Monday, March 26, 2012

House History Research - Developing Research Parameters

Main Street in Nashville - Abe Martin Restaurant & Genolin Pharmacy

Since I've taken over the helm as Head Archivist I've been doing a lot of thinking on this subject of bringing our Archive up to the present technology. There have been many good archivists over the years that were very diligent in organizing the collections, compiling information, and indexing what they thought needed to be indexed. They have done a lot of good work. Now it is time to lend my hand to it and see what else I can do to make it better. I've spent the first year just familiarizing myself with our collections. I know there is so much more there that I haven't even laid eyes on yet. I came into this job as a genealogist and that has helped me to see the human side of Brown County history. We've got a good start on a Surname file for genealogical research that we can constantly add to. Most of our research requests to date pertains to family genealogy. So this side has been easy for me to get to work on right away, also my volunteers are genealogists.

Now I have come upon a popular subject that doesn't directly relate to genealogy - house history. In a way one can use genealogical research methods. This being a popular subject I need to develop a better system to better organize and search this collection. We started with one drawer in a filing cabinet. The first organizational division is by location and most of the homes that are covered are only located in the county seat, the town of Nashville. There is one other file named Cabins - pretty generic huh? What would be a better way to organize this so the common person can look for their home? So we need to sit down and go over all the perimeters that might be used to locate a house/building. We need to apply these parameters in our filing system and possibly a database.

I went through a learning situation when I was asked to find where an old store used to be located in Nashville. The query was to find a photo of the building and where in town it was located. We had to know the timeframe this particular store would have went by this name - the Genolin Pharmacy. From the two photos that we had on this store you can see stores that are on either side of it. From the above photo: looking west the Abe Martin Restaurant was on the left side of the pharmacy. Both were located on the south side of the street across from the courthouse. The courthouse is one of the oldest buildings in Nashville. That made it a good point of reference.

Abe Martin Restaurant, Genolin Pharmacy, and a Shoe & Harness Repair Shop

Several search parameters that we came across is what we will probably use to develop a database of homes/buildings. From our research we learned that the Genolin Pharmacy later became the Rustic Inn. This later name is what helped us locate the building in Nashville. So we come up with some search terms we may use which are: popular name, other names used, original owner, builder, current address, GPS coordinates, year built. These are just a few that might need to be column headings in our database. Should we develop our database with major divisions with county locations such as townships and cities or should we treat it like a Surname file and organize it by 'Popular name'? The first question we ask of the customer "what part of the county is your house located?" Maybe that should be our first major subdivision. What other search parameters should we use - type of structure, outbuildings if any, location in relation to property lines or roads? Setting up the database and inputting information I'm sure we'll find other items that might be helpful and items that we might not need. First some research on other databases of this type should be our first step.


Dan Hiestand -- Houstory Publishing said...

Hi Rhonda-
Thank you for sharing your information on researching house histories — a nice piece!

If you are interested, our new company (Houstory Publishing) has a lot of free information — available for download — on how to research home histories. We’ve consulted with home genealogists all over the country to create the material.

The URL for is!__research-and-preservation-center if you or your readers are interested.


Kim said...

I enjoyed your post Rhonda. It is great that you are trying to organize the information to make it easier for folks to research the history of their homes. I also have a website at with articles on how to research your home and links to helpful websites if you or your readers would like to check it out.