Researching Your Home's History
By Carol Ann Schweikert
Carol Ann offers these tips to local residents who may be interested in displaying a Century Plaque on their home.
The Century Plaque program is offered by the Noblesville Preservation Alliance and requires some research.
(Click here to get a copy of the Century Plaque application.)
The best place to start is the Indiana Room at the Noblesville library.
They have Sanborn Fire Insurance maps on microfilm and city directories. I use the maps to gauge a timeframe for when a building was constructed, if the Sanborn maps cover that area. As Noblesville grew, the area covered by the maps also grew, so sometimes a house was built, but the map didn't cover that area yet. The maps also give you the house numbers since those changed several times during Noblesville's history. I also use the maps to see smaller changes to a building's footprint (i.e. addition or enclosed porch).
You might also utilize the obituaries once you know who built the house (after research at the courthouse), so if the house was built by a gentleman and his wife, you get both their names for the plaque.
The city directories provide residents in your house through the years. The directories are not sequential, many are missing, but you can get a reasonably complete list back to around 1916. The 1916 and maybe the 1920 were before an address change, so you'll have to use the Sanborn maps to see what the house number was in that time period.
If your house was owner-occupied for most if not all of it's life, you can use the names from the city directories to trace the property in the tax records at the courthouse. Using historic owners shortens the time it takes to research. The courthouse as public terminals on the 2nd floor and you will want to look for the "Transfer Records". If you are not familiar with them, the books are not always easy to find on the system. There are directions in the room, but you may also have to ask for additional assistance from the courthouse staff. You will want to know your deed description (i.e. Original Plat, Block 2, lot 3) in case the owner had multiple properties and to make sure you follow the right lot through the title transfers.
The Transfer Records provide Land Values and Improvement Values for the lots. In following the property through these books, you will see when improvements were added to a lot. Significant fluctuations in the Improvement values can suggest changes to the building. Sometimes you will get an exact year, but most of the time you get a 4-year range. You can sometimes narrow in comparing to Sanborns or directories.
Typically, I review the Century Plaque applications and submit the orders to the company we use. It can take some time to go through the process and receive the plaque.