Discovering the History of Your House

Part Treasure Hunt, Part Jigsaw Puzzle

Digging into the history of old houses is somewhat like archaeology, except you don’t get your hands dirty. My motto is: every vintage house has an interesting story to tell. Elaborate Victorian mansions, cozy bungalows of the 1920s, and 1950’s ranch homes – all have a unique history.
I’ve been writing about old houses since I moved into one years ago and became curious about its history. That was in the early 1990’s, when research involved leafing through records in county and city offices. The process has become easier, because there’s now more information available online.  

Researching the history of a house is part treasure hunt and part jigsaw puzzle. You probably won’t find answers to all your questions. But you probably will find some fascinating pieces of information that you hadn’t even thought of.

The history of a home is often linked to the families who have lived there. Genealogy records can therefore be helpful in learning about the families and looking for descendants of former owners. They are the best source of old photos of your home.

In my presentation, I’ll talk about the homes that I’ve written about for my Great House Detective column, as well as others. I’ve encountered homes with ghosts and solved a few mysteries along the way. I’ll also share resources that you can access to start learning about the history of your home here in Santa Barbara.

Betsy J. Green writes The Great House Detective column published in the Santa Barbara Independent. She is the author of Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood, Santa Monica Press, 2002. Her website is:

Register here for this session of Santa Barbara Historical Museum’s “History Happy Hour at Home” or visit and click on calendar.