Saturday, August 11, 2012

Midwestern Deeds Online Update

In the five-state area of our focus, I now know of a total of five counties that have historical deeds on line. (Here's my original post on the subject from June.) These are all free sites. I've improved the linkage, and DeKalb is new!


DeKalb County via FamilySearch (browseable with indexes)

Will County via Illinois Digital Archive (indexes only, surnames A-K only)


Cuyahoga County via fiscal officer (searchable by book and page numbers only)

Stark County via recorder (sign up, archive search, first search index by letter, then deeds by book and page)


Outagamie County via FamilySearch (browseable with indexes)

These are strictly deeds, the meat and potatoes of property research -- not patents, maps, plats, or tract books. (As far as I can tell, Ancestry has nothing at all in this category.) Surely there are more!

Harold Henderson, "Midwestern Deeds Online Update," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 11 August 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana said...

Good Morning! Unfortunately, while I'd HOPE there'd be more on-line, the reality is that the amount of time and corresponding cost to digitize these older records are very high. Most Deed books are oversized; most prior to 1950 or so require special handling and equipment to digitize. Even working quickly, getting 30 images an hour would be challenging.

As an example, I went to a County in central Michigan to pull a Deed for a client. There were no less than 25 Indices for the corresponding ~200 books, that I could see. At approximately 600 pages each, that's 270,000 images. If 30 pages can be safely digitized in an hour, it would take 9,000 hours to complete this project. One person, working a regular 40 hour week, would need more than four YEARS to finish. And a properly trained Archives professional should charge appropriately for their time; that's about $200,000 for the 4+ years of work.

Now, let's talk reality. Staff can handle the books, right? They do it all the time. But you still need a large size scanner and it's still going to take about the same amount of time. Having a staff member pulled and put on a scanning project shifts responsibility to other employees of already strained staffs. Even if they were able to get 45 images an hour, that's still 6,000 man hours.

THIS is why so many Archives struggle with digitization projects. It's not that we don't want to do it; it's that we don't have the necessary resources to do it efficiently and safely. Our best friend is quickly changing technology that is faster and less expensive. In the meantime, a trip to a County Courthouse is a nice way to spend a day.

Harold said...

Thanks, Laura. It's good to see the problem from the other side of the table! Makes me wonder if there's an investigative or already knowledgeable genealogist in NE Ohio who could find out how those counties managed the job.

But local government might not have to do it. Many of these records have already been microfilmed by FamilySearch. (Perhaps the difficulty there is the terms under which they were first microfilmed?)

In any case, I'm more than happy to spend time in courthouses, but there are so many and I can only be in one place at at time!

Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana said...

Yes, it would be good to know how the counties that have the information available were able to do so. And, if the material has been microfilmed and FamilySearch has it, it would most likely benefit the Counties to review their policy for making the material available on-line. I suspect it may be a revenue issue as well; while it's not much, they're still able to charge to copy records.

Believe me, as an Archivist I'd love to have every collection I worked with be digitized; it resolves research issues VERY quickly! Thanks for a thought provoking post.

Jean said...

Harold, the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, deeds are searchable by name and date. After the boxes for book and page note it says: "Or Enter Document Information." It always starts with the current date which must be changed.

They were digitized by the county. I don't remember the details, but I think I've heard they had a grant.