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House History: A Guide to Uncovering the Stories of Local Buildings and Properties

Local Histories / Biographies

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. The people of Hardy - a town whose downtown main street is famous statewide as "Old Hardy" - didn't go the usual wall mural route when they wanted to tout their local history. 2020. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Section has over 100,000 local histories and over 50,000 genealogies.

Browse the Library of Congress Online Catalog for the town, county, or family associated with your house or property to provide unique historical context about the community and the people who have called your house "home." (Tips for searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog.)

  • Discover what history your house has witnessed.
  • Trace the evolution of the building's modernization. When did the town install bricked roads or public water?
  • Find out if your neighborhood survived any major disasters like tornados, earthquakes, floods, or fires.

The basic principles of genealogical research will apply as you rebuild the lives and families of past residents. What do you have in common? What their lives were like?

  • Did a soldier march out of your front door and off to war?
  • How old are neighborhood schools, churches, or businesses? Did you attend the same ones?
  • Has your family lived in this same city or county for generations? Are you related?


Library of Congress Research Guides

For local history and genealogy research, it is critical to visit or contact repositories at the city, county, and state level. Explore the individual state guides created by Library of Congress subject specialists to determine what records exist for your community and where you can find them.

You can also study the complete list of Local History & Genealogy research guides for even more ideas.

State Resources:


Library of Congress Vertical Files

The Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Reference Section maintains vertical files for families and communities that have contributed or generated papers over the years. These include drafts of letters written by reference librarians, pamphlets and brochures, magazine and newspaper clippings, genealogical charts, newsletters, and more. They also include additions or corrections submitted to update the information appearing in books in the Library’s collections. Materials in the vertical files are not cataloged and do not appear in the Library of Congress Online Catalog; however, researchers visiting the Main Reading Room may ask a librarian to view the vertical files. Requests may also be submitted through Ask a Librarian.

View the complete list of the subjects in the Vertical Files to prepare for your visit.

More from Local History & Genealogy Reference Services

The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, numbering more than 50,000 compiled family histories and over 100,000 U.S. local histories. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's library.