Center for Archival Collections

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Property and Real Estate Strategies

Property Research Sources | Sample Project | HIST 3380 Class Webpage

Research Strategies

Once you have selected a piece of property and have made the trip to the County Courthouse to learn its legal description and get the list of owners and dates, you are ready to proceed with your research.

  1. Get your bearings.
    • Locate the piece of property. You may find it helpful to visit the site in person. What is there now?
    • Find the property on a map. Use older maps to view the property in times past. What changes are evident?
    • Learn some of the history of the general area. For example, city and county histories will give you useful background information. They often begin with a geographical description and include information about places of special interest.
  2. Learn about the people.
    • City and county histories often include biographical information about individuals.
    • Look for obituaries of property owners.
    • Consult Probate Court records about wills, marriages, births.
    • Check the Federal Census for the families.
    • Check city and county directories for information about the people and indications of property use.
  3. Learn about the property.
    • Check gazetteers for geographical and geological information.
    • If your parcel was formerly part of a larger property, trace the owners and history of the larger parcel.
    • Check reappraisement records for physical description of buildings on the property, over time. (You need the township and legal description of the property to do this)
    • Review the list of other public records available, both at the Center for Archival Collections and at the Courthouse to fill in needed information.