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Genealogy

Learning more about the descent of the people who used to live in your home can be useful to your research. Genealogical research includes vital records (birth, marriage, and death records), compiled from newspapers, church records, tombstones, and family bibles. It also includes family and personal papers, such as old letters and diaries. For example, you might look for the death record for a previous homeowner to find the date of death. Then, look for an obituary in an old newspaper to learn about the person's life, which may give you a better idea about why that person settled in the area and built the house.

Both the Historical Society and the State Archives are good sources for finding genealogical materials and for learning about how to do genealogical research. The Historical Society is home base to the Delaware Genealogical Society, which offers educational programs about family research to its members. The University of Delaware library has produced a free pamphlet, available in the Reference Room, about conducting genealogical research in its collections.

Available at HSD, DSA, UD

Historic Photographs

In many cases when researching a home, an old photograph is the best source for information that may not have been preserved anywhere else. For example, you can learn about the original materials, the siding, shutters, and trim, which may have been changed or lost over time. You can learn about dates of additions. You can see how the house used to be landscaped. You can see how the neighborhood used to look when the sidewalks were brick, the streets were lined with trees, and picket fences enclosed the front yards.

The Historical Society has a large collection of photographs. The card catalog is organized by subject headings, such as agriculture, buildings, jails, stores, etc., and then alphabetically within each category. At the State Archives, photographic archives include photos taken by the State Highway Department before beginning a road project. The Hagley Library is a good source for aerial and other photographs. To find out whether an old aerial photograph exists for your area, check with the Delaware Geological Survey. Be sure to talk to longtime residents and business owners, such as the employees of the post office, fire hall, bank, or stores.

Available at HSD, DSA, HML, DGS

Survey & National Register Documents

Across the country over the past several decades, historians have been canvassing the highways and byways in search of old buildings. In New Castle County, more than 13,000 historic properties, including buildings, engineering works, bridges, archaeological sites, and other things old, have been systematically inventoried and photographed. Though sometimes there is very little information on the survey forms, these records occasionally contain wonderful clues. Out of the 13,000 known properties, nearly 300 individual properties and historic districts have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places in New Castle County. These are the prime examples of the architecture and the history of the county. Perhaps your house is eligible!

Survey Records are available at NC, DESHPO National Register Reports are available at NC, DESHPO, and see HSD for older nominations only

Newspapers

Newspapers can provide interesting data, including a notice about a public auction of the home you are researching, an obituary of a former homeowner, or an article about an event that brought prosperity or led to the demise of the community. However, you may not find any of these things, for newspapers can be a low- yield source for researching a specific house. The Historical Society has many early Delaware papers from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century; bound originals of the Every Evening from 1871 to 1932; and miscellaneous issues of many smaller papers, such as the Delaware City News. See the Newspaper Card Catalog there. The University of Delaware has a number of papers on microfilm, including a good collection of the Journal Every Evening (Microfilm S39). A finding guide for newspapers, called the "Union List of Newspapers in Delaware," was produced by the University of Delaware in 1990. At the Wilmington Institute Free