Discovering the history of a house in Massachusetts is like unfolding a story. Each page has tales of the past. Whether it’s a centuries-old historical home or a recent construction, each has a unique narrative waiting to be discovered.

This knowledge satisfies curiosity and provides valuable insights for homeowners, potential buyers, and history buffs.

From understanding architectural changes to uncovering fascinating tales of previous owners, the journey to learning about a house’s history can be rewarding.

I will guide you through various methods to uncover the rich history of any home in Massachusetts.

These include using the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Inventory System for historical homes, consulting real estate agents, employing digital tools like Google and, and exploring local government resources such as town halls, county assessor’s offices, registries of deeds, and more.

Whether you’re a seasoned researcher or a curious novice, my guide will equip you with the tools to explore your home’s history.

From years of experience as a Massachusetts Realtor, finding information about a house is commonplace. It is all part of proper due diligence when making a house purchase. For others it’s more of any area of interest. Just like searching a family heritage can be interesting, so can our homes.

Let’s examine all the methods carefully. You can choose one or more of them to learn everything you need.

How to Research A Home's History

How to Research A Home’s History in Massachusetts.

1. For Historical Homes, Use the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Inventory System

The Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) is a treasure trove for anyone looking into the history of historic homes in the state.

MACRIS is a digital archive maintained by the Massachusetts Historical Commission that catalogs the Commonwealth’s vast cultural resources, including historic buildings, areas, and objects.

Here’s how you can utilize MACRIS to uncover a Massachusetts home’s storied past.

Step 1: Access the System: Begin your search by visiting the MACRIS website. The platform offers a straightforward interface for researchers and enthusiasts alike.

Step 2: Search for the Property: You can search for a property using various criteria, including address, town, or property name. If you’re investigating a particular historical property, entering its address will likely give you the most direct results.

Step 3: Review the Inventory: Once you’ve located the property, MACRIS provides detailed inventory forms. These documents contain architectural details, historical significance, and even biographical notes on past occupants.

Step 4: Dive Deeper: For properties of notable historical importance, you might find additional documents such as photographs, architectural drawings, and references to other archival collections. These resources can help you understand the property’s architectural past and its role within the broader historical context of the area.

Step 5: Utilize the Data: Whether preparing for restoration, applying for historic designation, or simply quenching your thirst for knowledge, the data from MACRIS can be handy.

Exploring MACRIS is like being a detective. Each document and photograph provides clues to the rich history that has shaped Massachusetts’ architectural landscape. I recommend it to anyone wanting past information on the state’s historic homes.

2. Speak to a Real Estate Agent

The right local real estate agent can provide a world of information. The best Realtors in Massachusetts know how to find the information you need. They can help you find a house’s history more quickly than you can by yourself.

Here’s what I recommend to leverage their expertise effectively:

Find an Experienced Agent: Look for agents with experience in historical properties or those familiar with the area’s real estate history. These agents are more likely to have insights or access to resources specific to historic homes.

Ask the Right Questions: I would prepare questions to help find the house’s past. I would inquire about the home’s age, architectural styles, previous renovations, and any notable past occupants or events associated with the property.

Request Documentation: Real estate agents can access various documents, such as previous sales listings, old property appraisals, and disclosures that may contain historical details about the house.

Explore the Property’s Sales History: Agents can provide a detailed sales history for a property. I do this all the time for my potential clients. This information can reveal changes in ownership over the years, offering clues to the property’s story. You can also usually find any significant alterations made by previous owners.

Utilize Their Network: Experienced agents might have contacts who can help uncover a home’s past.

Example of How Agents Can Help

Conrad Steller of Steller Real Estate offered tips on how he helps his clients.

“Discovering the history of a property feels like peeling back layers of history, each detail telling a story of who lived there before. My preferred approach to looking into a property’s past is to combine technology with investigation. I always start by searching through records and historical databases for an initial idea of what the home has been through.

Not always, but I have searched tax archives or public records for old newspapers, property tax documents, and original building blueprints that bring up the property’s timeline. My conversations with neighbors and residents are even more valuable, mainly if it’s a condo building with historical value. Their recollections and stories help turn facts into a narrative, tracing the home’s journey.

