Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

December 29, 2005

Researching History of Home

by @ 6:29 am. Filed under History, FAQs

I recent visitor to our website sent along this question:

I would like to get the history on my home. how would I do it. or could you help

Here’s my response:

Our records will tell you about the ownership history of your home and the land it sits upon. If you spent enough time on it, you could trace it all the way back to the 1600s. Our records are about the land, however, so there won’t be much about the history of the house such as when it was build and by whom.

To learn more about the ownership history of the house (commonly referred to as its “title”), you can use the records available on the “search land records” portion of our website (www.lowelldeeds.com) to go back to 1976 and perhaps as far back as 1950. Records older than that are not yet available online (although they should be by mid-2006), so you’d have to come here to the registry to look at our books.

The easiest way to start tracking the ownership history of your home is to look at the most recent deed for the property (which is probably the deed that made you the owner). Towards the end of the property description and right above the place where the seller signed the deed, is a paragraph commonly referred to as the “title reference.” That usually says something like “For Seller’s title, see deed of John Jones to Seller dated March 1, 1994 and recorded in the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds Book 12500, Page 120.” All documents at the registry are copied into numbered books. That book number, and the page within that book where the document is located, become the identifiers of the document. So in our example, you’d go to book 12500, open it to page 120 and find the deed that’s mentioned. If you find the “title reference” paragraph in that document, you will learn the book and page number of the previous deed of the property. You just repeat the process until you’ve reached the end point of your search.

Unfortunately, it’s not always quite so simple. Sometimes there’s no title reference in a deed, so you have to go to the Index and search for the property owner’s name. That will usually give you a book and page reference to follow. If ownership of property passes by will, however, there may not be any record of the ownership change at the registry of deeds. That would be at the registry of probate which is located in Cambridge.

Sorry to go on for so long, but the answer to your question is complicated. If you do decide to come to the registry, please visit our Customer Service office. The folks there will get you started on the right track.

Researching the history of a home - yours, a family member’s or just an interesting property - can be quite rewarding. As we add more of our older records to the website in the coming year, you will be able to perform this type of research over the Internet quite easily. But for now, a visit to the registry is a big part of this process.

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