Modesto House History Workshop

Use the video below to find interesting, unusual, and wonderful things about your property in Modesto. Then discover even more about your property using our Modesto History Center Online Resources.

Familiarize yourself with the resources at the Modesto Art Museum’s Modesto History Center Online Resources web page and find the first land grant or patent for your Modesto property.


Modesto House History Workshop

Every piece of property in Modesto has a first deed from the federal government. These deeds were usually approved by the President at the time, and Modesto ones sometimes contain the names of Ulysses S. Grant or Abraham Lincoln. The Modesto House History Workshop video will introduce you to steps for you to find this document for your Modesto property. Along the way, you will also be able to access a variety of historic maps and documents and become familiar with some skills and resources to piece together the history of your property. 

As you follow along, feel free to pause the video as you complete the steps being illustrated. Not every resource will turn up the documents you are looking for because some records and archives are incomplete. If that is the case, just follow the video to the next step.

In the video, you will be locating the Public Land Survey System (or PLSS) coordinates for your address or property. Then you will enter these coordinates into the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website to locate your deed. The Bureau of Land Management was formed in 1946 but it descended from other land management organizations dating back to the Land Ordinance of 1785, when the fledgling US government instituted the PLSS system. The PLSS was used to raise money by selling parcels of newly acquired land or giving it away to soldiers, homesteaders and railroads to stimulate westward expansion. The BLM website keeps records of many of those first deeds.

There are multiple kinds of deeds, including purchases, homesteads, military bounty grants, railroad grants, and more. Was your land given by the US government to a soldier in the Mexican American War, or to the Western Pacific Railroad Company which then sold the land to others? Or was it purchased by a wealthy entrepreneur or a pioneer? This video workshop will help point you to the answers.

These deeds are also colonial documents which legalized the dispossession of the Yokuts Native Americans, the original owners or stewards of all Modesto land. As such, your deed only tells a part of the larger story and is only the beginning of your house and land history research.