Whenever you handle original or old documents either at home or in the archives be sure to handle them carefully. Always try to keep them in a protective cover in a strong binder or box. It is always a good idea to carefully photocopy old and original documents and then offer them to the local record office, library or local history group.
We always try to find old photographs and pictures of the house we are researching and its neighbourhood. If possible try to take photographs from the same position as the original to provide you with an idea of how the area has changed.
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Be careful when contacting previous owners or their relatives. There are a number of reasons why they may not wish to share in your enthusiasm for researching them or their previous house. You must always respect their wishes if they do not wish to provide information or speak to you.
If you are looking for a house where your ancestors lived it may be that some detective work may be necessary to get in touch with the current occupiers. However it is possible to obtain their name from on line phone directories and electoral roles sites or by just talking to people in the neighbourhood.
A phone book could provide the owner's phone number. A call or a letter setting out why you would like to know more about their home is usually enough to set up an arrangement to meet up. We would recommend that if possible you call in person rather than write. Often homeowners are more than happy to tell you about their house after all they have chosen to live there, but respect their privacy if not.
Make sure you tell them why you want the information and what you intend to do with the results of your research .Promise (and keep to it) to send them details of your findings and share anything about the house.
If you are going to publish in book form or on the web tell them you will let them have a link to it and perhaps ask them if they would like to be included.
Our interview checklist can be downloaded by clicking on this link
For more about how to collect oral history look at the web for Oral History Society.
Here are some questions to ask
What do you know about the history of this house?
When did you move in and Can you remember who lived there before you?
If so do you know how to contact them?
Have you ever done any research into the history of this house?
Do you have any title deeds or documents relating to this house that I can look at?
If not do you know where these might be kept?
In carrying out any improvements or renovation, have you ever come across any old pieces of interesting information?
Do you have any old photographs of the house?
Are there any neighbours nearby who have lived in their house a long time or any homes where a family has lived for generations?
Or neighbours you know have been interested in the history of their house or the area generally?
Do you have an aerial photograph I might be able to copy?
May I take some photos now?
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