Guide to Property history research

Tracing the history of a house or property and finding out about the people who lived there can be fascinating. It can take some time because you often need to look at lots of books and documents, but we're here to help.

Getting started

It is best to start with known facts about your house and work backwards in time step by step. You should start with books first and find out what you can before you start looking at documents in the archives. The best source of information about a property is its deeds. You can view the East Riding Register of Deeds at the archives.

Tip: It is often not possible to date a property exactly or to obtain written information about its original structure. Precise addresses are also a relatively modern development and even house names can change over the years. However, architectural features can be helpful in approximately dating a property or indicating any other previous uses.

What to research

An important archive for finding out about the history of a house or property is the East Riding Register of Deeds. This was started in 1708 and kept copies (memorials) of deeds for the East Riding and Hull up to April 1974.

To search in the register of deeds it is necessary to know the approximate date of the conveyance and the name of the seller or buyer. The records relate to land ownership so details of tenants are not recorded unless the term was for more than 21 years. The Deeds Register also relates to freehold land, information about copyhold land will be given in manorial records. A brief guide to understanding types of deeds is available in Title Deeds by A. A. Dibben.

Properties which are used for a particular purpose, or have previously been so, may be documented in other types of records. Information relating to public houses may be found in alehouse recognizances for c.1750s-1820s and registers of licences to sell intoxicating liquor c.1872-1970s. Records relating to various schools are held at East Riding Archives as well as a separate collection of school grant plans covering the 1840s-1870s.

Information about Anglican churches and parsonage houses can be found in the various parish collections which have been deposited at the archives. Additional information and faculties relating to building work may be available at the Borthwick Institute at York. Various non-conformist chapels' records are also held at East Riding Archives and details of these are included in the Online Catalogue.

  • Look for records that are likely to hold addresses, such as:

  • Register of deeds
  • Maps
  • Census
  • Trade directories
  • Manorial and estate records
  • Electoral registers
  • Parish records and news

Visit the archives

Microform copies of some popular sources, such as census returns, are available onsite in the Research Room reading area. Many books are available on the open shelves, while original records, including the Register of Deeds, are available in the research room viewing area. Find out about planning a visit and rules for visitors on the using the archives page.

Microform readers and space to look at original documents can be booked in advance of a visit.

There are also local studies libraries in Bridlington Library and Goole Library that have books and local collections that might help you with the history of a house or property in those places.

Visit the Archives

Image: Beverley Grammar School [staff] 1910 (archive ref PO-1-14-181)
Image: Construction of South Dalton Church 1860 (archive ref PE54-11-1)

Read all about it!

We have a large reference collection of local books and town and village histories available to view in the Research Room.

Bridlington and Goole Local Studies also have reference books on their respective areas, and there are many other books available about tracing house history, providing information about the types of records to look in, which you can borrow from East Riding Libraries. Use your free membership to reserve those books online.

Visit East Riding Libraries

Online study

Other archives and online resources hold information on significant properties in the East Riding or can help with general research and support.

Tip: Need a computer or Wi-Fi to get online? All East Riding branch libraries have free-to-use computers and Wi-Fi. Find your nearest library.

Recommended reading list

Buildings of historical or architectural interest may be included in:

  • The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (1995) by N. Pevsner and D. Neave
  • The East Riding volumes of the Victoria County History of York
  • N. W. Alcock, Documenting the History of Houses, British Records Association, 2003
  • Nick Barratt, Tracing the History of Your House, Public Record Office, 2001 (Borrow it from East Riding Libraries)
  • Pamela Cunningham, How Old is Your House, Marston House, 1999
  • Arthur Elton, Brett Harrison and Keith Wark, Researching the Country House, Batsford, 1992
  • J. H. Harvey, Sources for the History of Houses, British Records Association, 1974
  • David Iredale and John Barrett, Discovering Your Old House, Shire Publications, 2001
  • N. W. Alcock, Old Title Deeds, Phillimore, 1986
  • A. Dibben, Title Deeds, Historical Association, 1997
  • Mary Ellis, Using Manorial Records, Public Record Office, 1997
  • P. D. A. Harvey, Manorial Records, British Records Association, 1984
  • P. Hindle, Maps for Local History, Batsford, 1988
  • S. Lumas, Making Sense of the Census, Public Record Office, 1992
  • Denis Stuart, Latin for Local and Family Historians, Phillimore, 1995
  • Denis Stuart, Manorial Records, Phillimore, 1992

Information about interpreting architecture is given in books such as:

  • R. W. Brunskill, An Illustrated Handbook of Vernacular Architecture, 1971
  • Bill Breckon and Jeffrey Parker, Tracing the History of Houses, 2000