Is My House Haunted?

Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon question in the Genealogy Department. To determine who died in your house, first you will need to figure out who lived there, then when they died. Start with the year of your house’s construction, or take a guess if it is not known.

  • Check the Register of Deeds for your county
  • City Directories
    • Available in the Genealogy Department beginning in 1894. Beginning in 1921, the directories list homes not only by name, but by address as well.
  • Assessor’s Office   
    • This may provide construction date, legal description, sketches of lot and plan, recent photographs, recent sales, and building permits. Construction dates are not always accurate but provide a good starting point.

Figure out who lived in your house.

  • City Directories from 1921 and after can be checked by address to see who the head of the household and spouse were. Minor children are not listed.  
  • Historical Plat Maps are available in the Genealogy Department for both Ottawa and Allegan Counties.
  • When you have located the parents’ names, you can check the Federal Census records to see which minor children lived in the home. Children are listed beginning in the 1850 census. The census is available every 10 years from 1790-1940.

Figure out which of these people are deceased and when they died.

  • Check the obituary files located outside of the genealogy room or the Holland Sentinel Indexes to Obituaries, located in the Genealogy Department. When you find a name in the index you can look up the obituary on microfilm. The amount of information available on each obituary varies greatly.
  • Social Security Death Index – lists deaths beginning in the 1960s – available on the Ancestry Library Edition database.
  • For death records try Michiganology. The website has digitized Death Certificates for Michigan for death records older than 75 years.  The death certificate usually lists the cause of death.  You can also check our Holland City Deaths file from 1905-1955, our obituary file or the Holland Sentinel Obituary Indexes. 

If you have heard that there was a tragic death in your house, you may want to try to figure out the cause of death (not always easy to do). Here are a few places to try:

  • Once you have the person and the date of death you can check the Holland City News (1872-1977) or the Holland Sentinel (1912-present) on microfilm. Also, the Holland City News is available online through Hope College Digital Commons.
  • If there was a tragic story behind the death, it may or may not be reported in the newspaper. To find the cause of death if it is not available in the newspaper you can check the death certificate at the County Clerk’s Office.
  • The Vertical File located in the Genealogy Department has a file called Murders – Unsolved, which lists a small amount of local murders. You can also check the Van Reken Newspaper Index, which is located in the Genealogy Department under the subject Crime and Criminals and is also online through Hope College Digital Commons.  This will not turn up most of the homicides in the Holland area, only a few, but it may be worth a try. If you are looking for information for 1997 and later, you can use the website for the Holland Sentinel and check the archives section. 
  • The Died in House website was launched in June, 2013. It claims to answer whether someone died at a certain home or apartment, who died, when they died, and the cause of death. (Paid website, not endorsed by Herrick District Library)
  • Cyndi's List: Scroll down to the ‘H’, choose House & Building Histories.

Other Books on the Subject

Herrick Library also has an EMF ELF Meter Detector in the Library of Things Collection which is a device used by professional ghost hunters that patrons are able to check out.  Day-to-day, EMF meters are used for diagnosis of problems with electrical wiring, power lines, and electrical shielding effectiveness, but ghost hunters swear by the inclusion of an EMF meter in their toolkits.

HDL Library of Things


Why ghosts are haunting your house and how to stop them is another question....