Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding Deeds In Suffolk County, Massachusetts - Part 2, Deed Books

If you thought finding online Deeds for Suffolk County, Massachusetts was difficult, wait until you try to find the deed books. I'm going to presume that you don't know the book and page numbers of the deeds you are looking for so let's start with the index books.

Index Books

In order to find the deeds for your house or for your ancestors' homes you will have to know the book and page number. When you don't have the book and page numbers you can use the grantor and grantee indexes to look for the surnames of the home owners. The grantor indexes provide the surnames alphabetically of the property sellers and and the grantee index books give the surnames of the property buyers. All homeowners, with the exception of current homeowners, were both grantor and grantee at some point.

Suffolk Country Registry of Deed index books are available on microfilm from the Family History Library and cover the years 1639 - 1920.

The complete set of index books are available in book format from 1639 - present at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds in Boston.  They are, however, separated into two rooms. Index books 1921 - present are found in one room and index for deeds 1639 - 1920 are found in what is called the "Old" Bookroom.

Locating Deed Books

Deed books starting in 1964 with book 7871 and continuing to the present are found in the main section of the Suffolk Registry of Deeds.

Books 4553 to 7870 (roughly 1924-1964) are found in the "Old" bookroom which is a remote room down a winding hall at the back of the Registry.

Head to the Archives!

The rest of the deed books are not found at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds.  Now it's time to head over to the Massachusetts State Archives Building located at 220 Morrissey Boulevard on Columbia Point near the John F. Kennedy Library.  This is not a walk. You will either need to drive or take public transportation.

Things Get Complicated!

The Massachusetts State Archives is not the only organization located at this address. In fact, you will find Suffolk County Deeds here in two different locations.

Deeds 1639 - 1799

Deed books 1 - 100 have been given to the Massachusetts State Archives for care. These cover the years 1639 - 1799. You can view the grantor and grantee indexes on microfilm in the reading room of the Massachusetts State Archives. Afterwards, you can request to view the original books. Depending on the fragile condition of the books, the Archives may or may not grant that request. You can however view these deed books on microfilm from the Family History Library or at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. So far so good.

Deep Storage
The Black Hole

The deed books starting with book 101 are held by the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds in the basement of the Massachusetts State Archives. This is deep storage with what seems like mile-high shelving. Researchers do not have access to the stacks. You will be asked to fill out a form with the books that you would like to view.  There are no indexes here. Your index research must be done either at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds on New Chardon Street in Boston or on Microfilm.

The curious thing is that the deed books go from book 101 to roughly, so I am told 2170.  If you noticed from what I wrote above that leaves a gap from book 2171 to book 4552.  You can't physically get your hands on these. But that's ok because they are digitized and available online.

It may be that these are the wrapped books that are being stored in the "Old" Bookroom at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds. Or it may be that they are in a temporary location due to the digitization process. I really can't be sure.

Summary

The key to success when researching deeds in Suffolk County, Massachusetts is to do your index research first. Identify which books you will need and where they are located. And remember if you need books 2171 to the present you can find them online from the comfort of your computer (unless of course you don't have the book and page number).

Happy Hunting! Please let me know your stories of researching in Suffolk County or if you have any questions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finding Deeds In Suffolk County, Massachusetts - Part 1, Online Deeds

Suffolk County, Massachusetts deeds can be a challenge because they are spread across three different locations in Boston. Only two of the locations have indexes so preparing ahead of time is critical. Luckily, many of the deeds are online so you can start your search without leaving your computer.

Online Deeds

Suffolk County deeds are available from the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds website and also from Masslandrecords.com. In fact, when you click on the Registry of Deeds document search it will forward you to this second site.

Name Search

Deeds are indexed by surname back to 1975. Start with the Name Search under Recorded Land. If you don't find the name you are looking for there, then do the Name Search under Registered Land.  Remember this index only goes back to 1975.

Book Search

Name Search, Book Search & Unindexed Property Search
Instead of a Name Search, you can select Book Search and do a search by book and page number. Now here's where things start to get a bit confusing. This particular search is only for the indexed deeds, so in essence you can go back to 1975 by Book Search.

The Good News

The good news is that the deed books are actually digitized all the way back to 1893.  Said another way, you can find books 2171 to the present online. (This will change as more books are digitized.)

So where are the rest of the Deeds Hiding?

In order to access the rest of the images you must select the search criteria called Unindexed Property Search. Within this option you can search by book and page number. You must use an index, either in book form or on microfilm, if you don't already have a book and page number.

Viewing Your Deed

After entering your book and page number you will see a random link below called unindexed documents with the book and page number also hyperlinked off to the right. Click on any of the links (unindexed documents, book, page) and a window will pop up with the digital image of the deed page.



Printing and Saving the Deed

At this point you can either save the deed (by right clicking and choosing save image as) as an image in gif format or you can print the deed by using the print document link in the upper right corner of the page. Consider yourself very lucky! A number of other Massachusetts Registries will not allow you to save or print deeds for free.


Let me know if you have any questions.

In Suffolk County, Massachusetts - Part 2, Deeds Books, I will explain how to find the deed books and grantor and grantee index books.