Research Your Old House
House Research Resources
Metro Archives has resources to help you research the history of a house or property in Nashville or Davidson County. Resources must be used in-person at the Metro Archives.
Please note, Metro Archives does not have architectural drawings or blueprints on individual homes, building permits, renovation plans, or photos of individual homes (unless they were of historical interest).
Deed Books and Deed Indexes
Researching deed records will allow you to trace property ownership and get a legal description of the property. They can also be used in researching ownership of enslaved people, as bills of sale were included with real estate transactions. The Metro Archives has the original Davidson County deed books up until around the 1960s, and our Davidson County Deed Indexes, spanning a time period of 1784-1924, are available on microfilm. There are both reverse (buyer) and direct (seller) indexes available.
Nashville City Directories
City directories will tell you who lived at a particular address at a particular time. They can also tell you where the person listed worked, their profession, race, name of spouse or if widowed, and whether they owned the home in which they lived. You can also use city directories to learn about Nashville businesses, as well as to learn approximately when a particular building or home was built.
The Metro Archives has Nashville City Directories from 1853-2011. The earliest directories are available on microfilm, and we have original copies of directories available starting in 1869. From 1853-1909, directories can be searched by name only; however, beginning in 1910, they can be searched by name and also by street address. Beginning in the 1950s, we have both City Directories and Suburban Directories, which cover the areas outside the corporate limits of the City of Nashville.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Sanborn maps contain very detailed information about properties and individual buildings in Nashville, and they were created for fire insurance companies to assess their total liability in urbanized areas. These are extremely valuable resources for documenting changes in Nashville building and neighborhoods over a period of decades. Each edition contains several large volumes.
Plat books show subdivisions of property. Knowing when a larger property was subdivided can help to narrow down around when a home may have been built. The earliest Register’s Office plat book in Metro Archives dates back to 1855, and we have plats continuing through the late 1990s.
Chancery Court Records
Chancery Court is an equity court, and cases concerning the division of estates and property are often heard in Chancery. Property information can be found in our Chancery Court minute books, case files, and/or plan books. The Metro Archives has Chancery Court records from 1846-1935.
We have various files containing clippings from Nashville newspapers and magazines, as well as other published and unpublished materials submitted to the Archives, called vertical files. Vertical files are arranged into several categories. Specific Areas, Buildings, Homes, Churches, and Businesses are great places to look when researching a property or certain neighborhoods.
Cultural Resources Survey
The Davidson County Cultural Resources Survey was an architectural survey conducted by the Metro Historical Commission on historic homes throughout the county from 1985-1995. Each home that was surveyed has a file, which is available at Metro Archives on microfilm, and the file gives various architectural information about the structure.
Request Information About a Property
Please note, property research can be a lengthy process that often takes several hours to conduct. It may take a few days to return your request.
If you need a faster turnaround, you may assist staff doing research by visiting the archives. If you choose to assist us with your research, please call us in advance so we can prepare for your visit. Our phone number is (615) 862-5880.
Please include the following information with your request:
- background information about house