But as with any of this, stories change, so it’s best to consult the tax records, title company resources, and public records for the most accurate information. “

3. Use Google to Help

Using Google to find a house’s history is a straightforward starting point for your research. You can find tons of information from the comfort of your home.

Here’s how I recommend conducting an effective search:

Start with Basic Searches: Enter the house’s full address into Google. This simple step can reveal listings, old advertisements, and sometimes even previous listings with historical details.

Use Advanced Search Techniques: Use Google’s advanced search options to refine your results. Use quotations for exact matches, such as the house’s address and the minus sign, to exclude irrelevant terms.

Explore News Archives: Google News Archive offers a repository of historical newspapers that can provide context about the property or its owners over the years. You can search for the address, neighborhood, or notable residents.

Check Image Searches: Google Images can be a goldmine for photographs of the house from different eras. These images can offer clues about architectural changes and the property’s surroundings.

Utilize Google Books: Google Books scans and archives many publications, including local histories, architectural guides, and biographies that might mention the house or area.

Dive into Local History Blogs and Forums: Local history enthusiasts often share their findings online. Use Google to discover blogs, forums, and community websites dedicated to the history of your area or architectural style.

Remember, while Google is a powerful tool, verifying the information you find is crucial. Cross-reference facts with official records or consult experts to ensure accuracy.

4. Go to the Local Town Hall

Visit The Town Hall For Property Information

Visit The Town Hall For Property Information.

When I want more information about a property in Massachusetts, I often head to the town hall. It can help find out facts about the history of a property. It is common for a seller’s agent to visit often.

Town halls contain public records, many unavailable online, and can provide detailed insights into the property’s past.

Here’s what I recommend to make the most of your visit:

Identify the Relevant Department: Most town halls have specific departments for land records, building permits, and historical archives. Contact the town hall to determine which department holds the records you want.

Request Property File: Once you’ve reached the correct department, ask for the property file or field card for your house. These files often contain a history of building permits, renovations, and sometimes even original blueprints or builder’s information. One of the essential jobs of a buyer’s agent is doing permit history research. Many homeowners skip out on building permits.

Explore Tax Records: Property tax records can reveal ownership changes, property value adjustments, and improvements made over the years. They can also offer a chronological overview of the property’s changes.

Investigate Meeting Minutes: Town hall meeting minutes can include discussions and decisions affecting local properties, such as historical designations, community developments, and zoning changes that affect your house.

Be Prepared for Research: Document your findings with a notebook, camera, or smartphone. Some records may be available for photocopying, while others need to be transcribed or photographed directly.

Ask for Guidance: Don’t hesitate to ask town hall staff for assistance. They can often direct you to other resources or suggest additional records that may enrich your research.

5. Visit the County Assessor’s Office

The County Assessor’s Office is valuable in property research. It holds crucial information on land value, ownership history, and structural details.

Here’s how I recommend you effectively use this resource:

Determine the Property’s Parcel Number: Before visiting, find the parcel number through the county assessor’s website. This number is critical to accessing specific records.

Request Property Assessment Records: These records provide details on the property’s valuation over time, which can reflect changes in size, use, or improvements that might not be documented elsewhere.

Examine Ownership History: The assessor’s office can provide a detailed list of previous owners. Ownership transitions can lead to more in-depth research, such as estate sales or probate records that might mention the property.

Look for Structural Information: Ask if there are records of the property’s physical characteristics. These may include building materials, construction dates, and alterations. They can offer insight into the home’s evolution.

Utilize the Office’s Maps: Many assessor’s offices maintain detailed maps showing historical property lines, neighborhood developments, and even historical uses of the land. These maps can provide context for your house’s story.

Ask About Digital Resources: Some information may be accessible online through the assessor’s digital archives or databases. This offers a convenient way to continue your research at home.

6. Visit the Local Registry of Deeds

The local Massachusetts Registry of Deeds is invaluable for anyone researching a house’s history. This office holds the official records of property transactions, including deeds, mortgages, and easements. You can also find out who owns a Massachusetts property.

