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House Research Guide
How Old Is My House?
Step One: Determine what kind of information you want to find (establish a construction date, learn who the original builder or owner was, or evaluate the architectural style?).
Step Two: Determine the geographic location of the property (the legal land description). This includes the municipality, the street number, and/or the concession and lot number.
Step Three: Search the house for physical evidence of its age (look for a date stone or research its architectural style). Check for written records such as a deed or title search.
City and County Directories
City directories for Kitchener and waterloo have a listing of streets which can be used to trace a building’s history. The directories will also give the name of the owner or tenant.
The county directories do not have a listing of streets. Instead, there are sections for each municipality with an alphabetical list of owners or tenants.
Heritage Kitchener Inventories
The Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC) advises municipal councils about the heritage buildings or districts within their jurisdiction.
Copies of inventories prepared by Heritage Kitchener (formerly Kitchener LACAC) can be found in the Grace Schmidt Room. An index, arranged by address, is available at the library.
Local Index of Properties Designated
This index will tell you if the building is listed in an inventory or if it has been designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Examining these inventories will often reveal the age of other buildings on the same street. A copy of the index can be found in the Grace Schmidt Room.
For up-to-date information, contact the City of Kitchener’s Heritage Planning Department.
The Berliner Journal had a “Progress in Berlin” column from 1873 - 1903. The articles list new houses and businesses, and improvements to existing buildings and the value of the property.
Copies of some of these articles have been preserved, and are kept in a file box in the Grace Schmidt Room.
Year-end editions of newspapers often reported upon houses under construction. Sale notices usually included house descriptions. An obituary of the owner may also provide a date to search for a sale notice.
Assessment records are arranged by municipality or township. Each year property was assessed for tax purposes. When viewed over several years, any change in the assessed value may mean a significant change to the structures on the property.
These records contain the owner’s name and address, the name of a tenant (if applicable), his/her age, religious affiliation and occupation.
The earliest assessment records can be found on the Gore District microfilm, from 1816 - 1840. A list showing how many records the library has for each township can be found on top of the microfilm cabinet in the Grace Schmidt Room.
Maps and Atlases
The Tremaine map for Waterloo County 1861, located on the wall of the Grace Schmidt Room, is the most useful map for dating a building. Each lot holder is identified by name, and homes, schools, churches and mills are shown on the map.
Fire insurance maps were produced in Canada between 1876 and 1973, and were used by insurance companies to determine the risk of insuring homes and businesses. The maps show the layout of streets and buildings in great detail, including the location, size and shape of the building, as well as the construction details.
Fire insurance maps often have two dates, an original date and a revision date. They are available upon request in the Grace Schmidt Room.
Compiled by Women’s Institute branches since 1938, Tweedsmuir Histories are valuable historical accounts of the rural areas of Ontario. Many contain farm & family
histories which include information about houses and other buildings. Several Waterloo Region Tweedsmuir Histories are available on microfilm in the Grace Schmidt Room.
The photograph collections of both the Kitchener Public Library and the Waterloo Historical Society are kept in the Grace Schmidt Room. Many family photographs include buildings in the background. Several early histories of Berlin/Kitchener contain a section with views of prominent homes in the area.
Municipal Heritage Committees
Waterloo Region has seven Municipal Heritage Committees, also known as Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committees (LACACs), one for each city or township. Each committee keeps its own inventory of heritage buildings. The Government of Ontario maintains a list of Municipal Heritage Committees across the province.
Land Registry Office Records
With the closure of Ontario Land Registry Offices in October 2020, land registry records are available on the Ontario Land Property Records Portal (ONland). To trace the ownership of a piece of property, the lot and concession number are needed to do a land registry search. This information is usually found on a deed, assessment notice or tax bill.
The ONland portal offers help information and videos on their website.