Deeds are a good source of information for genealogists and historians. They show when and where our ancestors owned property, who their neighbors were, and the county and state where the buyer and seller lived at the time of the sale. If married, they should list the name of the seller’s spouse and they can sometimes provide information about the relationships between other family members. Some deeds describe the history of the property and how the property came into the possession of the current owner. They can also provide the information necessary to map a neighborhood or road network as it existed long ago. Others refer to wills or court cases that may yield additional information.
For several years, Dr. Harold Peach has been working on a history project in Anderson County, Kentucky. As part of this project, he needed to trace current deeds to properties located in areas of historic significance back to the owners in the 1860s. He then used these deeds to identify adjacent landowners, the locations of historic places, and the traces of long-forgotten roads. Each deed had to be looked up in a hand-written running index in which the deeds are recorded chronologically, grouped only by the first letter of the buyer’s and seller’s surnames. This time-consuming process was made even more difficult because of the limited amount of research time he could spend at the Anderson County Clerk’s office, time he did not want to waste manually searching indexes. In Dr. Peach’s case, it was worth the time to transcribe the general index of Anderson County deeds from 1861 to 1897 so that before traveling to the county deed room he could quickly search for the parties of interest and prepare a list of deeds to examine.
Beginning with the U.S. Civil War and extending through the periods of reconstruction and industrialization, the deeds in this index document the property transactions of our ancestors. They also chronicle such events in Anderson County’s history as the construction of the Louisville Southern railroad, the establishment of the county’s public school system, the expansion of the town’s residential areas, and the resolution of the “turnpike wars.” In addition, these deeds detail the establishment of various churches, lodges, cemeteries, and associations.
Transcribing an entire deed index is probably too great an effort for someone wishing to locate a few deeds, but for those interested in searching the deeds of Anderson County during this period, they do not have to! The Kentucky Historical Society has published Dr. Peach’s transcribed index online in our Digital Collection. It is also available to researchers visiting the Martin F. Schmidt Research Library. Once identified, the deeds are available on microfilm at the Kentucky Historical Society or the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, both in Frankfort. The original deeds are also available at the Anderson County Clerk’s office in Lawrenceburg.
About the Author
Harold G. Peach is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky.
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