One of my coworkers told me she’d bought a farm and turned it into a winery, but was having trouble tracing how ownership has changed hands over the years. Any advice?A
In most counties, you can research recent land transfers on the county auditor's or property assessor's Web site. Before that, research deeds, which record land sales between individuals.
“You’ll find deeds in county courthouses, except in New England states, when they’re typically in town halls,” writes Sharon DeBartolo Carmack in her August 2006 Family Tree Magazine
article on land records. “Clerks generally recorded copies in huge ledger books, including an index with each volume.”
Each book usually has two types of indexes: grantors (sellers) and grantees (purchasers). You’re working back from the most recent known owner, so you’ll probably want to consult grantee indexes.
The Salt Lake City-based Family History Library
(FHL) has microfilmed many counties’ deed records. To see if that includes the records you need, run a place search of its online catalog
for the county, then look for a “land and property” heading. You can borrow FHL microfilm through your local Family History Center. If only the index is filmed, use the volume and page number given and request the original deed from the courthouse.
Once you get back to early settlement in the area, you’ll look for an original land purchase from a Colonial proprietor (in a state-land state) or the US government (in a public-land state).
In a state-land state, these records are with the state archives or historical society. In public-land states, you’d look for land patents and related records at the National Archives and Records Administration (read the archives’ guide
). You can search most public-land sales at the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Web site
Read county histories, too, for information on early settlers—look for them at the local library and historical society, or search online bookstores such as Amazon.com.