Have you ever wondered about the history of a building but don’t know where to start. We are here to help. Below are some useful starting points to begin this research.

It is good practice to work from what you know, beginning with the present day and working systematically back through time.

You should gather together all the information you have on the property.

  • Look at the deeds [if they exist]. If you own the property they may be with your bank or your solicitor. Or ask the landlord/letting agency about the deeds.
  • Talk to your neighbours to find out what they know about previous owners and residents.
  • Was the building used for a particular purpose, perhaps as a school, a vicarage, a pub or a shop?
  • Are there any features on/in the building that may help date it?

Evidence which precisely dates a building is not always available but written sources and maps can establish a rough time frame and identify previous residents and owners. Below our some sources to start your search with:

  • Maps: our branches hold copies of Ordnance Survey maps, tithe records, and enclosure awards – these will get you back to the 19th century. Also check the catalogues in case there are other relevant surveys such as estate maps or town plans, some of which may be pre-19th century.
  • Census documents and the 1939 Register: available online in our branches and at Suffolk Libraries on Find My Past and Ancestry.  You can also access these from home for a fee.
  • Electoral registers.
  • Trade, post office and telephone directories such as Pigot’s, Kelly’s or White’s. Coverage generally for the 19th century onwards.
  • Parish histories and press articles in the local studies collection and online.
  • Listed buildings: Historic England maintains the National Heritage List for England, the official register of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England. Their website has brief details for listed buildings and sites. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/