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Public History: Doing a House History: Step 5: Who Owned the House?

This guide provides detailed instructions for the house history assignment.

Helpful House History Resources Online

Indiana Department of Natural Resources:  National & State Registers - Application Process
The nomination form to be used in this assignment is the first form in the Application process or can be downloaded at this link.

National Register Bulletin:  Researching a Historic Property

Indiana Landmarks

Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD)
Search for information on properties registered in state and national registers of historic places.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Preservation Directory

Step 5: Identifying Previous Owners of the House

In finding the legal property description, you encountered information about the current owner of the house and the property on which it site. Now you will identify the names of the house's past owners at the Elkhart County Administration Office and the Elkhart County Archives and Records Center.

(1) Visit the Elkhart County Auditor's Office at 117 N 2nd St. (behind the old jail) in Goshen. Greet the clerk politely, explain that you are working on a house history, and ask for a copy of the "Transfer Record Card" of the property by address. Transfer record cards document the names of all owners and the dates of property transfer back to 1962.  If the house has been bought and sold frequently, there may be more than one card.  Bring change to pay for a photocopy of the card(s).

(2) Call Joanne at the Elkhart County Archives and Records Center (3022 W. Wilden Ave.) to make an appointment to search the property transfer books for ownership information prior to 1962: 574-535-6724. Appointments are limited to only 2 students per day, so call early and make sure to arrive on time for your appointment. Allow yourself at least two hours to conduct the transfer book research. 

(3) Joanne will help you search the microfilmed property transfer books back to 1845 (NB: the houses you are researching are not that old!).  You will start with the Goshen City Card Index and look up the last name of the last known property holder listed on the transfer card.  From there, you will work your way back. through the transfer books.  

  • Tip:  Spellings of names are not always consistent.  Be creative and careful when searching for last names.

(4) Be sure to accurately record all of the information about pervious owners that you find.  Neither you nor Joanne will not want to do this more than once!