Sean Feeney
Architect of the digital age

Tracing the History of your Indiana Home

18 September 2011

Tracing the history of your Indiana Home is possible, it just requires a little more detective work than in some other states. The place to start is your county government’s GIS portal. This is usually listed somewhere on the county website. On the GIS portal, you can type in your address and determine your parcel ID, which you’ll need later on in the process. In the Improvements section, the year the government believes your house was constructed will be listed. For older homes, it’s probably a ballpark figure. Hopefully there’s also a Transfer History section which will show past owners and most importantly, the book & page at the county recorder’s office that the deed transfer was recorded on. Now that you have that information, it’s time to head down to your local county government offices.

In the Plat Mapping office, you can give them the parcel ID and they’ll give you a copy of a card on the back of which might have additional past owners. But the info from the card is probably just what was on the GIS portal. They can also give you the property’s “legal description” if you don’t already have it, which will help you when you’re identifying deeds in the next step.

Now in the Recorder’s office, you can look up the oldest book & page you know of. Hopefully your County Recorder has started digitizing these records, which will make the process much easier. Once you have the page, note the previous owner. The deed transfer entry may span pages, so if you’re returned a few pages read them all carefully to make sure you’ve got the right deed. You can run a search on the previous owner’s name and get all the deeds they’re involved in for that county. The software they use is not the greatest at sorting, but you’ll want to try and go back to earlier books and find where that owner was deeded the land. If multiple owners are listed (such as husband and wife), you may have to search on the other owners’ name to find it. Repeat this step as far back as you can go and you’ll have the names of everyone who legally owned the property.

Various brick walls you may encounter:

Now that you have names, you probably want to know more about them. When Google fails, at your local library you can search obituaries and local history collections for the names. The stories you find may answer questions you have about your home!

If you think your home is haunted, first contact a local ghost hunters group. In addition to being the right thing to do, they may have someone available to do this research for you. In Southern Indiana, try The Anomaly Response Network.

Posted in genealogy, history

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