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September
07-18-2011, 05:07 AM
I'm beginning to kick around a novel idea where my MC, who has bought a house that's been abandoned for 30 to 40 years, does some research into the person or family who lived there last, trying to figure out why they suddenly abandoned the house and where they went. I am wondering if there are some kind of records that she could access that might give some information about the people who lived there, and I'm pretty clueless about what kinds of public records might exist that would be helpful. Any ideas? I would appreciate it so much. Thanks! :)

DeleyanLee
07-18-2011, 05:12 AM
Property tax records would be a place to start. Elderly neighbors who've lived in the area are also a great source.

Depending on what area of the country/world you're writing in, it's not unusual for people who used to live in a house ages ago to stop by and mention it to the present owners--particularly among the baby boomer generation. (It's rather embarrassing to be riding with your folks and have them want to stop and ask to see the house/yard where I spent my childhood. And it's amazing how many people will let you do it too.)

Medievalist
07-18-2011, 05:25 AM
The house my parents bought when 1973 had been used for a couple of weeks in the late 1960s as a summer house, but other than that, had been uninhabited since some time in the 1920s or 30s.

The house was filled with Victorian furniture, and old books that had belonged to the multi-generational family that had built the house in the 1700s, including the family Bible.

The local cemetery had their grave stones, the town records had various references to them, there were places named after them, etc.

PorterStarrByrd
07-18-2011, 05:32 AM
Title searches, as done during any sane property purchase will tell you who OWNED the property. Sometimes there are old telephone books or city directories in the library in the closest libraries. Once you have a name, old newspapers and google searches are good resources. For people who lived in the house that recently you may find facebook accts belonging to them, their children, other relatives.
Neighbors, especially in older neighborhoods, might, as mentioned in an earlier post, be fruitful.

Karen Junker
07-18-2011, 06:04 AM
One time (in 1976) I lived in an old house that had been vacant since the days of prohibition -- it was a moonshiner's shack, a mile down a trail that couldn't be traversed by car. One day, three people in their eighties came walking through the woods--the one woman and man had been married and lived in the house in the 1920s. We spent the afternoon playing jug band music and singing bluegrass songs.

thanks for reminding me of that wonderful time!

Diana_Rajchel
07-18-2011, 07:08 AM
My family moved into their home in the 1970s; well into the 1990s we would find things tucked in vents and cubby holes from the original residents: letters from WWII, one of the original troll dolls (with its hair cut off) before their weird latter-day resurgence; marbles.

September
07-18-2011, 02:46 PM
This is super helpful!! Thank you everyone! :)

dirtsider
07-18-2011, 04:33 PM
You might also want to go to the local historical society if the house is relatively old. If nothing else, you'd get an idea of some history of the area, even if it's a new house. Also try the library to see if they have any old newspapers or ideas of where to look. Perhaps even going to the local newspaper company itself to see if they have anything they've picked up but hadn't printed.

debirlfan
07-18-2011, 09:02 PM
There's usually stuff floating around in the attic of an old house - especially if it's an unfinished attic. Also, back in the "old" days (maybe too old for your plot), people would often use a back corner of their lot as something of a dump. I used to live in a 200 yr old house and we found all sorts of stuff in the attic (old newspapers, an old broken gun, etc) and dug up tons of old bottles, broken dishes and marbles every time we worked in the yard.

jaksen
07-19-2011, 04:50 AM
The house my parents bought when 1973 had been used for a couple of weeks in the late 1960s as a summer house, but other than that, had been uninhabited since some time in the 1920s or 30s.

The house was filled with Victorian furniture, and old books that had belonged to the multi-generational family that had built the house in the 1700s, including the family Bible.

The local cemetery had their grave stones, the town records had various references to them, there were places named after them, etc.

If you already haven't done so, you so need to write a story or novel about this.