Home & Property Research Guide
Montgomery County is not only rich in historic figures and innovations, but in properties and homes as well. Tracing the histories of these old homes can be fun and exciting with the right tools, which can be found in this Montgomery County Home and Property Research Guide. (Tip: Click the sentences highlighted in blue to go directly to that page.)
Where Do I Start?
There are two common questions people typically have when they want to do property or house research: "who owned the home before me, or before/after my relatives?" And, "how old is the home?" The first step in answering both questions involves determining the chain of ownership.
Determining the chain of ownership can be accomplished in any of three ways: by searching the County Recorder's Deed Records using the Alphabetical Index, which lists Grantors to Grantees (Buyers to Sellers); using the Tract Index, which is the geographical/legal description abstract; or by visiting the Montgomery County Auditor's website and using their property search tool.
All deed records and indexes are available in the Recorder's Office on the 5th Floor of the County Administration Building at 451 West Third Street. The Montgomery County Records Center and Archives also has select deed indexes and records, which can be found in our Historical Records Guide, and at the end of this research guide.
To determine the chain of ownership, it is best to start at the present owner and work backwards. Finding the present owner of a property or home, if it is not you, can be done through the County Auditor's website using their property search tool. Note that you can search using the address, owner's name (if you know who owns it), or parcel ID. Once you enter this information and have clicked 'search,' the current owner will appear. Clicking directly on the current owner's name will expand the information available about the property or home, which will list a legal description of the property.
The legal description of the property is what you will need before you start scouring the deed records. It will include references to sections, townships, ranges, and lot numbers. Once you have the legal description of the property, you can either visit the County Recorder's Office, the GIS documents page on the Montgomery County Auditor's website, or the Montgomery County Records Center and Archives to document the chain of title.
The County Auditor's GIS page is the fastest and most convenient way to gather your chain of title as it provides several City Abstract Books. When you have your legal description, you can go to the document page, click on "Abstract Book City," and find your number. For example, the Reibold Building's legal description is lot 205. Looking at the Abstract Book City, the abstract list for the Reibold Building is in Dayton 11, lots 155 to 326. Clicking on the Dayton 11 link will take you to Abstract Book 11, City of Dayton, where you will have to scroll until you find lot 205. The lot numbers are stamped in the top left to hand corner and are typically blue, although they can be hand to written. Once you find your number, you will see a list of sellers, buyers, deed books, mortgage books, and page numbers for the home or property. This list of sellers and buyers is your chain of ownership.
With your chain of ownership, you have everything you need to start searching deed books to see who the very first owner of your home or property was. As mentioned before, having the chain of ownership also helps to determine the age of the house. To find out how old your home is, you will need to search tax records called Auditor's Tax Duplicates.
Tax Record Research
Sometimes it is easy to determine the age of a structure just by look. Architectural evidence can be the biggest hint of house age, possibly narrowing the age range down to 10 to 30 years. You can use your chain of title to compare names and see whether the name on the deed is the same name that paid the taxes for that year. However, if you are unable to determine the age of your home by looks alone, the Auditor's Records are there to help.
Auditor's Tax Duplicates provide information such as: annual value of the property, value of improvements on the property, taxes paid or delinquent for the year, and if the property exchanged hands within the tax year. Auditor's Tax Duplicates are located in the Montgomery County Auditor's Office at 451 West Third Street, and at the Montgomery County Records Center and Archives.
If you have already identified the first person to own the land your home is on, and the date in which they owned it, you can start with them. The land might exchange hands a few times before a structure is actually built on it, so be aware of that. Also, be aware of fluctuations in the economy to an increase in value from one year to the next may not indicate construction of a building. The construction of a building is typically reflected in a significant increase in taxes, usually more than 50% in one year. If your land was valued at $200 in 1897 then jumped to $1,000 in 1899, a home or other significant improvement was likely erected in 1898. Make sure to look carefully at the record to see if there are any notations such as frame house, and take note of anything written in the Value of Improvements column.
One last thing to be aware of is that a property may have been recorded as "township, section, and range" instead of as a lot. This is especially relevant for houses outside city limits. A township, section, and range can make finding your property difficult, but not impossible!
Montgomery County Administration Building - This building houses both the Auditor's and Recorder's Offices. Property research records that can be found in these offices are:
- Deed Records (1805 to Present Recorder)
- Tax Records (1984 to Present Auditor)
- Property Tax Maps (Auditor)
Wright State University Special Collections & Archives
Wright State University's archives, located in Dunbar library, houses a variety of historical, genealogical, and interesting records. Aside from individual collections, they also house official records for certain Ohio Townships and Counties. Property research records that can be found here are:
- Local Government Records and Manuscript Materials
- Family Histories and Genealogical Materials
- Miami Valley Genealogical Society Library
Wright State University Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Highway
Dayton, OH 45435
Email Wright State University Special Collections and Archives
Montgomery County Records Center & Archives
This office holds official historical county records for all of Montgomery County. Property research records that can be found here are:
- Deed Records (1805 to 1971)
- Deed Indexes (1805 to 1928)
- Auditor's Tax Duplicate Records (1803 to 1983)
- Will and Estate Records (1803 to 1939)
- Tract Record of Original Owners (1801 to 1830)
- County Engineer Maps
- Common Pleas Court Records
Montgomery County Records Center and Archives
Reibold Building, 6th Floor
117 South Main Street
Dayton, OH 45422
Email Montgomery County Records Center and Archives
Download the Home and Property Research Guide (PDF).