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Your deed is like the title to your car. It is a legal document showing you as the owner of a parcel of land. The name of the person you bought the land from is also indicated on the deed. And, your deed will usually refer you to the previous deed for the property. The previous deed will tell you who sold the land to the person from whom you are now buying. By looking at several deed records transferring a parcel of land from one owner to the next, you can establish the chain of title--the official record for ownership of the land over the decades.

Why Look at Deeds?

In order to figure out when your house might have been built and why it looks the way it does, you need to find out certain facts about the owners of the property and the history of the land. The deed records contain these facts for just about every property you will investigate. These facts will allow you to access many of the other documents described in this guide. Deeds may be the only legal documents connected with your house that you will be able to find. These old handwritten records of the people who used to live in the house you now own give you a sense of your connection to these people of the past and the places they left behind.

What Are You Looking For?

The information to be extracted from the deed includes the dates of land transfers, names of property owners, purchase price, size and special features of the parcel, and sometimes direct references to the "buildings and appurtenances" on the land. This information is the backbone of the history of a home. A word of caution: it is critical to gather other information about the owners and the historic trends in the area, because a deed provides only raw data

about the land. F or example, if a building has been moved or torn down, there will be no record of these events in the deeds. Although there is a method to doing a deed search, you should expect to encounter apparent dead ends along the way. This happens because the deed records are sometimes incomplete, or the property was not transferred through a deed. (See HINTS, below, for getting back on track.) When you start looking at other sources of information, like old maps and tax records, you will be surprised at the usefulness of the information you have been able to uncover in the deed records.



Step 1.. Begin with a Deed Number

Each deed is referenced by a number, composed of book, volume, and page, such as Book M, Volume 26, Page 345 (or M26/345 for short). To begin the search, if you do not already have a deed number, you can use the Deed Index. There are indices for both the buyers (grantees) and the sellers (grantors). If you are researching your home, you can find your name in the grantee index, known as the Indirect Index. The Indirect Index will refer you to your deed by its book, volume, and page number.

For example, if you want to look at the deed for a property you know was purchased by Jane Doe (the buyer or grantee) about 1965-1970, look at the Indirect Index for this time period, and find the "D" section. Within each section the index is alphabetized by the first letter of the first name. It is therefore very important to know the first name of the person! You may see something like this:

Indirect Index



Book&Volume Page


Dykstra, Joshua, & wf

Jos. Dixon



Doe, Jane

Jos. Dixon



Davis, Joshua

Jos. Dixon



Doe, Jason

Jos. Dixon