If you haven’t explored your local land records, you’re really missing out on some valuable information as well as some entertainment. I’m working on a new house history (shh! it’s a secret!) that a coworker commissioned for a Christmas present. In seeking out the deeds for the house, I’ve found a treasure trove of details about properties that demonstrate the humor of the landowners back in the 1800s.
When settlers and colonists took ownership of land, they often named the tracts and these descriptors are thereafter referenced in future land records (a helpful clue when you’re trying to decipher all those descriptions of acres, perches and degrees). Here’s just a couple examples that made me giggle while I researched:
Other place names give clues as to the owner or the purpose of the land:
“Ohio” (this is in Maryland)
“Forester’s Hunting Ground”
“The Three Brothers”
“Everything Needful Corrected”
How does one get started digging into land records? Here’s one of the best-kept secrets in Maryland: currently anyone can use mdlandrec.net to look up property in the state. You do need a login, but it’s simple to request one and I was informed by their help desk that they usually respond to requests within the hour during the business day.
I highly recommend reading the user guide (may require a login to download) before you get started as navigating the search mechanism for the various county land indices can be a bit overwhelming for newbies.