neighborhood.  Take advantage of the browser page search menu to search each page for key words (last name, street name).
  4. Digital Public Library of America – use this extensive public library to find books, pictures, and manuscripts that may have key stories about former occupants  or the house/neighborhood
  5. Local History Books:  There are a host of local authors that have written in detail about Newburyport History from 1750-1900.  Most of their books are online and searchable. In particular:

and available at the library and local bookstores:

  • Life in Newburyport 1900-1950 by Jean Foley Doyle
  • “Tiptoe Through the Tombstones, Oak Hill Cemetery, Volume I., by Ghlee Woodworth
I would recommend limiting stories that are not about you or your family to pre-WWII events (70 years old or older) so as to respect the privacy of residents and current descendants  still living in Newburyport.
Even if you don’t find anything historical, consider a story about something you found in the house, a unique characteristic (like a brick floor in the basement), or a funny or interesting story about you or your family.

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