Researching Your Historic Home
Interested in learning more about your historic home? There are several resources easily available on the internet that can help you learn more about your building’s history.
Since the 1970's, the Framingham Historical Commission has been documenting the City's historic resources on inventory forms which provide general information about the building’s architecture and history. Although not every historic building has been documented on an inventory form, the existing forms have been digitized by the Massachusetts Historical Commission and are available through the Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System (MACRIS).
MACRIS can be a bit clumsy to use; although there are several different search options, it is best to simply enter the city and street name (without the house number) to see if your property has been documented. If your address has a purple “INV” box in the right-hand column, you may select the box to download a PDF version of the form. Many of the forms are older and incomplete; the Historical Commission is planning to update all of them in the coming years.
Historic maps are a quick and easy way to discover the names of past owners of your house and several Framingham maps have been digitized.
The State’s Digital Commonwealth Project has two maps available: 1699 and 1832. Digital Commonwealth also has a great collection of photographs, postcards, and other ephemera, so be sure to poke around for more interesting finds!
The Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center has a digital copy of an 1856 Middlesex County wall map. Be sure to scroll over to the left, where there are details of Framingham Center and Saxonville.
For later in the 19th century, Historic Map Works has several Middlesex County atlases that include Framingham: 1875, 1889 (note that Framingham is misidentified as “Framington”), and 1908. These atlases generally have a page showing the entire city and a detail page of population centers such as Downtown Framingham and Saxonville. Historic Map Works also has a Framingham-only atlas from 1895.
Throughout the later part of the 19th century and into the 20th century city directories were regularly published and would include:
- General information about the city,
- Advertisements for local businesses, and
- Listings of all the residents.
The directories are listed by last name, and include a person’s address and occupation; some directories also include a street listing, which lists all addresses by street, with the residents’ name.
For Framingham, Ancestry.com (subscription required, also available at Framingham Public Library) has numerous directories between 1900 and 1960.
Also note that the Marlborough 1872 directory and the Milford 1889 directory include a Framingham section.
If you want to establish a complete history of your house, the only way to do so is through in-depth deed research. This is time-consuming, confusing, and often frustrating work, but it can yield exciting results and give you a clear picture of your building’s history.
Framingham is part of the Middlesex South District Registry of Deeds, located at Middlesex Courthouse in Cambridge. Deeds for much of the 20th century have been digitized and are available through the MassLandRecords website. For anything circa 1900 or older, you will have to visit the courthouse in Cambridge to view the deeds and continue your research.
Deeds are recorded in one of two ways: as recorded land or as registered land.
- Recorded land: as the deeds arrive at the Registry of Deeds, they are recorded sequentially with a book and page number.
- Registered land: these deeds are recorded as certificates, for properties that have gone through Land Court to clear a title dispute.
Recorded land deeds are indexed and searchable by property address ("Property Search") or owner ("Name Search") back to the 1960's. For older deeds, you will have to change the “Search Criteria” to “Book Search” – be sure to enter both the book and page number.
Each deed usually includes the book and page number of the previous sale, allowing you to work backwards in time from the information you do know, such as your own deed. However earlier recording methods were not as standardized, and the previous book and page number was not always recorded. In addition, if a property was owned by the same family for a significant amount of time it often was transferred via probate, which are not recorded in the Registry of Deeds.
Ancestry.com (subscription required, also available at Framingham Public Library) has numerous primary source records to give you more information on the residents of your house. Their records include census returns, birth, marriage, and death records, and military records, among others.
Off-line, the local history collection at the Framingham Public Library and the collection of the Framingham History Center, are excellent resources. They both have extensive picture collections, clippings files, and other locally-produced information.