Friday, July 10, 2015

Research Tip: Drainage Records

If your ancestor owned land, you probably know to look for their names in deed books and on plat maps. But did you know there’s another resource that can help you locate their land and also show you their neighbors?

In March 1867 to help improve land, the Indiana legislature passed a law (Acts of 1867, Chapter 99) allowing landowners to petition for ditches and drains to be created on their land. This law also benefited the state—improved drainage meant more land could be used for planting crops or putting up buildings, which meant higher property taxes could be assessed.

These drainage petitions were to be filed with the county commissioners, and because it would have an effect on adjacent land, the petitions not only had to give a technical description of the ditch or drain, they also had to list the names of the petitioner’s neighbors and give the legal descriptions of those lands.

This law was in effect for several decades—the petition shown here is from 1905, and shows all the neighbors in Sections 26 and 35 of Township 17 North, Range 1 East in Hendricks County. Note how some of the land parcels are held by a group of people, and some by a guardian on behalf of their ward—a boon to a researcher.

References to these drainage petitions can be found in various places:
  • County Commissioners records
  • County Auditor records
  • Official notices in newspapers
  • Court order books and loose papers
Drainage petition from Hendricks County, Indiana, 1905. (Click to enlarge)

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