How to look for records of... Houses

Records relating to the history of houses, whether of the ownership and occupation of a property or its construction and architectural history, are kept in a variety of archives. This guide provides some suggestions for the kinds of records you can consult and where you should go to find them.

What do I need to know before I start?

Knowing the following information will usually make a search for records easier:

  • the approximate age of the house
  • the relevant county and registration district

Where do I start?

The best place to start researching the history of a house, its occupants and the surrounding area is in a local archive. This might be a local studies centre or a local county archive, where you may find local maps, title deeds, electoral registers and family and estate papers, all of which can be useful when tracing the history of a house.

Search by place on our Find an archive page to find contact details for local archives.

What records can I see online?

Valuation Office Survey index maps (1910-1915)

The 1910 Valuation Office Survey was a review of the value of land and property across the country. Documents known as Valuation Office field books (see below for more on these) contain descriptions of more than 9 million individual houses, farms and other properties in England and Wales, detailing the use and value of land and buildings, and naming their owners and occupiers. The way to find a specific field book is to first find the respective survey plan, an annotated Ordnance Survey map sheet.

To find a Valuation Office Survey plan for a particular area use our Valuation Office Survey map finder and search for a plan by county, town, village or London borough. The online index maps provide references to the original survey plans (maps) which in turn serve as an index to the Valuation Office field books. Consult our guide to records of the Valuation Office survey for more details and advice.

Census records (1841-1911)

Search by address on the census to find out who was living there. Where an address search is not available, browse the census street indexes on Your Archives (now only available in our web archive) to find the relevant document reference and search the relevant census website with that reference.

Census maps (1871)

Search and download (£) digital versions of the original Registration District maps from the 1871 census on the Cassini Maps website.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

Valuation Office survey maps and field books (1910-1915)

Between 1910 and 1915 the Valuation Office carried out a survey to determine the value of land for tax purposes. The ‘field books’ from the survey contain the names of property owners and occupiers, details of tenancy and the value and area covered by the property. For many properties they also show the number of rooms and how the rooms were used.

Use the Valuation Office Survey index maps (see above) to get to the field books. Consult our guide to records of the Valuation Office survey for advice on how to do this.

Working copies of the Valuation Office survey are often kept in local archives.

Tithe maps and apportionments from 1836

Tithe maps and apportionments establish whether a property existed at the time and provide clues about property ownership and occupancy but do not contain details about the property itself.

Search Discovery, our catalogue, for tithe maps (IR30) and apportionments (IR 29) by place name below

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Building plans (mid 19th century onwards)

Many local record offices have collections of building plans from the mid nineteenth century providing evidence of how buildings might have looked when new. Find contact details for archives elsewhere using Find an archive.

Title deeds

Title deeds can help you trace the owners and occupiers of your house. If the title deeds to your house are not in your possession, they may be with your solicitor or mortgage company.

Older deeds may not have survived. The Law of Property Act 1925 limited the need for evidence of title to 30 years. Older deeds may however have survived in a repository as part of a deposited solicitor’s collection or collection of family and estate papers.

Records held locally

The National Archives’ catalogue has details of collections held by over 2,500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

What other resources will help me find information?

Books

Most of the recommended publications below are available at The National Archives’ Library. You can also visit the National Archives’ bookshop for a range of publications on the history of your house.

Tracing History Through Title Deeds by Nat Alcock (Pen and Sword 2017)

Tracing the History of Your House by Nick Barratt (The National Archives 2006)

Maps for Family and Local History: the Records of the Tithe, Valuation Office Survey and National Farm Surveys of England and Wales, 1836-1943 by Geraldine Beech and Rose Mitchell (The National Archives, 2003)

Sources for the History of Houses by John H Harvey (British Records Association, 1974)