The information can reveal much about the property’s past owners and changes over time.

Here are the steps to navigate the registry effectively:

Know the Property’s Legal Description: Before visiting, gather as much information as possible about the property, especially its legal description or address. This will streamline your search.

Request Historical Deeds: Work backward with the most recent deed. These documents list property transactions, including the names of buyers and sellers, sale prices, and dates of transactions. You can use the information to piece together to form a timeline of ownership.

Examine Property Easements: Property easements can provide insights into the land’s historical use, indicating shared driveways, right-of-ways, or utility access that might have influenced property boundaries and usage.

Investigate Mortgages and Liens: Mortgages and liens can offer clues about the property’s financial history, including times of economic hardship or prosperity for the owners that might have impacted the property’s development. You can also learn if Massachusetts Homestead Protection has been recorded.

Use Online Resources: Many deed registries have digitized their records, allowing for preliminary research from home. Check the registry’s website for online databases.

Be Methodical: Document your findings carefully, noting dates, names, and any changes in the property description. This meticulous approach will help you construct an accurate historical narrative.

7. Utilize Historical Maps

Historical maps are invaluable tools for uncovering the past of a house, offering visual insights into its evolution over time. These maps can show changes in property lines, surrounding infrastructure, and even the existence of now-gone buildings.

Here’s how I use historical maps to research:

Identify Map Archives: Locate archives with historical maps of your area. Libraries, historical societies, and online databases are good places to start. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) also offers historical topographic maps.

Search by Era: Look at maps from various eras to see how the property and its surroundings have changed. Pay attention to roads, rivers, and railroads, as these features can significantly impact property development.

Compare Maps from Different Periods: Compare maps from different periods to trace the development of the property and its neighborhood. Note any significant changes in land use, building footprints, and property boundaries.

Look for Specialized Maps: In addition to general topographic and street maps, look for insurance maps, such as those created by the Sanborn Map Company. These maps provide detailed information on building materials, layouts, and uses.

Analyze the Surroundings: Understanding the area’s historical context can give clues about the property. Changes in the neighborhood, such as the development of commercial regions or transportation routes, can influence a property’s use and value.

Document Your Findings: Take notes or digital copies of the maps you examine. Marking the location of your property across different maps can help visualize its historical context and evolution.

Using historical maps in your research provides a unique perspective on a home’s history. This method allows you to visually trace its development and understand its place within the area’s broader history.

8. Explore Federal and State Land Records

Federal and state land records are foundational for understanding the history of property ownership and land use in the United States. These records can provide detailed insights into the initial acquisition of land from the government and subsequent transactions.

Here’s how to navigate these resources:

Identify Relevant Records: Determine whether the property was initially transferred by the federal government, which is common in states outside the original thirteen colonies. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holds records of these transactions.

Access the BLM General Land Office (GLO) Records: The BLM GLO website provides digital access to federal land conveyance records, including images of original land patents, surveys, and maps showing land transfer from the government to individuals.

Explore State Land Records: State archives or land office records are the go-to sources for properties in states that were part of the original colonies. These records can include grants, deeds, and maps.

Look for Plat Maps: Plat maps created during land surveys show how large tracts of land were divided into smaller parcels. These maps can offer insights into the property’s boundaries and the surrounding area during the survey.

Search Homestead and Land Grant Records: Records of homesteads and land grants can provide personal details about the original owners, including their names, where they came from, and sometimes why they received the land.

Consult Local Experts: If navigating federal and state land records becomes complex, consider consulting with a local historian or a professional genealogist specializing in land records. They can offer guidance and help interpret the documents.

9. Do a Title Search

Title Search on a Massachusetts Property

Doing a Title Search on a Massachusetts Property is Vital.

When buying a home, a title search is a basic but necessary way to learn about a property.

Title searches thoroughly examine public records to determine and confirm a property’s legal ownership and uncover any house liens, encumbrances, or claims on the property. This process is crucial for anyone interested in a house’s history, as it provides a detailed ownership trail and legal background.

Here’s how to conduct a title search:

Step 1: Visit the Local Registry of Deeds: Start by visiting the local Massachusetts Registry of Deeds where the property is located. All deeds, mortgages, and other property-related documents are filed here.

