Researching the history of your house can become a fascinating and rewarding hobby, but be warned that it can be time consuming, sometimes fruitless, and frustrating when trails go cold or lead to a dead end.
Where do I start?
It is always best to start with what you know. As a starting point, find out as much as you can about the house and the surrounding area.
Ask your neighbours if they knew any of the previous occupiers, or if they know of any changes in the property’s name. Contact your local history group, as they might be able to give you some information. Look at local history books, as you may find that research has already been done on your area, street or property. You will find local history books about Denbighshire at any of the libraries in the county.
Search the census records. Census records will help you get an idea of who lived in your house, and sometimes the previous uses of the property. You can search the census for free, either online or on microfilm, at our office. You can find out more about using census records on the National Archives website.
Look at the People’s Collection Wales online. You can use this website for free to view historic Ordnance Survey maps and digital images of many more archives from across Wales.
What sort of records will be most useful to me?
At Denbighshire archives you can access a wide range of historical records that can help you to trace the history of your house, including:
Building Control Plans
These plans began to appear in the second half of the nineteenth century. If the records survive for your area, the plans will tell you precisely when your house was built, as well as giving you a plan and architect’s drawing of it.
Title deeds of a house often give details of previous owners, and the purchase of the land. They may be held by your bank, building society or solicitor. Generally speaking, older deeds are not kept by these types of organisations, because under the Law of Property Act 1925, deeds only need to be retained for 30 years. Fortunately, many older deeds have been deposited in record offices, within estate and solicitors’ collections. These collections also contain sale particulars, which often include excellent descriptions of properties, along with plans and photographs.
You will need to search our catalogue to see if we hold any deeds or sales particulars relating to your property.
Enclosure maps and awards
During the first half of the nineteenth century, fields, meadows and woodlands were divided, or enclosed. As part of this process, written enclosure awards were produced, with accompanying maps showing the boundaries of the enclosed fields, as well as footpaths, drains and watercourses. The maps are usually restricted to the area being enclosed, so they will not show surrounding properties, or the rest of the parish.
Owners of landed estates often commissioned plans of their property. They do not usually include land not owned by them, but it is worth checking with a member of staff to see if there is a map for the estate or area you are researching, as they are often the earliest available maps. However, they vary greatly in detail and accuracy, and very few survive from before 1750.
Plans of public works
Plans of public work detail the construction of roads, canals and railways, and they often feature properties in the immediate vicinity of the construction work, showing ground plans, boundaries and access routes. They sometimes they include an accompanying reference book, which gives the number on the plan, a brief description and the name of the owner and occupier for each property.