11 February 2016

Braindump: What Items Are on My Research To-Do List?

So, research on the bungalow has slowed a bit lately. It's not for a lack of leads or places to search for more information, however. With a full-time job and a limit to what can be found online, I've not recently had the chance to get back to the Montgomery County Courthouse to make more substantial progress. With that said, there are several items which I have discovered but not yet shared here and will do so in the near future.

Still, I figure this time to be appropriate to do a sort of "brain dump" exercise to lay out on virtual paper some of the main tasks I have ahead of me. If I take a holistic view of my research so far, I would say that I have a relatively thorough understanding of both the transactions involving the house and of its major physical alterations over time. On the other hand, I have not definitively pin-pointed the construction date or builder, and there is much more to learn of the land's history before the house was built. Putting all of my identified to-do items in one spot allows me to take general stock of what items will help fill certain gaps, and it will allow me to more easily identify tasks which might be started with writing a letter or making a phone call (i.e. things I can do now without visiting a records repository).

Photo: Pixabay (CC)

So, here's the brain dump, grouped into loose categories:

Contacting Living Individuals / Primary Source Interviews

  • Follow up with John/Catherine Cantlin's daughter-in-law regarding my last letter sent in November
  • Get in touch with the other surviving daughter-in-law (possibly through the first one) to see if an interview can be arranged
  • Contact 2001-2014 owner to share my findings thus far; discuss the renovation to a single-family he performed and ask if he is able to share any documentation or photographs.
  • Locate Gutekunst descendant identified in obituary research; establish preliminary contact and try to arrange interview
  • Contact owners of Spear house (possibly former home of Emma Spear) and try to arrange an interview
  • Ask immediate neighbors further questions about the house and Cantlins

Courthouse Records

  • Perform chain of title on neighbor's property, which was reportedly once a part of mine before being sold off
  • Any record of writ of fieri facias (believed to be foreclosure on the Coogans) still in tact at County Archives? First inquiry came up needing more info to locate correct records group
  • Search nearby counties for other land transactions involving former owners (especially important in establishing Stover/Brandes connection)
  • Go further back in pre-house land deed history
  • Ensure that I have located all available probate files available online via FamilySearch/Ancestry; once complete, begin identifying those which are not available online, in order to locate in-person

Library / Historical Societies / Township and Other Repositories

  • Inquire at county/township regarding other available tax records
  • More extensive search of local directories for former owners at historical society
  • Visit library and/or historical society for more background and information on Harry Renninger; Including the various companies he ran (Remlu Building & Loan) and organizations in which he was involved
  • Inquire again at Township offices regarding additional records, try Public Works Dept for dates of sewer/water service starts in relation to Building Dept records
  • Locate a copy/image of 1925 Sanborn map
  • Further research on North Glenside Land Co-- inquire library/historical society
  • Make a general inquiry at County Historical Society to determine available resources


  • Re-examine my home inspection report to glean any further physical clues
  • Draft biographical sketches of other previous owners (Brandes complete); this will fuel further research inquiries for each individual
  • Contact civil engineering firm that did Ferguson's original survey- can they provide further insight/analysis?
  • Continue searching kit house plans and pattern books for a design which may have been used for my house (I have a current front-runner, but it is not an exact match)

As you can see, even though I'm maybe a year into sporadic research and even though I've found quite a bit, there is still alot of homework to do in order to be more thorough and to get the type and depth of information I seek for my house history. You might have noticed I slipped in some additional online research in there-- this exercise has proven useful in that it has identified additional tasks I can perform from home and still make progress. I intentionally left off continued searching and prying the details of my house-- sometimes I wish I could do more invasive investigation, but I don't think my wife would be too happy about that!

If any other seasoned house researchers have followed along with the journey and have additional tips, please let me know in the Comments section!

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