Tracing Your Home’s Ownership in Des Moines

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This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Researching Your Home's History

Tracing Ownership

The next step in the process is developing a time line of ownership from the first plat to current day. There are a couple resources that can help in this process: the property Abstract (if you can get it) and the County Auditor/Assessor.

Use a spreadsheet to keep track of names, dates, and notes for each transaction.


Your home’s “abstract” is a legal document that traces the ownership history of a parcel of land. It typically references and sometimes includes copies of legal actions that affect property ownership such as: original platting, subdivisions, owners’ names and “aliases”, bankruptcies, divorces and custody actions, easements, and foreclosures.

Polk County Recorder and Auditor Offices

The Polk County Auditor office maintains historical county property records including: deeds and contracts, mortgages, liens, assignments, releases, plats and surveys, easements. More recent records can be obtained at the Recorder’s office

The following is an example “Chain of Title” log sheet that traces ownership of a property back from the current owner through the original plat. A full spreadsheet will include the Grantor (seller), Grantee (buyer), Date of Filing, Date of Instrument, Transfer Type, Book and Page, and Description.

Click the following link to download a printable Chain of Title Worksheet.

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