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Historic Property Form

Gatineau-region House Histories or Residential Biographies

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(MS Word).

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Some local and other sources, and what a house history can contain.

Whether you build or buy your Gatineau-region house, there is historical material at hand to help you prepare a story about your home. First, you have a house description, in municipal terms, from your municipal tax statement.

As an example, in the MRC des Collines de l'Outaouais, your property is located in terms of "assessment unit," cadastral designation, and valuation. The exact land measurements are recorded, as is the current valuation, separately, for building and land.

Beginning with this current information and some recent photographs, you are ready to work backwards in time.

  1. Find the original Range and Lot number of your property.
    Most townships in the Gatineau area measured ten miles by ten miles in size; Hull and other "river townships" were nine by twelve miles. The Township was then divided into Ranges and Lots, (like small-scale latitudinal and longitudinal divisions). So, the early property locations all mention Range and Lot number. Up until 2006, this was the location showing on your property tax, at the line indicating cadastral designation. If you were in the area then, look at an old tax bill to get the original Range and Lot number for your house.
  2. Find out earlier landholders:
    For Chelsea, the GVHS has reproduced a map showing landholders at the time Chelsea (then West Hull) obtained municipal status, in 1875.
    Copies of the West Hull map are available from GVHS publications, contact publications@gvhs.ca
    For the earliest colonists who settled your property, see land grant applications (National Library & Archives)
    Locate your property on the ground. Look at maps, such as those at Library and Archives Canada, Collections Canada website: (www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/archivianet/020154_e.html) for maps avilable on-line.

Then:

  1. Do you know when your house was built?
  2. Has it undergone any major alterations?
  3. Was it ever used for another purpose (e.g. a converted school or store)?
  4. Names and occupations of previous owners or tenants? (Pictures of them?) (Ethnicity, language, school support) (Census: Note: 1842, 1851-1852, 1861, 1871 contain lot information & agricultural information in addition to personal information about those who lived in your historic house, or on the property you now own). 1881, 1891, contain only family data; 1901 and 1911 have lot/range no as well as family data.
  5. Old photographs?
  6. Who was the original land owner? (See above: Land grant or land purchase information)
  7. Neighbours (context, neighbourhood)
  8. Old maps, aerial photographs.
  9. Physical features (e.g. hill, stream, special trees, garden information. Any "historic"perennials? (Story)
  10. Historic events which took place at your house; or had an impact on it. (E.g. power dams on Gatineau River raised river level in 1927 and considerable sell-off of farms; house converted from a former cottage; kitchen fire in 1979 led to remodelling...
  11. What is distinctive about your house? (Decorative elements? Any part of the interior "historic" and "preserved," or unique? Photograph these points. Describe them.
  12. Look for examples of house histories, to see what others have produced.

If you purchased your house from a previous owner:
Deed of sale and title search, prepared by a notary. This will give purchase price and the full name and occupation of the vendor. It should also contain information about previous owners and tax information pertaining to both Municipal and School taxes.

If you built the house yourself, or had a contractor built it:
You have a wealth of information, if you haven't discarded it. Origin of the house plans (architect, book, etc.) and builder or contractor. Who owned the land? Permits, photos of the house being built, your own records as it happened (perhaps you wrote to family members about various problems, or marked your calendar when some of the stages were accomplished).

Photographs
Civic numbers are recent in the Gatineau area, so bring or send a picture of your house if you want to consult the GVHS Image Bank to seek an earlier photo of the building. The Image bank may also have photographs of previous owners. Ask previous owners/neighbours if they have photos of your house.

Write up what you have learned - enter the information on the attached Historic Property Form.
Make a list of what you would like to find out, and possible sources to check for that information. When you're writing the story of your house, be sure to mention the features you think are special, unusual, or typical of the building.

At this point you may wish to contact the GVHS about sources for further information. We invite you also to help the GVHS build an inventory of Chelsea's historic buildings. We would be pleased if you would like to add your house history to this collection.