What are deeds?
Deeds are legal records that document the ownership and conveyance of property. Deeds record the transfer of real estate from the current owner (grantor) to a new owner (grantee).
How do I search for deeds?
The deed is one of the oldest and most common types of county records. Deed records in Texas are kept by County Clerk of the county in which the property is located. The information that can be found in deeds far surpasses the basic transfer of land from one person to another, and often points to other records or avenues of research to pursue. Recorded among Travis County deeds are other types of property records, such as bills of sale, contracts, deeds of trust, easements, liens, and mortgages. Deeds can provide information about family members, social status, occupation, and neighbors. Early land deeds are especially detailed and predate most other record sources, increasing the importance of land records the further back a researcher goes.
Deed records are extremely voluminous and can take a significant amount of time to research, depending on how much information you hope to compile on a property. Deed records are not organized by property address, but rather by the names of the buyers and sellers. If you are researching the history of a specific property, it is often easiest to begin with the current property owner and then tracing back the chain of ownership (if you know the property address but not the owner, start by looking the property up on the Travis Central Appraisal District website). In practice, deed research can be a difficult and lengthy process.
When deeds are recorded, cumulative indexes to the deeds are compiled. There are two types of indexes: the direct index, which is organized by the grantor (seller) name, and the reverse, or indirect, index, which is organized by the grantee (buyer) name. Travis County deed indexes can span multiple years, a single year, or part of a year, depending on the volume of deed records filed.
Indexes are not listed in strict alphabetical order, but rather, they are organized chronologically by the first two letters of the party’s last name and the first name. In the grantor (seller) index, entries are organized by the grantor’s last name; in the grantee (buyer) index, entries are organized by the grantee’s last name. Each entry includes the names of both the grantor and grantee, type of instrument (legal document), and the volume and page number where the full text of the deed is found. Travis County’s earliest deed indexes do not include the property location, although later indexes do. When the index does not include the property location, and there is more than one transaction listed for the names you are searching, you will need to read the text of each deed to differentiate the properties.
It is important to be aware that names may be misspelled or listed under variations, and there can be multiple individuals with the same name and multiple transactions between the same parties. If an initial search for a name does not turn up any information, check under other possible spellings. Early index book entries are handwritten, and sometimes names can be difficult to read – some clerks had better handwriting than others. Abbreviations are also commonly used in indexes. A few examples include:
Where do I find the deed indexes and deeds?
The Travis County Clerk’s office records and maintains the county’s deed records. Historically, deeds were recorded in large bound volumes, and the books are microfilmed for easier access. More recent deeds are recorded digitally.
Records can be accessed in a variety of ways, including on microfilm at the County Clerk’s office, online on the County Clerk’s website, and online on the Portal to Texas History.
Deeds and Deed Indexes, 1840 – mid-1980s
Deeds from 1840 to the mid-1980s were recorded in bound volumes; these books are microfilmed, and the microfilm is available at the County Clerk’s office for visitors to use in their research.* Until recently, this was the easiest way to access older Travis County deed records.
However, since 2015, the County Clerk’s office has collaborated with the Travis County Archives to digitize the original bound volumes and place the images online. Currently, deeds from 1840-1919 and indexes from 1842-1924 (a total of over 300 books) are available online on the Portal to Texas History. Images are free to access and download. The digitization project is ongoing, and more books are continuously being added.
Currently the Archives is digitizing deed books from the early 1920s and will progress forward through the decades. To check on the status of a book, you are welcome to contact the Archives. The Archivist can be reached at 512-854-4675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For deeds records that date after 1919 to the mid-1980s, microfilm is the best method of access until the books are digitized. For a fee, the Clerk’s office can perform searches for patrons.
Travis County Clerk
5555 Airport Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78751
Deeds and Deed Indexes, mid-1980s – present
More recent deeds can be accessed online on the County Clerk’s website at https://www.tccsearch.org/.
To search deed records by name:
*As of March 24, 2020, Travis County offices and lobbies are closed due to Covid-19 concerns. Normally offices are open Monday – Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm, except legal holidays.