Land deeds & Directories

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After curiosity has brought you this far, and without a doubt you have obtained everything you could from the initial steps … you then begin with land deeds and directories. Begin by locating land records in the area and dig in. It is sort of like genealogical research; you start with the present and then work backwards. One of the best places to find some history is through a land deed which can be traced from current owner back to the very first owner. Deeds record the transfer of ownership from seller to buyer and provide information on the seller’s name, marital status, and address (usually just state and town); the buyer’s name and address; price of the property; and a description of the property. In some cases, the deed will also list restrictions for the property such as a ban on farms, sale of alcohol on the premises and in older records, a ban against buyers of a certain race or religion.

Deeds can be both invaluable resources and fascinating reading. Always remember however that a deed records ownership of the property and not the actual house. Most deeds won’t even mention the structures on said property and you may have to use the price of the property to guess whether or not the land was before vacant during the sale. You must as well keep in mind that just because an individual’s name isn’t on the deed, this doesn’t mean that he or she didn’t live there. The location may have been rented out and only by tracking down in other listings you may be able to see who actually occupied the home.

To start by doing this: check through the city directories. These are books that collect the names, addresses and occupations of the people who lived in that city during a specific year. This resource will also offer a reverse directory which allows you to look up addresses of homes and find out their owners as opposed to the other way around. This is indeed a fantastic way to find out the owner or occupant of the home for each successive year to the time it was built. These directories are excellent references for ghost hunters and genealogists alike. Some information you can uncover is as follows: What were the occupant’s names? How long did they reside there? Don’t forget to make copies of any documents you may discover so that you can make reference to them later. If you aren’t able to make a photocopy, you could take the time to write all of it down freehand. Make yourself a timeline and place the information where it ought to go for a quick reference later.

A complication you may stumble upon is a change in a street’s name or the home’s street number. Don’t fret—when these changes came to be, maps and directories typically include the old number as well as new for at least the next year or two. Again, don’t forget to write down all of the street names and numbers for reference.

By now you ought to have a detailed timeline from the city directory. You will now have a fair idea of the recent occupants and an idea if they are still living or not. You could consider mailing the current owner a letter asking information about any strange events, and try to be as professional as possible. Remember to include your telephone member so that they could maybe reply to you. It may be unlikely that they will cooperate, or even respond to you. They may not have experienced a thing, and may not feel as though they have to explain that to you. Moreover; if they have experienced a haunting that is as well experienced and reported by the current occupants, you just may hear from them. If they verify the strange occurrences and will explain that these events occurred during their occupancy, then you have begun building a record of a genuinely haunted location. One unfortunate situation could very well be that the previous family may have actually moved out due to the strange occurrences and may not want to talk about it.

If by chance you aren’t able to speak with former residents; your timeline and occupant list will continue to serve you. You could begin by checking local obituaries for people who previously lived at the location. Libraries will have directories for obituaries and a date they appeared in the newspaper. Once you do locate the obituary, try to find out how the connected individual expired. If that death was eventful, there may as well be a likely story in the general section of the newspaper for that same day. As ghost investigators are mostly aware; murder, suicide, and traumatic deaths can most certainly lead to a location that could become active.

Perhaps the death did involve a murder, a suicide or something questionable—there would then be undoubtedly a filed police report. This means you are in luck, police and coroner reports are public record and can be obtained by anybody. There could be a small fee involved and there may be a waiting period to get a copy of said reports.

By now; you have certainly built up an impressive investigation into a location and ought to feel like you are making some real progress. By all means, keep records of any and all information you come upon and don’t forget that timeline you began. You are well on your way to understanding the chosen location of your inquiry.