Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Today, many people are interested in finding the history of old houses. They may have purchased an old house, have one in their family, or just want to know more about the famous historic houses in their town. The Connecticut State Library has many sources that can help in this search, including those listed below.
Materials designated as "Archives," "Manuscripts," or "SpecColl" are subject to the Rules and Procedures for Researchers Using Archival Records and Secured Collections Materials and must be used in the Archives/Secured Collections Research Area. For additional information, please see Use of Offsite and Secured Collections.
While State Library staff is unable to search these materials on behalf of patrons, we invite them to visit our facility to conduct research on their old house.
Introductory Materials |Archival, Manuscript, and Picture Collections | Atlases and Maps | City Directories | Connecticut History Online | Historic and Architectural Resource Surveys | Historic American Buildings Survey | National Register of Historic Places | White Pine Series | Additional Resources | Links to Related Collections
Architecture and Preservation in Connecticut: A Guide to Historic Homes, Churches and Architectural Styles. Monticello, IL: Vance Bibliographies, 1981 [CSL call number Z 5941 .A7 no. 403].
Connecticut: A Guide to its Roads, Lore, and People. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1938 [CSL call number HistRef F 100 .F45 1938].
Green, Betsy J. Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood. Santa Monica, CA: Santa Monica Press, 2002 [CSL call number HistRef E 159 .G686 2002].
Isham, Norman M. and Albert F. Brown. Early Connecticut Houses: An Historical and Architectural Study. Providence: The Preston and Rounds Company, 1900 [CSL call number NA 7235 .C817 1900].
Kelly, J. Frederick. Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1924 [CSL call number NA 7235 .C8 K42].
_______________. Early Connecticut Architecture: Measured Drawings With Full Size Details of Moulded Sections.... New York: W. Helburn, 1924 and 1931 [CSL call number NA 7235 .C8 K4].
Kelly, John. Connecticut's Old Houses: A Handbook and Guide. Stonington, CT : Published for the Antiquarian & Landmarks Society of Connecticut by Pequot Press, 1963 [CSL call number NA 7235 .C8 K39 1963].
Light, Sally. House Histories: A Guide to Tracing the Genealogy of Your Home. Spencertown, NY: Golden Hill Press, 1989 [CSL call number E 159 .L54 1989].
Rolleston, Sara Emerson. Heritage Houses: The American Tradition in Connecticut, 1660-1900. New York: Viking Press, 1979 [CSL call number F 95 .R64].
Trowbridge, Bertha Chadwick, ed. Old Houses of Connecticut. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1923 [CSL call number NA 7235 .C8 N3]. Published version of many of the studies included in the Colonial Dames of Connecticut Old House Series (below).
Webber, Joan. How Old is Your House?: A Guide to Research. Chester, CT: Pequot Press, 1978 [CSL call number NA 7205 .W4].
Record Group 24, Records of the State Historical Commission. Includes records pertaining to the Henry Whitfield House, Guilford, records of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, 1974-1978, and microfiche of the Statewide Historic Resource Inventory.
Record Group 33:28, WPA Federal Writers Project, Architectural Survey, Census of Old Buildings. A portion of the Works Progress Administration Writer's Project, done in the 1930s, focused on old houses. Arranged in folders alphabetically by town, there are generally one or perhaps two pages describing each old house, often with a photograph or a photocopy of a photograph. There is a patron use copy that can be accessed without an Archives/Secured Collections Pass (Probate Vault 728.C76w). The State Library has begun a project to make the Survey available online. RG 33 also includes copies of Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) photographs and measured drawings.
Record Group 143, Colonial Dames of Connecticut, Committee on Old Houses. Old Houses of Connecticut. In the 1930s, the Colonial Dames of Connecticut completed a statewide project that described old houses throughout the state, built in the 1600s to the early 1800s, which were still standing. Each house surveyed has its own book containing a description of the house, usually with a floor plan and sometimes with a photo or photos of the interior, and a photo or drawing of the exterior. The card index listing the houses surveyed is arranged by town and is located to the right of the Manuscripts Card Catalog in the History & Genealogy Reading Room. This series must be used in the Archives/Secured Collections Research Area and requires an Archives/Secured Collections Pass. However, the information from many of these studies was published in Bertha Chadwick Trowbridge's Old Houses of Connecticut (above).
Picture Group 320, Clark Photograph Collection. This group of nine boxes consists of photographs of old Connecticut houses. The original photographs were taken in the early 1900s. This collection is arranged in boxes, alphabetically by town. There is a public use copy that consists of photocopies of the photographs, and no Archives/Secured Collections Pass is required.
