Sources of Land Ownership
- Abstract of Title
If you own the property, you (or your mortgage holder) may have an abstract of title, which lists the landowners from the U.S. government down to you. Note that this is a record of the land, not the buildings. There may be a phrase such as "and all buildings thereupon." There are also less obvious clues, such as a major jump in the value in just a few years, which might indicate a new structure.
- Register of Deeds
If you do not have the abstract, the chain of ownership can be recreated at the Register of Deeds office in the Winnebago County courthouse. Each transfer of property after the initial purchase from the U. S. government is recorded at the Register of Deeds office for Winnebago County. Transactions are recorded three ways: by grantor (seller), by grantee (buyer), and by tract or legal description of the property. Search by legal description is the easiest. Although the staff will show you where the books are, they cannot do the search for you. Be prepared to spend some time in this search; you have over 150 years of history to cover.
- Using the Records of the City Assessor's Office
When you click the link to the City Assessor's office, the form is set for a search by owner's name. The system requires the exact spelling of the last name to work correctly. You may find it easier to use the address search
When your search yields a result, click the Parcel Number for more information. Information included is parcel description (the street address), owners, lot size, and legal description. On the menu to the left, you can click the Main Building option for a description, including age. Often this will be listed as 1920. This actually means a structure is at least that old; it may be decades older. Click OBY for "Other buildings and yard improvements" to find out about garages or similar buildings. Homes which were previously outside the city limits may be listed with the year they were annexed. Should you pursue your search in old assessment or tax rolls, you will need the legal description.
- Using Property Tax or Assessment Rolls
An assessment roll was compiled for each local community annually. Each is organized by legal description of the property and includes a valuation of the land and "improvements". Early assessment rolls for the City of Oshkosh are at the Oshkosh Public Museum. Call Museum Archivist Scott Cross at 920-236-5773 for an appointment. You will need the legal description of the property and an approximate date of construction.
For rural areas, many of the civil town tax rolls are at the Area Research Center, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, Polk Library. Among them are assessment rolls for the Town of Oshkosh, including many areas now within the City limits, available from 1857-1894. Call 920-424-0828 for current hours.