Sunday, April 28, 2013

Friday's Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge" - H is for "Homes"

Oh, it is soooo long since I have posted an Alphabet Challenge Story!!!

The Letter "H" is the next in line and today's post is "H is for Homes".  How do we find out about our families "Homes".  I think "Homes" means much more than an address, or the house that our family lived in. " Home" conjures up memories of the people in the house, social customs, social conditions, neighbourhood and neighbours and the events that took place in that house. Our search for our family stories would be so much easier "if only the walls (of their home) could talk". However since the "walls" do not talk, we much look to other means to find out more about how our ancestors lived.

Census- provides a lot of information about a home
1. Accessing the census records of your family will assist with learning a little about their home.  A census record will provide you with details of the address, how many people were living in the home, their occupations, who their neighbours were and their occupations. Once you have located the address, you are able to delve deeper into the history of their "Home".

 2.  A visit to the local court house or Lands Titles Office may provide you with the official records of the house, change of ownership and changes of street names, numbers etc.You may be able to access, Building Permits, that will provide information on additions to the building, Utility Reports will provide information on water, gas and sewerage installation (or if older house if these utilities were not installed).  Insurance records may also provide interesting information,  most notably fire insurance claim forms. These can contain information about the nature of an insured building, its contents, value and  possibly floor plans and details of claims made in the case of a home/house fire.

3. The local Historical Society will be able to assist with background to events, social conditions, employment for the people who lived in and around your ancestor's home.  Check out your local library collection for publications on the historical development of your area. Published histories of the area, often compiled by a local historian or heritage group, will provide valuable background information on building development, social conditions and often include pictures of houses in the area.

My Nanna's Home in Milton, NSW
4. Searching local newspapers can provide records of the home being sold, family events such as births, deaths and marriages. Newspapers can also be good sources for information and town histories. Searching the name of the street that your family lived in can provide stories of events and incidents that would have occured while your family lived there. These stories can add a lot of colour to your understanding of the home life  of your family.

5. Check family letters, scrapbooks, diaries, and photo albums for more possible clues. Photos of the family home can tell us so much, if they were affluent or working class, if they had a garden, laundry, out-house etc.  Did they have a fire place? What kind of building material was used?

6. Family and Neighbours can provide insight and a deeper understanding of the history of a home. Contact your older relatives, their friends and neighbours.  Their memories will be invaluable, take time with them, over a cup of tea to hear their recollections. Show them some old photos/newspaper articles, if you have any, these will help trigger memories and help the stories to flow.

Cassell's New Universal Cookery Book
7.  Finally, another resource which can provide an understanding of life in your ancestors home are recipe books.  If you are lucky enough to have inherited a family recipe book, it will provide information on the foods that were available, how they prepared cooked their food, how resourceful were they when there was a shortage of food and who was responsible for the preparation of the food.
Cook books such as the one seen in this picture (Cassell's New Universal Cookery Book), provide a lot of information on the social background and conditions of the family. This book is aimed at middle class Victorian families, and not only includes recipies, but house hold tips, budgets, descriptions of cooking utensils, and details on the roles of the different members of the house hold domestic staff.  

There are a number of useful resouces that assist you in finding details on your ancesters house, however, in this blog I have attempted to take this search a little further, with resources that will help you to understand more about your ancestors "HOME".

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