Step 2: Trace the Title Backward: Begin with the current owner’s deed and work backward through the records. This will help you construct a chronological ownership history of the property.

Step 3: Note Changes in Ownership: Pay attention to any changes in ownership, including sales, inheritances, and transfers. Each transaction provides a piece of the property’s historical puzzle.

Step 4: Look for Liens and Encumbrances: Identifying liens, mortgages, and other encumbrances can reveal important aspects of the property’s history. For example, financial difficulties or legal disputes involving past owners can be seen.

Step 5: Obtain Copies of Important Documents: Obtain copies of critical documents, such as deeds and court records, for a thorough investigation. These documents can contain valuable information not available elsewhere.

Step 6: Consider Hiring a Professional: While I have provided the steps, I recommend having a professional do it! If the process seems daunting or the history is particularly complex, consider hiring a title search company or real estate attorney. They have the expertise and access to databases to streamline the process.

Conducting a title search is a meticulous but necessary process. It confirms the legal ownership of a property and uncovers a rich history of previous owners’ transactions and the house’s legacy.

10. Use Geographic Information Systems Data

This is one of my favorite research methods. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data offers a modern approach to understanding a house’s history and physical context.

GIS comprehensively analyzes land use, environmental changes, and urban development over time by overlaying various data types on maps.

Here’s how to utilize GIS data in your historical research:

Access Public GIS Portals: Many local and state governments provide public access to GIS portals. These platforms aggregate a wide range of data, including historical maps, property boundaries, zoning information, and environmental features.

Explore Historical Layers: Use the historical layers or overlays available in the GIS to examine the changes in the property and its surroundings. These can show shifts in land use, development patterns, and even historical events that impacted the area.

Compare Periods: Some GIS platforms allow users to compare maps from different periods. This comparison can highlight how the property has evolved in the broader community context.

Analyze Property Details: GIS data can include detailed information on property lines, structures, and the natural landscape. This level of detail is invaluable for understanding the physical characteristics of the house and its lot over time.

Utilize Environmental Data: Environmental data layers can provide insights into natural features that may have influenced the property’s development, such as proximity to water bodies, topographical changes, or historical land use.

Document Findings: Take screenshots or notes of your findings, especially when you discover significant information about the property’s history or context. This information can be a valuable addition to your overall research.

11. Use to Find Death History is a specialized online service that reports whether any deaths have occurred at a specific address. This information can be particularly relevant for those interested in the entire history of a house or for potential buyers concerned about a property’s past.

Disclosing stigmatized property is not required in Massachusetts. Disclosure of death and murder is also not required.

Here’s how to use effectively:

Step 1: Visit the Website: Start by going to The site offers a straightforward interface where you can enter the address of the property you’re researching.

Step 2: Purchase a Report: To access the information, you must purchase a report. The cost varies, but it provides a detailed account of any known deaths at the address and other potentially relevant information.

Step 3: Review the Report: Once you receive your report, review it for details about any deaths on the property. The report can include the names of deceased individuals, the date of death, and sometimes the cause of death.

Step 4: Consider the Context: If the house is historic, death in a home is not uncommon. When evaluating this information, consider the context and period, mainly whether the death was from natural causes or reflects the property’s age.

Step 5: Use the Information Wisely: Information about deaths in a property can be sensitive. Use discretion and respect privacy if sharing this information, especially with potential buyers or in a public forum.

Step 6: Cross-Reference with Other Sources: Use for a broader research strategy. Then, cross-reference findings with other historical records or sources to build a comprehensive property history. provides a unique service that can unveil a different aspect of a house’s history. While the focus is narrow, the information can add depth to your understanding of a property’s past, contributing to a fuller picture of its historical narrative.


This comprehensive exploration through various methods concludes our guide on how to find the history of a house in Massachusetts.

Each approach, from public records and digital tools to specialized services, offers a piece of the puzzle in uncovering a property’s past.

Whether you’re motivated by curiosity, historical interest, or practical concerns, combining these methods can provide a rich and nuanced understanding of a house’s history.