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The last two weeks’ columns have addressed land and property records research in the United States. The last column of this three-part series will focus on several helpful methodologies for locating a chain of property ownership, interpreting the contents of deeds, and mining some of the clues found in these wonderful documents.
Tracking Down the Land and Property Records
Your research will initially involve locating the actual indexes and records before you can begin trying to access and work with them.
The earliest land records in the state-land states can often be found in the records of the county in which your ancestor lived at the time. Remember that the boundaries of the colonies, the territories, and later the states and counties have changed many times in the almost 400 years since the earliest arrivals of the first European settlers on the Atlantic coast of what now is the United States. It is therefore imperative that you gain some sense of where your ancestors settled, and then find historical maps to determine in which jurisdiction they lived. For instance, determine the place where your ancestors settled, using a modern map, and then compare that map with an historical map of the same area from the time when you ancestors were there. Make special note of the state and county at the time they lived there. Chances are excellent that the records for your ancestor’s land ownership will be in that county’s records.
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