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Kimberly Powell

Locating Historical U.S. Deeds Online

By September 30, 2012

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The Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office records are a great online resource for U.S. genealogists researching ancestors in the thirty federal or public land states. As far as online land records go, however, the GLO is not the only game in town. Many U.S. counties, especially in the eastern part of the country, have started putting their historical deed records online. You might be surprised what you can find!

Most of you probably know that I have a lot of North Carolina ancestors. As a result, I've been very happy with the recent trend of North Carolina counties to place their deeds records online in digitized format. Most N.C. counties have their current land records online...with many also including at least some historical deeds back to the 1970s or 1980s, such as the Edgecombe County Register of Deeds. There are many, however, that offer access to deed records going all the way back to the 1700s. Chatham County, North Carolina, for example, offers access to digitized indexes and deed books dating back to 1771, while Cumberland County online deed records date back to 1754. Buncombe County also has their deeds online in digitized format back to the date of county formation, along with a separate listing of the slave deeds found among the county property records between 1776 and 1865.

The best place to begin your search for historical deed records is the Register of Deeds or Clerk of Court or whoever is in charge of recording deeds and other real estate records for your county of interest. You can often locate these offices through a Google search, or by going directly to the county government site and then drilling down to the appropriate department. Salem, Massachusetts historic deed books 1-20 (1641-1709), for example, are available online from the Essex County Registry of Deeds. Twenty-four Pennsylvania counties have deeds available online (many going back to the time of county formation) through a system called Landex (fee for access), with two new counties (Fayette and Juniata) scheduled to come online in October 2012.

There are also other sources for historical records, such as state archives and local historical societies. The Georgia Virtual Vault, for example, includes Chatham County, GA Deed Books 1785-1806. The Maryland State Archives is especially notable for its cooperative project to provide access to deeds and other land record instruments from across the state. Check out MDLandRec.net with searchable indexes and viewable volumes from Maryland counties dating back to the 1600s.

<p><b>More: <a href="http://genealogy.about.com/od/land_records/tp/land_online.htm">U.S. Historical Land Records Online</a></b>

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