There are a number of ways to locate old deed information.
If you are fortunate enough to live near the courthouse you can do your deed research there. Find the office of the Registrar of Deeds. The county's deed books will all be there. Use the 'Grantor-Grantee' indexes to locate the sales of land involving the people you are researching. These indexes will direct you to the proper deed book and page for each land sale. If you have a portable laptop computer, install DeedMapper on it and take it to the courthouse. You can then enter metes and bounds descriptions straight from the original books!
Many, many deed and other books of county records have been abstracted or transcribed by researchers and are available for sale from a number of book dealers. Check our substantial list of these books.
Some states have very strong record preservation programs, and have for sale microfilm copies of county records and colonial grants. Finding the proper governmental body may take time, but is well worth it. Try contacting the State Archives, State Library, or State Historical Society. Your local Registrar of Deeds may also know who to contact.
States are also beginning to put land record sources on-line.
The General Land Office Records (Pre-1908 homestead patents issued through U.S. Land Offices) are available on CD-ROM for the following states: Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. More states are being made available all the time. Each CD is priced at $15, and can be ordered by mail from
Superintendent of Documents PO Box 371954 Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954Delivery can take several weeks. Check our list of Internet Sites for information on vendors who stock these CDs, and for other Federal sources of land record information.
Many, many early county records and first-title patents have now been microfilmed and are available for sale or rental.
The availability of microfilms of old county records depends on several factors. The most important one is whether the records you want still exist. Many early records were destroyed in courthouse fires or other accidents. If you aren't sure which records still exist, write the Registrar of Deeds at the county courthouse in question for information on the whereabouts of the early deed books. Keep in mind that some early records may have been moved to their State's archives for safe keeping.
Small microfilm readers fit easily on a desktop, and can be had for around $500. Check the Yellow Pages for local dealers. You may also find used readers for sale in your local newspaper. Short of purchasing a reader for home use, you can find microfilm readers at many local libraries or community college libraries. You can use them to read the deed microfilms, abstract the important information, and then enter it into DeedMapper at home.
A rich source of microfilmed deed information is your local Mormon library. Check the Yellow Pages under "Churches" for the location of the local Mormon stake, or write the Genealogical Library, 35 North West Temple St., Salt Lake City, Utah 84150. Most stakes have a small library for genealogical research, and they are equipped with microfilm readers. These libraries are open to both members and the general public several times a week. The main Library in Salt Lake City has the world's largest collection of microfilmed state and county records, and you can order rental copies at your local stake for a few dollars for a period of weeks or months. You can then examine and abstract them. You are not allowed to remove the rental films from the stake's library.
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