How to Research

the History of Your

Old House

Part One:

Land and the Law

Primary Topics

  • Legal Descriptions
  • Conveyances
  • Using the Recorders' Office

1. Legal Descriptions

What's an "acre?"

Key Points

  • Based on Cartesian (X-Y) coordinates
  • Basic unit is a section, one square mile, 640 acres
  • A 6x6 array of sections is called a legal township
    • Not to be confused with a political township
      • One has a name, the other a number
    • Pulaski County's unique situation
  • Each township has a unique identifying number
    • Range (East/West of meridian)
    • Township (North/South of baseline)
  • Each section in a township has a number, 1-36

e.g. Medaryville is in Sec 4, Twp 30N,R4W

Normal references are to

"aliquot parts"

  • Based on halves and quarters
  • "Nested," e.g. S1/2 NE1/4 NW1/4
    • 20 acres
  • Unwind from right to left

Land areas can also be platted

  • A plat is a cadastral map, mapping geography to ownership
  • Plats are always named
    • e.g. "Medary Ville," "Elston's Second Addition"
  • Broken up into blocks and/or lots
    • Also show streets, alleys, public spaces, etc.
  • Usually must be accepted by local government
  • Descriptions will not include secion/township/range, etc.

Detail from Medaryville Plat

A Plat Book shows land ownership

  • Land ownership is very dynamic
  • Town and Country Publishing, LaPorte IN
  • Old plat books are an enormously valuable resource

Detail from York Twp. Plat Map

2. Conveyances

Chain of Title

Abstract Basics

  • Complete record of ownership over time
  • Each entry is numbered
  • Chronological order
  • Includes mortgages, taxes, probate, etc.
  • Updates are common; appended to original

Letters Patent

Treaty of Tippecanoe, 1834

This area is an exception

Types of Conveyance

  • Letters Patent
  • Deed
    • Warranty
    • Quit Claim
    • Administrator
    • Trustee, etc.
  • Transfer by inheritance
    • The case of John and Eliza Crouch

What is a mortgage?

Detail from Medaryville Plat

3. The Recorder's Office

Repository of Property Records

  • Deeds and other transfers
  • Mortgages
  • Plats of towns and subdivisions
  • Other archival information
    • How Juanita Waugh did it

Other states may do it differently

Property Research Tools

  • Deed Books
    • Grantor
    • Grantee
    • Indices
  • Miscellaneous Records
  • Plats of towns and subdivisions

Most counties are putting their records up online

Two Main Service Providers

The Plan

  • Get full legal description of property
    • Also Tax ID number
  • Watch video on using Recorder's resources
  • Visit Recorder and make first pass 
    • Is it in a platted area?  
    • Work both backwards and forwards
  • Help!!

Next meeting July 9, 1:00 EDT, at Museum