Land Records, Deeds, Mortgages,
Grantor and Grantee Indexes.

  • Information on this page helps to explain the value of using land records in your Massachusetts genealogy and family history research. 

  • These records include, but are not limited to, deeds, mortgages, liens, bankruptcies, foreclosures and grantor and grantee deed indexes. 

  • You can also learn how to locate and research a Massachusetts land or property record.

  • Looking for location, hours, telephone numbers or other information regarding a particular Massachusetts Registry of Deeds location? Just follow our link to the Registry of Deeds location page.


Underutilized but often yielding tremendous genealogical research value, land and property records can sometimes deliver surprising answers. Land records can be especially helpful in defining various family relationships that help to solve particularly tough genealogical problems. Land records, especially in a state as old as Massachusetts, are a very important resource which researchers should not overlook.

In Massachusetts, land records, or deeds, as they are most often called, date back to the early part of the seventeenth century. In fact, the earliest known deeds were recorded shortly after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1620.

There are three very important land related definitions you need to understand before tackling this subject. We mention this simply to help those who are new at studying land records. Other researchers and of course people who have previously owned or sold property are already too familiar with these terms.

As with probate records, land records have their own and completely different language. Probably the three most common terms you will hear, talk or read about are the terms of grantor, grantee and conveyance, or deed.

Quite simply, a grantor is the seller. A grantee is the buyer and a conveyance is simply a deed - a legal document transferring ownership from one person to another.

In addition, there a several types of deeds which exist but as far as this discussion is concerned, we simply mention warranty and quitclaim deeds.

A quitclaim deed is the document in which the owner releases all right, interest or claim on a piece of real property without offering any kind of warranty - as below.

A warranty deed basically states that the grantor, the seller, guarantees that the property is owned by him or her completely free and clear. If a lawsuit later develops against ownership claims on this property, than the seller, or his heirs, can be sued.

For genealogical purposes, we like warranty deeds. Much can be gained, if and when, lawsuits develop and the resulting heirs and their relationship to the grantor is mentioned.

We also recommend that you first read an article written by Elizabeth Shown Mills, longtime editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, titled "Analyzing Deeds for Useful Clues" which first appeared in OnBoard (the newsletter of The Board of Certified Genealogists). This article offers invaluable information regarding the entire process of deed research and analysis.

As with probate records in Massachusetts, land records are handled on a county wide basis within the state and the repositories are known as Registry of Deeds. For visitors convenience, we have also developed a county directory to the Massachusetts Registry of Deeds.

Researchers should also note that many of the state registry's have each established their own web sites. (You can access their sites through our Registry Directory.) Most registries offer an ability to search land records via your PC, but these services are currently aimed at more contemporary land records.



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