Below is an excerpt from Michael John Neill's article from (Fw: Ancestry
Weekly Digest, 12 April 2003), In it he discusses tract indexes. Does
anyone know if they exist for Santa Cruz Co.? I am looking for info on a
tract that was in the family from the 1880s to around 2000. I have done a
lot of the research using the grantee and grantor records. But this might
be another helpful source.
This other finding aid is frequently referred to as the tract index.
In some non-rural areas this index may be called an index to town
lots or a lot index. These indexes are geographical in nature. This
distinguishes them from the grantor/grantee indexes, which are
alphabetical in nature. The geographic nature of this index may make
its use more effective in certain situations. A tract index includes
an index citation for every land record covering all or a part of a
fairly specific geographic area.
Given the geographic nature of the tract index, it is necessary to
know where the property is located as precisely as possible in order
use this finding aid. It is not as crucial to know the date the
transfer of property took place. We'll discuss the tract index in two
parts: rural areas and city or town lots.
In rural areas, a tract index will typically cover a quarter section
of property (160 acres) or in some cases an entire section (640
acres). This index will typically start with a reference the initial
patent and continue to the most recent transactions. If an ancestral
family owned a piece of property for several generations searching
the tract index for their land records may be more effective than
searching though individual grantor/grantee indexes over a one
hundred year time period.
Let's say that an ancestral family owned 40 acres that was a part of
the southwest quarter of section 24 in Prairie Township, Hancock
County, Illinois. This farm was owned by family members for one
hundred fifty years and there were several deeds and mortgages
involving this property. All of these records will appear in the
tract index for the southwest quarter of section 24 in Prairie
Township. Of course, since the family did own the entire quarter
section (they only owned 40 of the 160 acres) there will be land
transactions referenced in the tract for other families and other
pieces of property. However, this index will typically result in a
more efficient search when the property's location is known.