Picture Group 340, Snyder Collection of 18th and Early 19th Century Connecticut Houses, 1921-1922; 1929-1930. Contains 609 photographs of early Connecticut houses taken by H. Rossiter Snyder or a member of his studio. 502 photos, taken 1921-1922 are exterior views; 107 additional photographs taken 1929-1930 include exteriors, interiors, and architectural details. All photos have information on the back showing location, occupant, date of photo, and "remarks" (original owner, history, erection date, etc. as available).
Picture Group 800, Postcard Collection. Contains over 37,000 postcards from the late 19th to early 20th century; some are of houses and other historic structures. Every town in Connecticut is represented. To use this collection, you need to obtain an Archives/Secured Collections Pass and request the postcards for your town of interest.
Atlases and Maps
The Connecticut State Library has a vast collection of maps, atlases, and gazetteers of Connecticut, its counties, regions, and local political units, which may provide information about a homesite. These maps and atlases date from the 17th century to the present and include political, road/street, survey, thematic, and topographic maps. There is a geographically-arranged map card catalog as well as a map location list showing where each map is housed. The following two resources are heavily used by those conducting research on a homesite:
Beers Atlases. These county atlases, published by F. W. Beers & Co. in the late 1860s and early 1870s, include roads, post offices, businesses, hotels and taverns, mills, schools, railroads, and the names of residents of individual dwellings. They are available in the atlas case in the History and Genealogy Reading Room.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. During the years 1869-1970, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company contracted with cities throughout the U.S. to create maps for fire insurance purposes. The maps are very detailed, showing exact dimensions of buildings and smaller adjoining structures. For Connecticut, two series of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps have been microfilmed. The listings of maps in each series are found in the "Sanborn Maps " notebook in the History & Genealogy Reading Room; the microfilms are located in Cabinet 14.
City directories are most useful for houses built in the late 1800s or in the 1900s. They can give a general idea of when a house may have been built and who lived in it at the time. The limitations are that city directories only began to appear in the 1830s, and that smaller towns sometimes never had directories and were never included in the directory of another town. Cross reference directories, in which one section listed people alphabetically by name and another section listed them by street and street number, first appeared around 1920. The State Library holds many Connecticut city directories in book form and others on microfilm or microfiche. Please search our online catalog, CONSULS, to see if we have a city directory for your town. An easy approach is to do a "Keyword" search such as "Hartford Conn Directories".
Connecticut History Online
A collaborative project of the Connecticut Historical Society, the Connecticut State Library, the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut, Mystic Seaport, and the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Connecticut History Online contains about 14,000 images of photographs, drawings, and prints which may be searched or browsed in a variety of ways, including by keyword, subject, creator, title, and date. Online learning tools created especially for middle and high school students provide suggestions for interpreting and exploring the database.
Historic and Architectural Resource Surveys
Connecticut's Statewide Historic Resource Inventory (SHRI) has generated historical and architectural information, photographs, and maps for approximately 90,000 properties. New properties are added to the inventory yearly. In addition to the materials in Record Group 24, above, the State Library holds many published surveys, including:
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Canaan, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2000 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar cana].
Ransom, David F. Historic and Architectural Resource Survey, Town of Colebrook, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 1997 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar cole].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Middle Haddam, Connecticut, Town of East Hampton. Hartford: State Historic Preservation Office, Connecticut Commission on Arts, Tourism, Culture, History and Film, 2003 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar eham].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of the Town of Franklin, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2002 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar fra].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Griswold, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2000 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar gris].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Lisbon, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2000 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar lis].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Monroe, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2002 [CSL call number H65 hiar monr].
Youngken, Richard and Jennifer M. Lutke, for the Connecticut Historical Commission. Historic Resources Survey, North Stonington, Connecticut. Newport, RI: Newport Collaborative Architects, 1997 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar nston].
Historic and Architectural Survey of Redding, Connecticut. Mamaroneck, NY: Preservation Computer Services, 1998 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar redd].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Sharon, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2000 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar shar].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Sprague, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2002 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar spra].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of the Town of Union, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2002 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar uni].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Voluntown, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2000 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar vol].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Warren, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2000 [CSL call number H65 hiar warr].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Washington, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2000 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar wash].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Weston, Connecticut. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2001 [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 hiar west].
