Going to the registry of deeds is like going to a foreign country. The first thing you have to do is learn the language. Even if your just visiting online, here are the two main terms that you need to know:
Grantor – is the seller of the property
Grantee – is the buyer of the property
I recommend that you start with yourself as the current owner of the property and work backwards. Here is a worksheet that you can fill in to track your progress using Adobe PDF Deed Research Worksheet or Excel Deed Research Worksheet. So you will hopscotch back in time by recording your deed on the first line and then searching the Registry of Deeds looking in the Grantee Index for the person who sold you the property.
To find Andover deeds on or after August 1, 1823 go to the Merrimack County Registry of Deeds website. The home page tells you what records have been indexed for the Grantors and Grantees. This continually changes, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for, check back later or plan a trip to Concord.
Searching the index is free. But if you want to actually view and print the documents, you will need to set up an account and pay for them. The details of the charges are on the web site (on 4/18/16 it was $4 per document or $25 per month to subscribe and $2 per document). Or you can go into the registry in Concord and pull many of the records yourself. The last time I was there, there was a small charge for copying the records. Or you can take a scan of the document with a smartphone or camera.
When you are ready to search, click on “Search Registry Records”.I like to start my search with broad parameters and then narrow them down if I get too many responses. At the Merrimack County site,
- Click on the woman in a green sweater to do a name search
- For the Party Type, select “Grantee” from the drop down list
- Enter the last name of the person you bought the property from
- Leave the document type and dates at their defaults at first
- Select “DEEDS” from the Document Category drop down list
- For the Town, select “Andover” from the drop down list
- Click “Submit”
Based on your search results, you may need to narrow the filters down by changing some of your choices. You might want to narrow down the dates or add a first name if you are getting too many results. To change your search parameters, just scroll back up to the top of the page, make your changes and click “Submit” again. You can find more search instructions back on the home page if you are not getting the results you expected.
Scroll through your results list until you find the person who sold the property to you in the Grantee column. Keep an eye on the Legal column to see if there is a description of your property there. If you’re lucky, you will find enough information in the index to identify your property and get the name of the new grantor. Fill this information into the second line of the Deed Research Worksheet and repeat the search using this new grantor as the grantee.
If the previous owners of your property had a lot of real estate transactions in town, you may need to actually go to Concord or set up an online account to view the documents to be certain it is your property.
I would recommend initially focusing on deeds and ignore the mortgages, liens, releases and other document types. But later, you might want to go back to see what other documents are available.
Once you are back to 1823 in your deed search, you will go to the Rockingham County Registry of Deeds. Fortunately, most of these old deeds are available online.
….More to follow…