Finding My Great-Great-Grandfather’s 1879 Deed Record

By Diane Haddad

Don’t tell anyone, but I almost did Dora the Explorer’s “We Did It!” dance at work the other day. You might know it if you have small children or grandchildren.

You might even have done this dance if you’re a genealogist who finally found the old property record you’ve been looking for.

I will explain. My genealogy research day last December included a trip to the Cincinnati History Library & Archives to find my great-great-grandfather’s H.A. Seeger’s deed for this property in its microfilmed deed books.

From searching city directories, I knew my ancestor began living at 112 Abigail St. (the address has changed over the years) about 1880. The librarian showed me the microfilmed deed book indexes and explained they don’t cover all the records, so if I didn’t find what I need, I should ask about finding the deed by location.

I checked indexes for several years before and after 1880. This took awhile due to the handwriting and the number of S-surnames (loosely alphabetized by first name). H.A. Seeger wasn’t there.

Another librarian helped me with the location search. Or more correctly, I looked on and nodded and tried to answer his questions as best I could. We used a map to find the subdivision name and the lot number, and scrolled through a microfilm index for this subdivision. H.A. Seeger’s name was listed with book 421 and page 623. He’s fourth from the bottom in this fuzzy photo of the screen, which came in handy later:

My librarian friend handed me the microfilm covering that book and wished me luck. Only the record in that book on that page wasn’t H.A. Seeger’s. I didn’t even recognize the names. I checked adjoining pages, I checked deed numbers instead of page numbers, I checked book 412 and on page 632 in case some indexer transposed the numbers. Then I ran out of time.

FamilySearchorg recently updated its Hamilton County, Ohio, collection with land and property records. They aren’t indexed yet, but I thought I’d see what I could find.

I checked my snapshot of the index, and I didn’t find deed book 421 in FamilySearch’s collection. I was about to close the site when I scrolled down to see the other records—and I came across a mortgage book numbered 421. I clicked, typed 623 in the image number field, flipped another page (image numbers are usually a little off from page numbers because of the cover and other front matter), and there was H.A. Seeger’s record.

(If you’re researching in Hamilton County, this genealogical society web page and the PDFs it links to are extremely helpful in understanding the confusing numbering of property record books. There are both a deed and a mortgage book numbered 421.)

He purchased the property May 27, 1879, from Joseph and Agnes Otten with a loan of $200 from the Woodward Bau und Leih Verein (Building and Loan Association). The record describes the location of the property, the building, and the terms of H.A. Seeger’s repayment. A note on Dec. 3, 1889, says he paid it off. It gives the book and page numbers recording the plat and recording Joseph Otten’s purchase in 1864, adding two items to my genealogy to-do list.

Want to do find your ancestor’s land records and do a “We Did It!” genealogy dance of your own? Get in-depth help from our online course Land Records 101: Using Deeds, Plats, Patents & More, with Diana Crisman Smith. It starts May 5 and runs four weeks. See a course outline and register at Family Tree University.