Before you do anything else, decide how you are going to organize your research. You will want to keep track of where you have been, what you looked at and found, who you talked to and what your next steps are. I found it most helpful to work with a three ring binder, divided into sections. All my notes were on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper, which are less likely to be lost in the paper maze you will create. My worksheets and log sheets are also this size for easy reference. Whatever method you choose, write down everything you have done. This is a time consuming process to begin with, without unnecessarily repeating steps because you forgot you had already done them.

The very first thing that you need to have before you begin your search is a legal description of the property, which can be obtained by looking at the deed you received when you purchased it. This legal description will identify the property you are researching so that when you are looking through records you can make certain you are dealing with the correct property. If you are extremely lucky, you may have been given an abstract of the property. The abstract not only contains the legal description, but also all transactions concerning the property. It will list all owners of the property back to the patentee – the original purchaser of the property from the federal government. Most people will not receive an abstract, and instead will need to build one. Starting with yourself as the buyer, you can work your way backwards through deed indexes to find prior sellers/buyers.