Researching Your Historic Home
There are many resources available to help in researching the history of your home.
The first piece of the puzzle is to learn what style your home is. Distinguishing between Victorian or Craftsman or any other home style will help with accurately dating your home and making renovation and other material choices. Learn more using this guide or find a copy of Virginia Savage McAlester's A Field Guide to American Houses.
Next, take a look at county records. These are stored at the Snohomish County Courthouse and include all legal transactions involving your property, as far back as records have been kept. Since street addresses have shifted over time, you'll want to have more than that - preferably the legal description for your property. The Tax Assessor's Office will have this info if you don't have it already, as well as information on your home's material composition if you need that for renovation or restoration plans. They may also have old photographs taken for assessment purposes. A basic property summary can be accessed through the search tool here.
If you know the name of a buyer or seller of your property, you can look through the county's Public Records (post-1976 documents are available online). The records here are organized by names and dates of sale. You can work backwards from a modern owner all the way to your property's first owner. The names you find may link to deeds and mortgages, also held by county record offices, which can give a timeline of house construction.
If your home is in the Snohomish Historic District, you can find binders full of information at the Snohomish Library.
If your home is within the city limits, another place to search is the city records. For Snohomish, you can send a request online to see if there is any information registered for your address. Anything that has required a permit or application with the city may be in these records. It's a good idea to look for utility permits. The names on these may be that of the home's first owner, i.e. the first person to turn the water on!
Finally, take a look at your local library, in this case the Snohomish or Everett Public Library. They each have a unique collection of local history texts and newspapers that can provide information on your home and its residents. The Everett Library has Polk Directories (aka pre-phone phonebooks) from 1893 onwards. These may show your property address, the owner's name and even their occupation. Hint: cross-indexing by street address did not occur until the 1933 Polk Directory. If you're struggling to find names associated with your home, start here (by address) and work backward.
With a library card or paid subscription, you may also be able to use Ancestry.com. If you have a name, you can search for records on the individual, possibly discovering census records and family trees that connect your home to human history. You can also search by address. Census records usually include addresses, occupations and the names of family members.
And, before they forget, ask your neighbors! This sort of information is precious and invaluable; they may have stories and memories as-yet unrecorded. Snohomish is full of life-long residents eager to share their remembrances of history.
Once researched, you can submit your property for the county's Historic Register. It does not have the authority to regulate building alterations or preservation, but it honors and documents your home's history for generations to come.
If you are within the city of Snohomish, you may also apply for a historic home sign by contacting the Snohomish Historical Society. (They'll send you an application + you send them $75!)
LEARN MORE: Guide to House History 101 by the Everett Public Library
Local libraries have collections of newspapers and newspaper clippings, like these obituaries of early pioneers, that reference names and addresses.