By Kirsten L. Crase, PhD
The best place to begin your chain of title search is Montgomery County Atlas.
- Enter the property address in the box at the top: A map identifying your property within its neighborhood context will appear.
- Double-click within the boundary line of the property (zoom in first, if necessary), and a box showing basic property details will appear (owner, land use category, assessment date, year built, etc.).
- Click on Data Description at the top of the box for a brief description of each piece of data listed; of most importance are the liber and folio numbers. This set of numbers constitutes the first deed in your chain of title.
Your next stop is the Maryland Land Records Database. You’ll need to submit a request for an account before you can access the database. Once you have your account and the liber and folio number for your property’s current deed, you can begin searching. It’s always best to start with the current deed, even if you’ve identified previous deed information.
- Select your county (Montgomery) from the upper-left drop-down menu.
- On the search page that opens, search using the top box, titled “Jump to New Volume,” searching via liber and folio numbers.
- Skipping the Clerk box, enter your liber number in the Book box and your folio number in the Page box.
- The deed document that opens will be the current deed for your property, which should list the current owners as the grantees (buyers), along with the grantors (sellers). It will provide the date of the property transfer and a description of the property, often including the lot number, block number, subdivision name, and the location within Montgomery County Land Records of the document recording the original platting of the subdivision within which it is located. (For example, “…the west 50 feet in width of Lot No. 3, in Block No. 20 by the full depth of 150 feet, in the subdivision of land known as and called B.F. Leighton’s Addition to Woodside, as per plat recorded in Plat Book A, Plat No. 60.”)
- With this information, you can visit plats.net. Start by selecting Montgomery County in the drop-down menu, and when the Basic Search box appears, enter the plat book number and plat number in the appropriate boxes. You should see the name of the appropriate subdivision and a hyperlink to an MSA (Maryland State Archives) accession number. Click on this link, and you will be taken to the original platting record of the subdivision (usually a map of the subdivision) within which your property resides.
At this point you know the starting point (current deed) and ending point (subdivision platting) of your chain of title, but you must fill in all the deeds in-between. To do this, return to mdlandrec.net and begin working your way backward from the current deed.
In the current deed, somewhere below the property description, there may be a paragraph that notes the liber and folio number of the previous deed. If so, return to the search page and enter this information, and continue following this process until you reach a deed that does not list the previous deed’s information. Unfortunately, this may happen at almost any point in the chain of title search.
When this happens, return to the main Montgomery County Land Records Indices page.
If the oldest deed you locate is from 1977 or later, click on “Individual Search” or “Corporation Search” in the left-hand column. This is a straightforward search process that involves entering the name in question and the date parameters.
If the oldest deed you locate is from 1976 or earlier, click on “Active Indices” in the column on the left. Since the grantee name is the only name you know at this point (i.e., the grantor on the oldest deed you’ve located), click on “Land Records, Grantee Index, 1777–1976” in the drop-down menu. Then choose which block of dates you want to search within. Begin with the most recent block of possible dates for the deed you’re searching for; for example, if your earliest known deed is dated March 5, 1975, begin with the indices from 1973–1977. Under this block of dates, look for the first letter of the owner’s surname, or corporation name, and then the first letter of their given name. Once this page opens, click on the red hyperlink on the right — “How to Use Montgomery County Land Record Indices” — for an overview of the process used to continue your search from here. Once you find the next-oldest deed, the previous deed’s liber and folio numbers may be listed here, but if not, repeat the process of using the Active Indices search option (or Individual/Corporation search, if it’s still later than 1977) to continue to work backward. You’ll know you’ve reached the end of your chain of title when you locate the deed in which the name of the grantor is the individual or corporation that platted the subdivision in question.