One of my remote great-grandfathers moved from Rhode Island to New York. All of the published family histories had the story but the move had never been documented or, at least, the source had never been recorded. In reading through early Rhode Island town records, I discovered the real estate tax rolls for the town where they lived. In the tax rolls, I found the family listed year after year, and then they disappeared. This event gave me source for the timing of their movement to New York, thus documenting the family story after more than a hundred years of combined family members' research.
I find that very few genealogical researchers search land records even though they are more or less as available as any other type of records. For example, the Maryland Judiciary, the 24 elected Court Clerks of Maryland and the Maryland State Archives have joined in partnership to provide up to date access to all verified land record instruments in Maryland. This service is currently being provided at no charge to individuals who apply for a user name and password. There are huge databases such as the one maintained by the Bureau of Land Management for the General Land Office Records containing access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States. The site also provides image access to more than three million Federal land title records for Eastern Public Land States, issued between 1820 and 1908. Currently, we are adding images of Military Land Warrants. These land patents were issued to individuals as a reward for their military service. About.com:Genealogy also has a helpful list of Land and Property Records.
Many of the state land offices or county land offices (commonly called the County Recorder) have searchable online indexes to property ownership and some have copies of deeds and other records. Another example, the Massachusetts Secretary of State has a Website linking each of the County Registry of Deeds Offices. The Barnstable County Registry has indexes and images complete from 1704. (I have mentioned this before). The Northern Bristol County Registry of Deeds goes back to 1686.
Stay tuned for more posts about land records and terminology.