Research Your House History

Researching the history of a building requires the whole panoply of genealogical research skills and then some!

Key resources:

  • Building permits

Normally kept in the city planning department. Unfortunately for Omaha researchers, some years ago the city's chief building inspector made the decision to throw all those records out--records spanning more than 100 years, from the 1880s to the 2000s. Permits for the Dundee neighborhood were the only ones to survive.

Originals held at W. Dale Clark Main Library. Water permits can often substitute for building permits as an indication of when a house was constructed since a connection to the water supply was usually arranged soon after the house was built. Online index (in progress) includes date, address, and homeowner.

  • City directories (available at W. Dale Clark (Main) Library)
    • Omaha city directories, 1866-current
    • Bellevue/Sarpy County city directories (1963-89; 1991-2007; 2009-current)
    • Council Bluffs city directories (1933-35; 1940; 1945-46; 1954-55; 1957-59; 1961-89; 1991-2009; 2011; 2013-current)
    • Fremont city directories (1957; 1960-61; 1963-66; 1968-70; 1972-73; 1975; 1977-80; 1982-83; 1985; 1987; 1989-91; 1993)
    • Lincoln city directories (1932; 1935; 1941; 1953; 1955-56; 1958-71; 1973-75; 1977-83; 1985-2004; 2007-current)
    • Nebraska City directories (1926-27; 1977-78; 1980; 1986; 1988-89; 1992-94)
  • County, city, and neighborhood histories and clipping files, available in Nebraska Reference Collection, W. Dale Clark (Main) Library
  • Historic Omaha buildings 
  • Maps and atlases
  • Digital Sanborn Maps
  • Digital Map Collection
  • Newspapers
  • Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Omaha World-Herald Digital Archives (1878-1983)
    • Search for an address to find sales information, building news, permit records, and more. Access from home with a library card.
  • Daily Record (Jan. 12, 1954 – Dec. 31, 2015; unindexed). Available at W. Dale Clark (Main) Library.
    • Paper of record for Douglas County: building permits and other legal notices.
  • Other newspapers on microfilm (unindexed). Available at W. Dale Clark Main Library.

Relevant articles:

A Place in History: Researching Your Nebraska Property
Guide to where and what to search when researching the history of your property, including useful links and organizations in Nebraska.

House Detective: Finding History in Your Home
Guide to researching your house, published by the Smithsonian Institute.

National Register of Historic Places
Since its inception in 1966, more than 80,000 properties have been listed in the National Register. Together these records hold information on more than 1.4 million individual resources--buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects. Research in this collection, or find out how to get your property listed.

National Trust for Historic Preservation
Useful links and resources for the owners of historic properties--or anyone interested in old buildings!

The Top 10 Places to Find Old Photos of Your House
Good ideas for finding pictures of your property from yesteryear. The author of this blog, Marian Pierre-Louis, is a house historian who specializes in the historic homes of New England.

Who Lived In a House Like This?
Although this guide to researching house history focuses on New York City, it provides excellent advice applicable to any location.

Print