Historical research involves primary and secondary documentary research about the history of a place, culture, technology, organization, families, and individuals. Primary research involves consulting public records such as deeds, plats, wills, inventories, birth and marriage records, censuses, city directories, business licenses, construction permits, Dun and Bradstreet records, maps, historic newspapers, cartographic resources, and other documents. In some cases, private records such as diaries and letters may also be relevant to a project’s research goals.
Depending upon the type of research being conducted, primary sources can provide information on the ownership history of a property (chain-of-title), its owners over time, as well as improvements made to that property by different owners. Information on individuals can be obtained from censuses, wills, inventories, and in some instances, family papers, allowing staff historians to reconstruct the lives of past residents and owners of a site. Business records, including permits, licenses, city directory reports, and Dun and Bradstreet records can be used to develop the history of a business and its owners over time. Finally, historic maps and plats, as well as historic aerial photographs, can be used to trace the changing landscape of a region or location.
Secondary research involves review of the published literature that is relevant to the resource being investigated. This includes county histories, state histories, resource specific studies, and journal articles. Secondary sources are useful for placing site histories within a context. Internet resources may also be used to search and develop background for a project or site history.
Historical research is conducted in state and local archives, county courthouses, libraries, historical societies, and at state and regional universities. The results may be incorporated into historic structure reports and archaeological studies and may also be presented as stand-alone histories and popular histories. The staff at New South Associates is very experienced in conducting intensive historical studies, as well as reporting the results of these investigations in technical reports, popular histories, and exhibits.