Thursday, December 18, 2008

You wish your ancestors stopped in Kane County, Illinois

This northern Illinois county, now a cluster of Chicago suburbs, is the only county I know where the county recorder has put its tract books on line. Tract books, in case you slept through that part of genealogy class, are property records organized by a particular tract of land. Not all counties have 'em, at least not back to the beginning.

Kane County's tract books consist of typed abstracts of property transactions -- to research the actual deeds you have to go there. And they're not indexed by name, so you need either to be really lucky (not me) or know exactly where your ancestor was (more specifically than just the township!). So it may or may not substitute for (or prepare for) a trip to the courthouse.

That's the beauty of property records -- they weren't created with us genealogists in mind. That's also the horror of them -- they weren't created with us in mind. Now, what I'd really like is to see the grantor-grantee indexes digitized!

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