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
    • ‚ÄčNot 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 left to right

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


By capouch


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