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Your Home's History - Tracing Deeds

Researching your home's history begins with a trip to the Registry of Deeds in Dedham, MA.
Step by step instructions are outlined below.
Once you've obtained your deed information you can apply for an Historic Plaque for your home - as part of the Norfolk Historical Commission's Historic Plaque Program.
The Commission will be happy to provide a painted wooden wall plaque, documenting the original owners name and the approximate date of construction for any home or other building in Norfolk, that was built prior to 1900.

In order to obtain a plaque, first submit to the Historical Commission your researched documentation showing the property history, transactions and date the structure was built. Once your documentation is approved you will receive a plaque to be displayed, in a prominent location, on the exterior of your home.

This documentation can be compiled by tracing the deed history of the property back to the time it was vacant land.

How To Trace Property Deed History
Tracing property deeds can be done at the following locations

For transactions that occurred after 1793

Norfolk County Registry of Deeds
649 High Street
Dedham, MA 02026-0069
(781) 461-6122
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30AM - 4:30PM

For transactions that occurred prior to 1793

Suffolk County Registry of Deeds
24 New Chardon Street
1st Floor
Boston, MA 02114-9660
(617) 788-8575
Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 4:30PM

Why Suffolk County, if you need to research prior to 1793? - because Wrentham was a part of Suffolk County, prior to 1793 and therefore properties in today's Norfolk were at that time a part of the Town of Wrentham and thus classified as Suffolk County. The Norfolk area was known as North Wrentham until it was incorporated as a separate town in 1870.

The recorded deeds are kept in numbered books, which are filed sequentially by date. Indexes to the records allow you to search by the Grantee (Buyer) and others by the Grantor (Seller).

Before you begin your search in Dedham, prepare by documenting your known information. It is important to know the location of the land being researched and it's general positioning relative to compass points north, south, etc. If you have the plan of the property, take it with you. Also take paper and pencils. You will want to make written notes of everything you find, even false leads.

Be prepared to convert between current and past measurements, as many property descriptions are given in rods, chains, and links, as well as feet.

Use the following conversion table:


1 chain
100 links
66 feet
1 rod
25 links
16.5 feet
1 link
.01 chain
7.92 inches

Step One
Begin to trace back from the current deed. From the deed, obtain the name of the person (s) from whom the property was bought (the Grantor), the date and the book and page numbers where the transaction is recorded. Record this information as the first step in your documentation process. From the deed record the property description. Take careful note of the distances, bounds, directions, etc. because many of these will appear in earlier deeds.

Step Two
Look up the name of the Grantor on the deed, in the Grantee's index. You need to find out from whom he bought the property, that he later sold. Often, the same person is Grantee for several transactions. Note the brief descriptions in the index to find which may pertain to your property. The index will give the book (Lib.) and page (Fol.) where the transactions are recorded. Look up the deeds and note carefully the property descriptions to see which describes your property. Remember that descriptions may change - the property that you are researching may show up as only a small part of a much larger piece of property on an earlier deed, as you trace back in time. When you are certain you have the deed, which describes or contains the property you are researching, record the Grantee, the Grantor, the date, the book (Lib.), and the page (Fol.), as your second entry in the documentation process. If the property description is different from the first description document this new description as well. If it is the same description, just write "Same".

Step Three
Continue on, as with step two, looking up the previous Grantor in the Grantee's index, checking and listing the property description, and documenting the deed information in your records. If the property was inherited you may need to look up the Probate record (will) - the Docket Number for the will may be listed in the deed.

If you should need to look up a will, this can be done at the Registry of Probate, located on the second floor. If you do not have the Docket Number for the will, look up the person's name in the Probate Index. This will give you the Docket Number. Next go to the desk and fill out a requisition form listing the Docket Number, the name of the person making the will, your name, and the date. The clerk will take this form and bring you the will.

Step Four
If you happen to trace your property back to 1793, you will then have to continue your research at the above mentioned Suffolk County Records Office in Boston.

Things To Look Out For
a.) Changes in the property description - only a part of a piece of land may have been transferred, or conversely several pieces may have been joined together to form a larger tract.
b.) Changes in a person's name - usually due to marriage.
c.) Transfers by means other than a formal sale - this could happen as part of a gift, or will, etc.
d.) Ownership by more than one person
e.) Sale of only a part of the property.

Remember that deeds are land records and it is important to note any mentions of buildings, as this may be the only way of tracing the house. When you uncover a deed, which is transferring only land without any building (s) being mentioned, you will have an approximate date for the construction of the house. Record this deed as the final entry in your documentation.

You may then submit your documentation to the Historical Commission.
Upon approval of your documentation, you will be asked to sign a form giving your approval for the wording of the plaque and agree to display it on your house.

Here is an example of how your documentation should be written.

Documentation of:......Record the address
-------------------------------------------------------
1.
Grantee:......The current owner's name as it appears on the deed.
Grantor:......The person from whom the property was purchased.
Instrument:......Lib. Fol. (for the deed, mortgage, will, etc.)
Date:
Description:......As an example a certain lot of land with all the buildings, thereon, bounded as follows, etc.
Notes:......Any other information from the deed, which you feel, is important or helpful.
-------------------------------------------------------

2.
Grantee:......The grantor in the first transaction
Grantor:......The person from whom the property was purchased.
Instrument:......Lib. Fol. (for the deed, mortgage, will, etc.)
Date:
Description:......As an example a certain lot of land with all the buildings, thereon, bounded as follows, etc.
Notes:......Any other information from the deed, which you feel, is important or helpful.
-------------------------------------------------------
3.
Continue your documentation, in this way, for as many transactions as have been researched.
-------------------------------------------------------

If you can't research the registry of Deeds in person - here's some alternatives.

To obtain a copy of your deed please send $2.00 together with the book and page reference or document number reference of the deed you are looking for to P.O. Box 69, Dedham, MA 02027. If you do not know the title reference please list the owners name, street address and town where the property is located. Do not forget to note your return address on your request. All requests for copies or must be prepaid.

The Registry of Deeds cannot do a title search for you. If you are looking to research a title or need copies of more than just your deed you can contact an independent title examiner. There are many people who make their living doing title examinations who are at the Registry every day. You can reach one of these individuals by calling 781-326-9775, 781-326-9656, 781-326-9748, or 781-326-9776, 781-326-9787 and request the operator to put you in touch with a title examiner.
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Other sources that may provide additional information of use in your research are as follows.

The Massachusetts State Archives has maps and legislative records

The Boston Public Library has microfilms available to the researcher of old tax records from 1737 to 1776.

Ancestry.com and other genealogical research sites may be a source genealogical information re: individuals involved in your property's history.

......and of course there is always the vast powers of the net's prime search engines google.com and others......

Let me know if you need help or advice.

Good Luck and Happy Hunting !!



Norfolk Town Hall, One Liberty Lane, Norfolk MA 02056  Phone: 508-528-1408
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