Don’t miss your chance to ask questions on how to research your home–live tomorrow on “Hoosier History Live”at 11:30 am on WICR 88.7 FM, hosted by Nelson Price, author of Indianapolis’ favorite Coffee Table book, Indianapolis Then and Now–a must for all the lovers of Historic Indianapolis in your life! I never intended to be a Home History Hunter, I just wanted a historic home. And as a first time home buyer, I was completely ignorant. For those of you who feel connections deeply, you’ll understand those who feel their home becomes an extension of self somehow. I feel a deep sense of connection with my home. I have laughed uproariously, wept at length, cooked some of the best meals of my life, danced on my dining table, filled it with the love and camaraderie of many friends and family, partied to the point of cursing this multi-story home and other things I either can’t or shouldn’t recall at present.Yet, I’ve only resided here for 7 of its 113 years. We needed to get better acquainted; I had to know more. Luckily, I live in one of Indianapolis’ Historic Districts with a Conservation Plan adopted by the Metropolitan Development Commission and the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC). In these fortunate and special districts, many of us are provided a head-start on home research, since the Conservation Plan provides a brief description of each structure cataloging the housing stock at the time the plan was adopted. In most property descriptions, names of early owners or occupants are included in the synopsis, but this is bare minimum information–and not always accurate. After consuming the small sample, many people are hungry for more. However, most people just try a couple phone calls or visits to a library or Indiana Historical Society, expecting a full dossier awaiting retrieval on a dusty back shelf. Not so.I made the requisite pilgrimage to the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Library and the Marion County library repeatedly, for hours at a time, sifting through every possible resource, hunting for clues about my home and its past. This is where genealogy research comes in handy–helping to create family trees of former residents in order to track down living relatives. (Extra challenging when the name is something like “Jones” as was the case for me.)
Tracked this photo down in the Bass Collection at the Indiana Historical Society for a nearby neighbor
Because of the many overlapping connections amongst neighbors, I started researching the homes around me–and then in the next block, and the next. I eventually became the neighborhood historian for Herron-Morton Place and love learning and sharing neighborhood trivia treasures.
Tomorrow, alongside a more accomplished historian than I (Joan Hostetler, of Heritage Photo) we will join Nelson Price on “Hoosier History Live” to discuss how to go about your own home history hunting. This airs live at 11:30 am on WICR 88.7 FM. As a teaser, I will tell you the 4 best tips that have proven most useful in my research:
1. City Directories – Starting in 1914, the city directory listed names by address at the back of the phone book.
2. Fire maps – Sanborn & Baist fire maps are really useful in examining whether or not a home’s footprint changed. It’s most useful for those of us with the oldest homes. There are Indianapolis maps available for 1887, 1898 and 1915.
3. House numbers changed! Most home (and many business) numbers changed circa 1898 and again in 1911 to what represent, for the most part, the current numbers. In earlier days, there were only a span of 50 numbers to a block. If you find a picture with an address that is before 1911, chances are high that the number later changed. Those closest to the 0 mark don’t appear to have changed as frequently, unless the business changed.
4. The aforementioned “0 mark” starts from Meridian, scaling up to the east and west of Meridian for all east-west running streets. Odd numbers are found on the south side of the street, and even numbers on the north side of the street. The ‘0 mark’ for north-south running streets is Washington Street, a.k.a. “The National Road.” Even numbers are on the west side of the street, and odds on the east.
Of course there are all kinds of tricks of the trade and lesser known resources you learn as you go. One thing to keep in mind is that it is incredibly tedious and time consuming. If you don’t have patience for tedium, you may be better off hiring someone. There are lots of fabulous and interesting historians, history enthusiasts and researchers in Indianapolis.
If you need help with research, feel free to contact us from the drop-menu above, under the “About Us” tab.