Michelle Ann Kratts

How to find the history of your Niagara Falls home, Part I: the Abstract of Title

In If This House Could Talk, Niagara Falls on June 8, 2015 at 5:16 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

This is the first installment in a series of helpful steps toward finding the history of your Niagara Falls home.  This first installment involves the Abstract of Title document . (You can click on any of the pictures to make them larger)

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Map at the beginning of our Title Search showing the location

When you purchase a home you will be given the Abstract of Title document.  The Title Search is a process of retrieving documents as evidence of events in the history of a piece of property.  This document is filed in chronological order and usually begins at the earliest mention of ownership of the land.  In Niagara Falls our Title Searches usually begin in the early 1800’s and mention the Mile Reserve or the Holland Land Company.  The earliest transfers of land went to William Willink, Joseph Ellicott or other agents of the Holland Land Company.   My home in Niagara Falls first “belonged” to the State of New York.  It was part of a strip of land known as the “Mile Reserve” which ran along the Niagara River; specifically “Lot 57 Mile Reserve.”   These first mentions of property exchanges DO NOT mean that your house was built at this time.  It only means that the land was recorded as being owned by these entities or individuals.

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“Letters Patent” means a type of legal instrument in form of a published written order. This shows the transfer of the land from the State of NY (Mile Reserve) to Jacob B. Gilbert. This does not mean that he lived here. This only means that he owned the land.

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This is the first page to our Title after the map. It explains that the property was “Subdivision Lots 1,2, 3 Pearwood Avenue and 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Nussbaum Avenue, La Salle, NY being part of Lot 57 Mile Reserve.”

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The map showing the Mile Strip

You can easily see

You can easily see “Lot 57” on this old map. My house was built on this part of land originally known as “Lot 57 of the Mile Strip”

This shows the owners of the land.  Jacob Gilbert owns Lot 57 of the Mile Reserve (Strip).  This matches what my title search says.

This shows the owners of the land. Jacob Gilbert owns Lot 57 of the Mile Reserve (Strip). This matches what my title search says.

If you do not have access to your Abstract of Title you can go to the Niagara County Court House with your address and check for the deed information.  Everything on this Abstract should also be filed with Niagara County. What will you find out about your home in this Abstract of Title? There is usually a map which will show your property.  This can be extremely helpful if the street names have changed.  Many street names have changed in Niagara Falls–especially in LaSalle.  Below is a link to help with street names in LaSalle before 1928: http://niagarahub.com/2013/11/09/renaming-the-streets-of-lasalle-in-1928/ There were also other changes to the street names in previous years.  My present street of Lindbergh Avenue went through several incarnations:  Pearwood, Linden and Lindbergh.  At least those are the street names I have found so far! Also–you should probably know that in rural parts of Niagara County (including LaSalle) there were no house numbers attached to addresses.  This may make things seem even more confusing!

As you leaf through your Title Abstract you will probably see many transfers and deeds mentioned.  You will also see the mention of a “premises.”  A “premises” refers to the “land and improvements upon it.”  Such as any buildings or homes.  So usually this mention of a “premises” would refer to the home (or an earlier structure). The Title Abstract reveals people’s names and various situations that impacted ownership.  Perhaps land went to a widow. Perhaps there is a will.  Our Title (in the “Affidavit of Mortimer Goodrich”) refers to the death of one of the owners. He had been a beekeeper and was killed when his car hit a train back in 1925.  As you can see this is quite detailed.

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Concerning the estate of Gotthold Greiner

So dust off your Title Abstracts or make a trip to the Niagara County Court House to see what you can find regarding your Abstract of Title and Deed records.  Once we have names and location….there is so much more you can discover. Our next installment will involve another very important source for researching your Niagara Falls home:  the City Directory.

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