All Tools A-Z


Researching the History of Your Home/Building 


1230 W Willow"Beechenbrooks"-This home was built in 1875 by Joseph Warner, one-time mayor of Lansing and a circus owner who maintained a menagerie on the then 80 acre property. Among the animals he kept here were lions, bears, a tiger, a jaguar, several monkeys and a hippopotamus.

Researching the history of your home or building is not hard, but can be a time intensive process. The sources are scattered across municipal, state and federal agencies as well as your local and state archives. Maps of many varieties, county histories, building records, city directories and property inventories all provide different facets of the story of your home and neighborhood. Many resources are only available by request, and it is incumbent upon the researcher to make the trip to the archives or Register of Deeds.

Find out when your home was built

- Use the “Property Search” option.

- Search by address, owner or parcel number.

- Once your property is identified choosing “Buildings” will garner the built date.


Use caution with the built date of older homes. Some assessor information is aligned only with when taxes began to be paid to the current municipality, or early records were lost and an approximation was made on the date.

In most instances you will need to visit the office. Tracing the history of your property through the Register not only will show when the Deed was created, but will provide additional information about owners and the land.

Establishing when your building was constructed anchors research in a finite time frame, allowing for more precise and in-depth inquiry into appropriate resources. Use caution with the built date of older homes.

Assessor information (built date) sometimes corresponds only with when taxes began being paid to the current municipality. Additionally, early records may have been lost or destroyed and an approximation was made on the date.

Maps and other Land Research Resources

Local County, Township, Village & City maps

Additional Maps and Land Resources

Home Research Resources

Six Lansing City Directories ranging from 1867-1904

1867, 1873, 1878, 1883, 1894, 1904

City Directories are yearly publications which provide owner/renter information by street and last name. In older volumes they additionally provide the profession/place of employment of the residents.

CADL has a nearly complete run of Lansing City Directories through the 20th century available anytime the Downtown Library is open.

The street directory can be difficult to use because the numbering system used is different than today’s. Lansing’s first numbering system (used in Mudge’s) was in use from about 1867-1883. The numbers seems to run from south to north and west to east with no divisions by blocks. They did not use north, south, east or west, only Washington Ave., Michigan Ave. etc.

The second system used (about 1885-1905) was similar to today’s with north, south, east and west streets, and divisions by block, 100, 200, 300 etc. Many of these numbers in the business district are the same as today, but many in residential areas are different.

The third system, known as the Philadelphia or block plan was adopted in 1906 and is still in use today. The City required that the new numbers be posted on buildings beginning May, 1 1906 and the Post Office required them to be used on mail in place of the old numbers. This system is consistent because a number is assigned every 22 feet along the street with divisions at intersections and where intersections would be if all streets ran all the way through the city.

The old numbers are inconsistent and have to be deciphered individually; there does not seem to be a “key”. The 1868 Sanborn fire insurance map, available at the State Archives, shows the street numbers for Washington Avenue only. Later Sanborn maps (1885, 1892, 1898, 1906, 1913 and 1926), available on microfilm at the Library of Michigan, show the second and third numbering systems for some buildings. By using the Sanborn maps, other maps, atlases, plat books, property tax records and other city directories, you have a chance of locating the address you are looking for.


Need Help?

Ask A Librarian

CADL Facebook CADL Twitter CADL Pinterest CADL Youtube CADL Instagram