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Researching Historic Houses

A guide to the process and resources for researching historic properties in Maryland.

Tax Assessments

Tax Assessments are often the fastest way to begin a chain of title. Recent tax assessments are available for the entire state of Maryland online at the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation Real Property Data Search. When you select Prince George's County from the drop down list, you should also select "street address" from the options below. Once you make these selections, you are prompted to enter your address and information about recent tax assessments will appear. You can use the deeds listed on the Tax Assessment to trace the title through a deed search.

Deeds

Deeds help to establish chain of title for a home. They give dates of the exchange of a home from one owner to the next, restate the dimensions of the parcel of land, and sometimes include other interesting information. Most deeds are traced back using the liber (i.e., book) and folio (i.e., page) numbers that describe where a deed can be found in the land records. Typically, a deed will list the liber and folio numbers of the last property transaction. Sometimes this information is missing and you will need to search in the deed indices using either the last name of the previous buyer or a transaction date. 

Deeds in the state of Maryland can be accessed on microfilm at city and county repositories, as well as at the Maryland State Archives. Deeds can also be accessed online through http://mdlandrec.net/main/index.cfm, a digital image retrieval system for land records. Below is the process to follow in order to look at deed records from the Maryland Land Records website:

  1. Click register to set up a password to use the MDLandRec site. After you register, your password will be sent to you via e-mail.
  2. Once you have your password. Go to http://mdlandrec.net/main/index.cfm and enter your username and password to login.
  3. To begin, you can locate recent deed numbers on your tax assessments. This will be a series of two or three letters, followed by two series of numbers (i.e. ABC 123 045).
  4. Select the county of your property you wish to search.
  5. Enter the recent deed information into the three boxes for the Clerk's Initials (the letters), Book (first set of numbers), Page # (second set of numbers).
    Note:For older deeds there may or may not be Clerk's Initials, it is okay to leave this field blank.
  6. A page will appear displaying a digital copy of the deed.
  7. To find the previous deed in your chain of title, you can locate the previous deed's liber and folio number and enter it into the boxes in the upper right hand corner to trace back further.

If your house is very old, all of the deeds for it may not be available online, in which case you should find them at the Maryland State Archives.

Recording Your Chain of Title

Having an organized record of your deed information is useful in looking up other records, and understanding the chronology of your property. When creating your spreadsheet you want to record the date, grantor (the seller), the grantee (the buyer), and any additional comments (see example below). You can also leave room for other relevant information, such as the liber and folio numbers, or any revealing information you find in your deed search.

Date

Grantor

Grantee

Comments

2/15/1950

John and Jane Doe

Jim and Jill Doe

Front awnings added by John and Jane Doe

4/10/1935

John Doe Sr.

John and Jane Doe

 

5/20/1922

J. Q. Public

John Doe Sr.

 

Other Types of Land Records

Building Permits are a helpful resource in the investigation of the history of your home. Permits can reveal architects, builders, construction dates, materials, alterations, and much more. Historic building permits are held in a variety of locations, so it is best to contact your local planning department to find out where they are kept for your area. Knowing the lot and square number for your property will be helpful in the search, as many permits are organized in this way. Some are also organized by street name and number, so if your street name has changed, be sure you know the old name and when the road name changed.

Property Abstracts are compiled by local governments from deed records, showing the chain of ownership through a property's history. If available, property abstracts can be found at the registry of deeds or you may have received this document when you purchased you home.