Land and Tax Records Lesson


Land and Tax Records

Just as there are many types of probate records, there are also many types of land and tax records. These records can be found in the County Recorders Office at the county level. They include such things as:

  • Original Land grant applications and awards
  • Deeds
    1. Grantor Indexes (the land sellers)
    2. Grantee Indexes (the land buyers)
  • Town/City Lots indexes - these are different indexes than regular deeds and pertain specifically to town lots within town and village boundaries
  • Cemetery Plot deed books - records of who purchased the cemetery lot, not necessarily who is buried there although they are almost always related.
  • Plot Books - Show the location, size and ownership of plots of land on a map. Earliest ones in the Midwest start in the 1870's and periodically thereafter.
  • Soldier's Discharge and Pension Records - Although you would not consider these to be land records, many soldiers during the Civil War and Revolutionary War were given land grants for service. In the Midwest there are a few Civil War and Spanish American War discharge records but most start with WWI. These are also kept in the Recorders Office.

Land Records can be very useful for the following reasons:

  • Can follow ownership of homesteads and farms through several generations.
  • Often list the spouse when other records don't
  • Usually start when the county was formed - in the Midwest US about 1840's (before vital records)
  • Often list the relationship of the person they sell to - such as a father selling to his son or the husband of his daughter.
  • Can follow dowrys of the spouse which she might have received from her father.
  • Gives dates of occupation in that town or city.
  • Give clues to state of finances if they sold for too little just to leave the county.
  • Give clues as to occupation and often lists buildings and fixed goods on the property which go along with the sale.

    Tax Records are also invaluable and are tied in with the land records as the land is what most people paid taxes on. They are usually located in the Auditor's office and date back as far back as the probates and land records do. They are indexed by both the tax payer and the property legal address such as SW1/4 of NE1/4 of Twp 17, Range 7.

    These legal descriptions of land often give descriptions based on locations of rivers, hills, and rock formations which may have changed over the years. They help locate your family within the county and indicate where else you might want to search if they lived close to a major road, river, or railway or a county line.

    The object of this lesson is search the grantee and grantor indexes of the county your ancestor lived in and to record all sales of property to or from him and his spouse. Make certain to record your searches and the time periods on your research log. If you need to write to a courthouse for information, be specific and limit it to a ten year period which is easily found in one book. Point of Fact! Counties were sometimes formed from other counties or territories and earlier records may be somewhere else. Make certain you're looking in the right place. Find a local map for the time period you're searching and check out the county boundaries.

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