I would like
to spend a little time in this article talking about researching
land records in a County Clerk's Office. These records not only provide
an excellent genealogical tool for research, they also provide lawyers
with the tools to conduct title searches to property that is being bought
or sold by their clients.
hire title searchers to trace the property backwards from the present.
This is the same method we can use to trace the path of ownership of the
house we live in (or the house our ancestors lived in).
The first step is
to find yourself (or your ancestor) in the indexes to deeds in the Clerk's
office of the county where the property is located. Deed indexes
are grouped together by year of sale. You may find a book that covers
all deeds recorded from 1975 through 1980. If the property in question
was purchased during those years, you will find the buyers and sellers
(called grantees and grantors) listed in this index. It will lead
you to a book of deeds where you will find a copy of the deed. After
reading the deed, you can determine when the seller bought the property
and from whom. This date and these names will lead you to the next
This process can take
you back through many years of ownership of the property, but sometimes
you cannot find names in the early indexes. This could be because
the deed was never recorded with the proper county and was recorded
in another county. The other reason might be that the deed was never
recorded at all and the original deed was kept by the buyer and passed
on to other family members. It is important to know the county
line changes and whether or not they might affect the place where a deed
might be recorded.
If you are tracing
a deed in the Newburgh area, it would be helpful to know that Newburgh
was part of Ulster County prior to 1798 and the deeds prior to that time
would most likely be found in Kingston instead of Goshen. When tracing
property ownership in Sullivan County, it would be helpful to know that
Sullivan County did not exist at all until 1809. Prior to that time
it was all one township known as Mamakating and was part of Ulster County.
Prior to 1798, Rockland County did not exist and that area was part of
Orange County. If you are researching property in Warwick near
the New Jersey border, it often pays to travel to Newton or Patterson to
check the Sussex and Passaic County land records.
Many times when you
get stuck on deed research, it would be beneficial to start checking the
mortgage indexes for mortgagors and mortgagees. If the early
deed were not recorded but the property owner borrowed money against the
property or used it for collateral.
For genealogical purposes,
these deeds and mortgages can be a gold mine of information. They
often name the place from where the parties moved from. For example,
the deed might read that John Smith, of Boston, farmer, bought of Samuel
Jones of Havestraw, five acres of land formerly owned by the grantor's
father, Robert Jones and Sarah, his wife. Often, the grantor's
new residence can be determined if he sells his property and states he
is now of New York City. Multiple marriages can easily be discovered
if the property was frequently mortgaged and different wives are named
over a period of time.
Many times you will find
a statement in a deed concerning the wife as they were often asked in private
whether or not they freely consented to the sale. Information about
children can be discovered if the property is being disposed of by family
members after the death of the owner.