What is an ownership history?
An ownership history is the outline of property ownership transfers through time. The result of this research will provide a listing of names and dates associated with each transfer of the property going back to the original private land owner. This information is commonly compiled by reviewing the tax assessment rolls to locate deeds or other vesting documents.
It is recommended to start your research when you (or the current owner) purchased the property, and then regress through time. After locating the name of the last seller of the property (as the grantor), you can then search backwards until you find when they purchased the property (as the grantee). Continue this process until finding the original land owner.
What is a landuse history?
A land–use history is the compilation of records identifying:
- how the land was utilized by the previous property owners
- natural disturbances that were identified to have occurred on the property
The land-use history is usually secondary to the ownership history and can be much more difficult. Records for land-use are rare and may require specific information such as the exact date a claim was made. However, if these records are found, they can reveal detailed information about tree stocking, logging, topography, or mining.
Why perform property history?
Completing a property history can allow you to add a narrative to the landscape. With each new owner, a new chapter about the land is written, helping you to better understand the characteristics that make up your property today. Learning who owned the property and how it was used and valued in the past can contribute to a better understanding of the growth and changes within communities.
On an environmental level, understanding how the natural features on the land were altered over time can provide insight into the current quality of the land. Gathering information regarding native trees, logging history, location of water features, and agricultural and mining use can all point to potential explanations of soil quality, water storage, and wildlife presence.
How does this fit into my forest stewardship plan?
The Washington State Integrated Forest Management Plan Guidelines include an introductory overview of the property. In addition to providing an overview of the land features, you may wish to include a family and land use history. This information will help identify the factors which may affect the use or management of your property. Including some history will deepen your discussion of the resource conditions and management practices that you will outline in your management plan.
This manual provides a step-by-step guide through the process of completing an ownership and land-use history. The manual explains how to use the free online records retrieval websites for Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom Counties as well as the process for retrieving records from other local archives.
This manual only covers the most basic requirements for an ownership and land-use history as they relate to a forest stewardship plan. There are other avenues you can explore on your own to delve deeper into the history of the previous owners of your property.
Online resources mentioned in this manual are hyperlinked within the text for easy web access. For readers viewing this offline, a Website Reference List with full-length URLs is also included.