Researching Your Property

Have you ever wondered who lived on your land before you moved in but didn’t know how to find out? The answers are available, although it may take a little bit of digging. Montgomery County keeps detailed land records. These records date going back to 1784, when Philadelphia County was split up, and Montgomery County was created.  Sales records from the mid-1970’s through today are online and you can look them up using your home or library computer. Earlier records may require a trip to Norristown. 

The quest starts with the current owner and then we follow links backwards, as far as you want to go. Every land transfer (sale, gift, combination, split, et cetera) has a record in a “Deed Book” that the county records. Each of these deeds is located by a combination of two numbers a Deed Book number and the page number in the Deed Book.

Let’s start by beginning with an  online search using your current address to find the most recent record.

Here are the steps:  

1. Using an internet browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer…) go to the Montgomery County Property Search webpage.
2. Select “Search by Address”
3. Read the “Disclaimer” and click on “agree” at the bottom (yes, it’s safe to use)
4. Enter the house number, street name, suffix, and Municipality and then click on the “Search” box e.g. “1432” “Bethlehem” “Pike” “Springfield” could go in these fields.
5. You will see a lot of information about the property. Verify that you have the correct record.
6. Click on “Sales” to get to a list of the most recent sales (and owners).
7. Print the page that you see for your records.

The “Deed Book and Page” number is our link to the past. You’ll need all of the information on the last line that contains these numbers.

Helpful hints for using the Montgomery County Property Records Search webpage and data:

If you click on “Map” in the menu, the web site will display an outline of your property and show you the surrounding streets and properties. Each property will be labeled with a 12 digit parcel ID and an 8 character Tax ID. Both of these numbers start with “52” for Springfield Township. You can zoom in and out on the map using the “+” and “-” buttons and move the location on the map by left-clicking and moving your mouse.

You can get information on any other parcel on the map by clicking on the Parcel ID –

The measurements that you see associated with your property are based on what a developer or builder supplied prior to when the county digitized the data. The digitization was done by an outside service and shouldn’t be used to determine legal rights. Some measurements were very old and there were inconsistencies that weren’t resolved. Some measurements are from the center of a road and others are from the edge of the road. Roads and their widths changed over time. You would have to go to the actual deed and surveyor notes to determine correct measurements.

In addition to finding a property by address, you can also search by owner, or as previously mentioned, locating a property on a map.

Under “Residential” you may find a line “Year Built.” This answers one of the most asked questions that we receive when someone is researching their property.

Contact and Visit the Springfield Township Historical Society

Before you head off to Norristown, contact the Historical Society. You can email, call, or stop by for a visit.

We have records and deed copies on some of the township properties. We also have books of maps that contains the names of the property owners at the time the maps were made. Much of Springfield Township was made up of farms, and later country estates. The maps may show you that you now live on historic farmland. This may satisfy your curiosity and you may decide not to spend time on further investigations. You can email, call, or stop by for a visit during our open hours. If you contact us prior to coming in, we can begin to pull the appropriate material for you. You can also use the following links to see what resources are available within the Historical Society Collection. 

Search the Collection
(We are continually updating and adding to to STHS online catalog. Please check back often.)
A History in Maps

A Visit to Norristown – What You Need to Know

Montgomery County has two property records databases. One of them contains records going back to the mid 1970’s and the other one contains records from the mid 1970’s back to when the county split away from Philadelphia County in 1784.

The post 1970’s data is available to you on the county website (see the above directions). However, property records in the older database can’t be accessed from your home computer and will require a trip to The Recorder of Deeds office in Norristown.

The Recorder of Deeds office is located at One Montgomery Plaza, 425 Swede Street, across the street from the Montgomery County courthouse. The office, in room 303, is open during normal business hours, but you may find it easiest to get a computer terminal in the early afternoon, when the commercial users are mostly done for the day.  Please visit the Montgomery County Property Records website for operating hours.

Helpful Hints for Your Visit to The Recorder of Deeds office

As you get off the elevator, on the third floor, you will see the entrance to room 303. In there, a receptionist is to your right, and the public access computers are to your left, in a corral, just past the end of the service counter. Take a seat at any open workstation and you are ready to begin. Keep in mind that if you get stuck or confused, the workers there are used to helping visitors. It is their job and you aren’t imposing on them.

Make sure that you bring a notepad and some pens or pencils. The office rules forbid your taking pictures of the computer screens, but you may take notes and use the office printer at a nominal charge per page.

When you are done for the day, logoff and go to the counter to pick up and pay for your printed pages. Check them before you leave to avoid having to make another trip back.

If you don’t want to drive into Norristown, many SEPTA buses pass by on Swede Street, or terminate at the Norristown Transportation Center, two blocks down the hill.

How to Conduct Research at the The Recorder of Deeds office

There are two programs that you can start from the Windows desktop. “Property Info” gets you to the newer records, and “image sync” gets you to the older records. For both programs, you will use a “guest” login and key in your name, which will be used just to identify any pages that you print. 

You’ll probably want to start with “property info”, going to “Search Public Records” and pick “Deeds” then use “address” as your search type. Enter the street number and name in the search field, e.g. “123 Main”.  When you find the current record for your address, make note of the “Book” and “Page”, the record type and the names of the grantor and grantee. Scan through the record, looking for a reference to the prior “Book” and “Page” which is a link to the prior transaction. After you get the initial record, all searches back in time will be by “Book” and “Page”. When your link takes you to a book and page that can’t be found, it will be time to go to the “image sync” program, to get pre-1970’s records. Similarly to what you have just done, you will search by “Book” and “Page” going backwards. This program just has scanned images of pages from the Deed books. The more recent ones are typed but the earlier ones are hand written and may be difficult to read.

Here are a few things to look for and how to handle them: Some Deeds say “Deed” others say “Indenture,” look for a description of the transaction and the property being conveyed. All of our properties have gone through divisions and combinations, passed through probate and other legal hurdles that can make your search difficult. If you come to a roadblock, look for an alternate path to get what you want. This may mean looking for other types of records, such as subdivision plans. If the initial search by address doesn’t get your record, try searching by name, e.g. “John Smith.” Be careful in what you print. Both programs allow you to print multiple pages at a time.

The “Property Info” program groups the pages into a queue which you will print when you are done with the program, the “Image Sync” program lets you specify the beginning and ending page numbers for grouping. Make sure you specify exactly what you want, to avoid missing data or running up an excessive charge. 

This material was adapted from the original articles Ghosts on My Property compiled by STHS volunteer, Ray Smith for the  October 2017 and March 2018 issues of the Challenge.