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As an undergraduate studying historic preservation at Roger Williams University in the late 1980s, Paul Williams was given an assignment to find out everything he could about a house in Bristol, R.I., and write a report on it. Today, almost 20 years later, he has a thriving business, Kelsey and Associates, doing something similar for clients in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

For a cost of between $635 and $2,500, Williams will tell homeowners everything he can learn about their house, including the names of all past owners, their occupations and employment or business addresses, detailed census research on all occupants, and much more. And, thanks to the growth of online genealogical databases, he has a nearly 50 percent success rate of locating living relatives of the original homeowners, whom he contacts to inquire about any information or artifacts they might have. One woman he located had a brick from the original structure of Williams’ clients’ house in Capitol Hill, something his clients were delighted to know.

Williams established his business, Kelsey and Associates, in 1995 in D.C. and today has completed work for about 2,000 clients there. In 2002, he expanded to Baltimore. A year later, after falling in love with the city, he and his business and life partner, Greg Alexander, moved from D.C. into an early 20th-century rowhome in Charles Village.

While Williams used to trek to libraries, court-houses and historical societies to conduct research, he’s now developed an extensive library of maps, deeds and other historical documents that allow him to do most of his work from home. A Washington, D.C., health department map from 1894 that shows how many outhouses each building had, for example, comes in handy for nearly every D.C. house history he writes. And much of the information Williams uses comes from old census data, which is online. From it, he can uncover all of the people living in the house at a given time, as well as their date and place of birth, their parents’ date and place of birth, their occupation and employer, the owners’ opinion of how much the house was worth— even whether the household owned a radio.

Williams’ favorite historical topic is the Titanic, so he is thrilled when a client’s house has a connection to the ill-fated ship, such as one house in D.C. that was home to Helen Churchill Candee, a survivor on the same lifeboat as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” He also wrote about a mansion, now home to the embassy of Uzbekistan, where Clarence Moore, one of the major inspirations for the Titanic film, lived. Neither owner had any inkling about their home’s storied past.

Most of Williams’ clients are new homeowners who find clues around their house and want to learn more. Dawna Cobb, who lives near Williams in Charles Village, grew curious after she discovered a family tree drawn underneath the wallpaper in her second-floor study. Williams discovered that her house was home to the families of George Kranz, a prominent Baltimore piano dealer in the early 1900s, and Gareth Green, a popular Johns Hopkins professor and one of the first doctors to discover the role of cellular-level systems in the lungs.

The family tree depicted the Green family and showed five successive generations of Harvard faculty, dating back to the early 1800s. Cobb’s is one of about 20 houses Williams has researched in Baltimore, including his own, which he learned was home to the Graham family, who were German lace importers.

Although Williams, who co-authored with Alexander the 2009 book “A Brief History of Charles Village,” never envisioned his college project turning into a career, there’s nothing he’d rather be doing today. Every new house history holds new surprises. “I really love every single minute of it,” he says. “I just love finding mysteries and solving them.”

Contact Kelsey and Associates at 202-213-9796 or http://www.washingtonhistory.com.

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