This chapter is all about how to use the History Search and providing examples of its day to day use.

All of the examples in this chapter are based on actual occurrences. Those included do not represent an exhaustive list, and many more examples could have been included. Each property is unique. The examples provided represent a broad view of those more commonly found.

As well as being used by family historians our history searches are also used for many official purposes such as proving you no longer own a property, or that you once owned but no longer own a property, and checking that the current Title Plan accurately shows the boundaries of the property as they were when you purchased it - Title Plans are regularly updated.

Tracing a Property's History

Land Registration began in 1862 when the first Land Registry office opened, situated in Lincolns Inn Fields in Holborn, London. The Land Registry began modestly with a handful of staff.

The very first property to become registered was a year later in 1863. This was Crane Hall and The Chantry near Ipswich, and it was registered by its owner, the MP Sir Fitzroy Kelly.

Compulsory Land Registration was phased into the country gradually over many years, beginning with Eastbourne in 1926. In 1990 compulsory registration was implemented for the remaining areas.

By 1950 there were more than a million properties registered in England and Wales, mostly as a result of compulsory registration. By 1975 this had increased to more than 5 million, and to 10 million by 1990. There are now more than 23 million properties registered, the vast majority of all properties and land in England and Wales.

Land Registry only began digitising their records in the 1980's and it was not until 1993 that prior editions of the Title documents became available. Unlike Scotland's Land Registry which maintain digital records of pre-registration title documents (The Sasine Records) England's Land Registry have none such, but they have retained copies of some of the more important title deeds sent to them in connection with an application to register the property either for the first registration or for a subsequent registration.

Whenever a document is held digitally the Land Registry make a note to this affect on the property's Title Register and now enable a copy of it to be purchased.

In tracing a property's history, therefore, copies of prior editions of the Title Register and Title Plan can be obtained back to 1993, and copies of Pre-Registration Deeds can be obtained for dates earlier than this, sometimes into the 18th century.

Tracing Previous Ownerships

Each Title Register contains the name and address of the owner of the property in its B section. The first date in the B section, contained in brackets, is the date upon which the current ownership first became registered, following a purchase, which would generally be within 2 months up to that date.

The date of the current ownership might also be the same date as the date of first registration of the property (the first date in brackets in the A section). This will occur where the property is purchased and registered for the first time.

Title Registers only show the name and address of the current owners and not any prior owners. To discover the names and addresses of prior owners one may apply for our Historic Edition (Prior Edition) of the Title Register,

A precise date must be given to search for as the Title Register will only show the ownership as it was on a specified date. Therefore a date prior to the first date in brackets in the B section of the current Title Register will provide you with a copy of the Title Register for the previous owner.

One can continue to search back to 1993 by obtaining a prior Title Register in this manner. Once back to 1993 then one can continue to trace for prior ownerships by obtaining a copy of all the available digital copies of the purchase deeds (conveyances and transfers) using our Deeds Search.

Evidencing Your Prior Ownership

It often happens that persons need evidence that they used to own a property that they have now sold.

So long as you owned the property after 1993 and it was registered then you should be able to obtain a copy of the prior Title Register.

Evidencing that You No Longer Own the Property

This situation happens more often than most people imagine. Providing a copy of the prior Title Register from when you owned the property and also the current Title Register, with it's new ownership details, is a very efficient way to prove that you no longer own a property.

Checking Erroneous Dispositions

The Land Registry may make an error when registering a property following a purchase. It you suspect they have done so then you can obtain a copy of the Prior Title and check the entries.

Normally, all that will change is the name and address of the new owners, the new mortgagees and entries for any new covenants or easements that have been created.

If the Land Registry have inadvertently mis-typed the property address or description, this can easily be checked against the prior copy. A letter can then be sent to the Land Registry requesting them to Rectify the Register.

If you suspect there has been fraud in connection with your property, e.g. where you discover that the property is no longer registered in your name, then you can obtain a copy of the Prior Title Register to show that you were the previous owner and then obtain a copy of the documents used to register the new owner.

Erroneous Dispositions

Checking the Title Plan

There is sometimes the need to check that the property owned, which appears in the Title Plan within the red edging, is the same as that shown on a prior copy of the Title Plan. Sometimes it is not, and this may be due either to a clerical or technical error, or due to amendments having been made to the property, for example following the sale of part of it, or following the grant of an easement or the changing of a boundary line. In such circumstances it is prudent to check an earlier edition of the Title Plan with the current one.

Where you are checking an easement you will be looking for coloured markings within the red edging and will be checking that they continue to run the same course and taking up the same parcels of land as in an earlier plan.