Historic and Architectural Resource Survey in the Town of Windham: Willimantic Community Development Areas. 3 vols. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2001 [CSL call number H65 hiar will].
Buildings Survey (HABS)
Administered since 1933 through cooperative agreements with the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, and the private sector, ongoing programs have created more than 350,000 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 35,000 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century. State Archives Record Group 33:28 includes copies of measured drawings and an index to them prepared in 1981 by Jessie Kenny, a volunteer worker from the Hartford Architecture Conservancy. The index is arranged by names of buildings and, in a separate alphabet, by town. In addition, the State Library's holdings include:
Historic America: Buildings, Structures, and Sites Recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey and the Historic American Engineering Record. Washington: Library of Congress, 1983 [CSL call number FedDoc LC 1.2:H 62/5. Another copy is in the general collection in NA 705 .H53 1983]. Includes some buildings different than those on the microfilm and fiche, below.
Historic American Buildings Survey. Catalog of the Measured Drawings and Photography of the Survey in the Library of Congress, January 1, 1938. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1938 [CSL call number FedDoc I 29.2:B 86/3/938].
Historic American Buildings Survey. Catalog of the Measured Drawings and Photography of the Survey in the Library of Congress, March 1, 1941. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1941 [CSL call number FedDoc I 29.2:B 86/3/941].
Historic American Buildings Survey. Connecticut. Cambridge, England: Chadwyck-Healey, 1980 [CSL call number HistRef NA 705 .H537 1980 Mfiche]. Contains images of the photographs.
Historic American Buildings Survey. Reel 8, Connecticut [microform]. Washington: Library of Congress Photoduplication Service, 1974 [CSL call number NA 705 .H537 1974 Mfilm]. Microfilm of measured drawings.
Massey, James C. et. al. Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record: An Annotated Bibliography. Washington: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1992 [CSL call number FedDoc I 29.74:B 47].
Register of Historic Places
Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a program that coordinates and supports public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant to American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The Register reflects properties approved by a review board and the National Parks Service. It does not include properties determined eligible whose owners objected to the nomination.
Connecticut National Register of Historic Places. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission [CSL call number ConnDoc H65 conna].
National Register of Historic Places. Connecticut. Teaneck, N.J: Chadwyck-Healey, 1984 [CSL call number HistRef NA705 .N38 1984 Mfiche].
National Register of Historic Places: Connecticut Listings [electronic resource] [Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission].
White Pine Series
The Monograph Series: Recording the Architecture of the American Colonies and the Early Republic, better known as the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, was published under the sponsorship of the White Pine Bureau from 1915-1920. The Bureau consisted of the White Pine Manufacturers' Association of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan and the Associated White Pine Manufacturers of Idaho. The purpose of the monographs was to suggest uses of white pine as a building material by focusing on existing early American houses that had been built with lumber. The series has many photographs of early American houses, along with discussions of specific architectural features of these homes. The White Pine Bureau also sponsored design competitions and published the winning blueprints in The Monograph Series. The titles of the monographs are listed separately.
Aerial Photographs. See our Research Guide to Aerial Photographs at the Connecticut State Library.
Deeds. See the land records microfilms in Cabinets 1-7 of the History and Genealogy Reading Room.
Obituary notices from Connecticut newspapers.
Probate Records. See the Probate Court Record Books and Probate Estate Papers on microfilm in the History and Genealogy Reading Room.
Vital Records (birth, marriage, and death indexes and records). See the Connecticut Genealogical Indexes and vital records microfilms in Cabinets 1-7.
Links to Related Collections
Connecticut Commission on Arts, Tourism, Culture, History and Film. The Historic Preservation and Museum Division of the Commission functions under federal law as Connecticut's State Historic Preservation Office. It administers a broad range of federal and state programs that identify, register, and protect the buildings, sites, structures, district, and objects that comprise Connecticut's cultural heritage.
Picture in introduction: RG 33:28, WPA Federal Writers Project, Architectural Survey, Census of Old Buildings, Box 33, Folder "Glastonbury #1", House 7 (Bidwell House).
Floor plan: Colonial Dames of America. Connecticut. Samuel Hatheway House, Suffield.
Map: Atlas of New York and Vicinity.... New York: F. W. Beers, A. D. Ellis & G. C. Soule, 1867, Plate 34, "Town of Trumbull, Fairfield Co. Conn."
Survey form: Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Canaan, Connecticut, IF#2, Judge William Burrall House.
Prepared by History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library. Revised: March 2005. © 2005