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               March 2011

      Charles Hansen, Editor

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  Land Records
  — by Charles Hansen

       Most experienced genealogists know the value of land records, they can help you break through your brick walls. Most of our ancestors were farmers and owned land and so before any vital records were started you can find land records and they will pinpoint where your ancestor lived, may show when he died, list his wife and children and maybe even close relatives living near him.

       So how do you find these land records? The county courthouse should have land records back to the formation of the county. Next you will say, "...but my county courthouse burned"! Did the land burn? No, and since the county survived on land taxes, land records would soon be reconstructed from either the land owner providing copies or hopefully from a fireproof vault where the county kept all their records. So now you get to check the Grantor and Grantee indexes to find the file number for your ancestors deed and wander down the long rows of deed books looking for the one with the deed for your ancestors land. Finding the book and then making a copy will be the last step before the happy dance.

       Spokane's land records are in the county auditors vault on the second floor. This is one of two vaults the county auditor had when I started doing research for EWGS in 1998. There was a small vault right next to the auditors office on the second floor which had mostly marriage records from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s the auditors office started using computers for marriage records and from then to the present all the marriage records are on computers. The second vault was down the hall on the other side of the hall and it was much larger. It had marriage records back to 1880, some early birth and death records, and row after row of land records and mortgage records. Soon after that the county started to remodel on the second floor to add another courtroom across the hall from the big vault, and when they did they used about half of the small vault near the auditors office. The auditor moved the records into the big vault and moved the shelves closer together, but it was apparent they would run out of room soon, and with a lot of records away from the auditors office they needed help for people looking for their ancestors. They came to EWGS looking for help and I volunteered, that solved the help problem, but they needed more space for storage.

       The Eastern Washington State Archives at Cheney solved that problem, and soon tons of paper files from the auditors office were moved to Cheney and with the help of many volunteers those records were scanned and indexed and put online at the worlds first digital archives. Now if you went in the vault you would just see the land records and the grantor and grantee indexes still being used daily by the local title companies. So with the help of the title companies they started scanning land records starting with the newest first and some of those are appearing online at the digital archives. I was wondering how long it would take and I got an answer a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to find a deed for a query, and stopped by the new office of the assessor and auditor on the first floor of the courthouse. The deed was dated 1920, and all I had to do was give the name of the purchaser to the clerk, he typed it in the computer and in seconds I had a copy for the same price as before $1 a page. Will I miss the grantor- grantee indexes? No. Will this make more people interested in courthouse research? Maybe, but of course everything is on the internet. Not yet.

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