Chain of Title Search

This search must be conducted at the office of the Registrar of Conveyances (Room B-3 of the Civil Court Building, 421 Loyola Ave.) Before beginning, however, you must have a reference to the most recent deed of sale to the property. This information can be obtained from several sources:

This reference to the most recent deed provides you with an entrance point into the title search. It will be in the form of, for example, "COB 409/FOL 361" where COB 409 refers to volume 409 of the deed books and FOL 361 refers to folio (page) 361 of that volume. The initial reference will list the date of the sale, the names of the buyer and the seller, a legal description of the property, the amount and terms of the sale, a reference to the act of sale itself (to be found in the Notarial Archives), and a reference to the COB/FOL at which the previous sale was recorded. By repeating the process with the new COB/FOL and each prior reference, you will develop a "chain" of title outlining the history of ownership of the property.

In New Orleans, unfortunately, conveyances are designed primarily to record the sale of the land in question. The structures or improvements on the land are not of particular interest and generally are not very well described. Many early records merely refer to the land "...along with all buildings and improvements." No more detailed description of these improvements is given. Once the deeds no longer refer to buildings and improvements, however, you can usually assume that you have reached a sale dating from before there was any construction on the lot.

This leads to an important point of caution. Too often researchers are anxious to date their buildings as early as they can. This zeal can lead to inaccurate conclusions if notes are not kept as complete and as clear as possible. While it is not necessary to copy each deed verbatim, it is desirable to copy the key elements of the record exactly as they appear in the original. Not only will this help you to avoid a return to the Conveyance Office to clear up problems caused by omissions, but it will also insure that you have the necessary data for an accurate interpretation of your findings.

You should also be careful that you are dealing with the same piece of land from one transaction to the next. Be especially watchful that you are not misled by subdivisions or resubdivisions of a large piece of property, particularly if the same owner held several lots within the square. The price paid for the real estate may also provide you with clues as to the correct course of events. An identical piece of land with no improvements that resells in a relatively short period of time for a significantly higher price quite likely has had a new building erected on it.

By no means should you skip the chain-of-title portion of the research project. It is essential. At the very least it will provide you with the overall framework of your property's ownership. By working within this framework through all of the other materials described below you will not only save yourself time in the long run, but you will also help to protect yourself from hasty conclusions and other mistakes that it is all too easy to make when you jump into the middle of a research project without preparing the necessary groundwork

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