Friday, June 19, 2020

Who Lived in Your House?

The BBC has a very interesting history series called A House Through Time which explores social history by telling the story of one single house, and its owners & inhabitants over time. Each series looks at just one house and each episode in each series recounts the lives of just one family who lived in the house.

Since the first series of A House Through Time I've been thinking that it would be amazing if there was an interactive map which allowed you to click on your house to find out about all the previous owners and occupiers.

Step forward HistoryForge.

If you click on a building on the HistoryForge map of the town of Ithaca, New York then you can view a list of people who lived in the house in the early 1900's. Click on any of the names listed as having lived in your chosen house and you can view more details, such as the person's occupation, gender, place of birth, marital status and number of children.

The data for the map comes from census records. HistoryForge also includes a database of buildings in Ithaca. If you search for a building in this database then you can view details on its year of construction, its type of construction and who lived in the house in 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930.

These snapshots of a house through time can be really fascinating. For example (picking a house at random) we find that 415 Albany Street was occupied in 1900 by a husband and wife, Henry and Harriet Johnson. Twenty years later, in 1920, Henry Johnson appears to have died and Harriet Johnson now lives with her elderly mother Elmira Johnson and a lodger Teresa H Claggett. By 1930 Harriet's mother also seems to have died. Harriet has been listed in every census as having no occupation. By 1930 any money that she may have inherited from her late husband looks to have dwindled as she has now taken in a total of four lodgers.

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