Abstracts of Title – A Property Researcher’s Gold Mine

The most frequently asked question received by OLHD is “can you tell me the history of my house?”.  Unfortunately, our most frequent answer is “sorry, but no”.  Only a handful of the thousands of older homes in the Oak Lodge area have had their history documented and recorded. Hundreds of others await a willing homeowner or researcher to discover their history. OLHD can offer some suggestions as to how to go about researching a property’s history, and when undertaken it is always a rewarding experience.

Image of opening page of an Abstract of Title

One tool that can greatly help a researcher is the location of an Abstract of Title. Prior to the late 1960’s it was commonplace for the purchaser of a piece of property to receive a physical Abstract of Title from the title company, certifying that the property had clear title and was clear of liens, back taxes, or other encumbrances. These Abstracts recorded the chronological chain of deeds from the original government ownership (generally the Donation Land Claim the property lies in) to the grantor that the purchaser was buying from. They show the names of the Grantor and Grantee, the date, the legal description, and the book and page where the transaction was recorded. Abstracts of Title generally came in a legal sized book form with a hard cover, but one known example (the “Townsite of Concord”) was published as a hard bound booklet. Following the chain of transactions, the purchaser of a piece of property can easily determine how their parcel was divided over and over since the 1850’s or 1860’s to the size they were purchasing. Historians can also use these Abstracts to determine where significant historical sites were once located (for example Orrin Kellogg’s tannery, which was identified in one such Abstract), and even genealogical information.

Even if a homeowner does not have an Abstract of Title for their property, if they can find one from a long-time resident in the neighborhood it may shed a great deal of light on the history of the homeowner’s property.  Alternatively, an Abstract of Title should be able to be purchased through a title company, or in some instances the county recorder may be able to help.  A few of these Abstracts were spotted at the Clackamas County Family History Society a few years ago, and OLHD has obtained three or four – – – but these are somewhat random, and may, or may not, be pertinent to a given homeowner’s piece of property.

Mike Schmeer
Chairman, Oak Lodge History Detectives

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