Doing Property Research
Local History Research whether into people, property or events has witnessed great change over the last 50 years as the electronic age has dawned. This has brought with it the ability to store, access, and rapidly search information thus removing much of the necessity to undertake the physical legwork, such as visiting local Record Offices, libraries and Museums, that previously marked local history study. The only limitation to progress appears to be the rate at which information can be digitized to grow the research resource.
It is probably true to say that the digitized research resource is rather better placed to answer questions about people and events than it is about property. The digitization of birth, marriage and burial records, together with the Census records enable simple access to be had to family tree details, stretching to the end of the 18th century, limited only by transcription errors of the particular genealogical package used. Similarly researching historic events is well aided by the digitization of national and local newspapers, now stretching back to 1750. It is largely with the researching of property that the available research resource lags behind what is provided elsewhere.
Nowadays when purchasing an old property does not guarantee receipt of a stack of old sale documents, questions about property history dominate at the Emsworth Museum. The recently donated archive has in the main been assembled as the result of more than 30 years of researching and answering visitor enquiries to the Museum about the history of a property or the changing nature of the neighbourhood of its location. It has been assembled from many different sources, largely without the benefit of the computer. At a time when it is easy to believe that a genealogy package contains all the information one would ever need, the archive provides a gentle reminder of the mass of data carried by lesser-known sources such as Rate Books, Electoral Rolls, etc. We asked the Archivists how they went about a property investigation and this is their reply: