Searching for Residences and Land Ownership

There are many resources available for finding information about land ownership. The Bentley Historical Library houses many residential maps and plat books. Please view the Landowner Atlases and Maps Subject Guide for a detailed list of available materials. It is also helpful to search the online catalog, MIRLYN for individual city or county names. Often governmental offices or local historians will document their original or prominent landowners. Other useful online catalog searches include subject searches for "land use," "real property," and "land titles." Below is an additional list of especially helpful collections and publications for finding residences.

Census Materials

Andrews Farm House, Emil Lorch Papers

The census provides a good way of finding out household information about families including names, ages, land ownership, occupations, and length of residence of the family. The extent of the information varies by year and location. You will need to know the name of the county, city, or township of residence. Censuses were conducted by federal and state governments. Click to find out what information is found in the Federal census and the State Census of Michigan.

It is helpful to consult census indexes before searching through lengthy census records, especially if you are unsure of the family's exact geographical location. Not all censuses have indexes. Please look through the library's census index holdings to see if your census of interest is listed.

The Bentley Historical Library's state census records focus on Washtenaw County although additional Michigan counties are also represented. Please see the library's census holdings for a complete list of records. If you are interested in cities or townships within Washtenaw County, the 1884 and 1894 State Census Returns are particularly descriptive.

City Directories

1911 Ann Arbor City Directory

As a precursor to today's phone books, city and county directories provide useful information about residents. Information varies within the directories but they generally list the head of household along with spouse, address, occupation, and whether they owned or rented their home. City directories also list churches, funeral homes, schools, public organizations and more. Please see the library's city directory holdings for a detailed list of directories at the Bentley.

Assorted individual directories are available online. For example, DistantCousin.com has the entire 1837 Detroit, Michigan City Directory on-line.

The 1872 Ann Arbor city directory by Cole and Keating is also online.


Jackson County Abstracts

The records are title abstracts to property in Jackson County, Michigan. The title packets have been arranged by township, range, and section. Most of the abstracts are for property in, or close to, the city of Jackson.

on-line entry

Michigan. State Land Office Board

These are records of United States land offices in Michigan. They contain plat and tract books containing the record of the survey and sale of public lands in Michigan from 1816-1924. The records contain over 100 volumes and 60 folders of land maps and supporting documentation. There is a detailed finding aid for the records in the Bentley Historical Library, also available on-line finding aid.

Washtenaw Abstract Office

Ypsilanti City Volume, Washtenaw Abstract Office

The Washtenaw Abstract Company was a land title company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their records contain abstracts of mortgages, deeds, and other legal papers recorded in Washtenaw County from 1824 to 1954. There are also plat maps for Washtenaw County additions and subdivisions. There is an on-line finding aid available for these records.