In the Beginning
When I’ve been able to find a little down time lately, I’ve started looking into the history of our house. Leigh has already mentioned the story behind our house being the “statue house,” but my recent efforts have gone back much further in history.
Through my limited research (and there is a lot more digging that needs to be done), I have learned that our “house” was built in 1890 by a recent Swedish immigrant named John Blomberg. The reason that I put “house” in quotations is because the house that he built was what is now our kitchen and bathroom (a one-story, 14’x20′, possibly one-room house). The rest of the house (what we consider the main living area) must have been added on at some point later on. John built the house right around the time he married his wife Annie and while working for the Chicago, Burlington, and Northern Railroad. By 1900, the Blomberg family had left Saint Paul to farm in southern Washington County.
I was able to learn the above information by looking at a couple of historical sources. These same sources can be used by anyone who wants to learn the history of their house.
- The best starting point for a budding house-historian is to look at your property records. If your property is abstract property—meaning it is unregistered land that is recorded through an abstract of title—you can look at the abstract of title and you have a table of contents of every transaction that has ever involved your property from the time it was originally sold by the federal government to your purchase. If your property is registered, or Torrens, property like ours, you have to look at the series of certificates of title that were issued every time the property was sold. This is a bit more legwork because it requires a trip to the county property records office. I have not had a chance to do that yet, so much is yet to be learned in this vein.
- Some great places to look after the property records (and the places where I got all of the above information) is to look at old census records and city directories. These are great resources because they give much more information about a person’s life than would be contained in a legal document like a certificate of title. Census records list out all the people living in the house, their ages, their occupations, etc. City directories (at least for Saint Paul) list both residence but also the occupation and company that residents worked for. The reason that I list these as a second place to look is because you can only look this information up through people’s names (which can be found in property records).
As I get further in my research I will post more fun information about the house as well as some great places to find information about your own house.