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.
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 nine 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.
Records available only at The National Archives in 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
Records in other archives and organisations
Building plans (mid-19th century onwards)
Many local record offices have collections of building plans from the mid-19 century providing evidence of how buildings might have looked when new. Find contact details for archives elsewhere using Find an archive.
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 contains collections and contact details of local archives around the UK and beyond. To locate these records, search our catalogue with keywords and refine your results to ‘Other archives’ using the filters.