How to research a property’s history using Bexar County’s free records search

How to research a property’s history using Bexar County’s free records search

Note: I’ve updated this post to reflect changes to the county’s search page.

I got some great feedback on my research into the history of my 85-year-old house. Brian Chasnoff told me he spent an hour looking up records for his own house. But Brian and others said they had trouble using Bexar County’s Web page set up by County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff to look up public records. Here are a few tips to get started.

When you visit the site, you have to register for free. Once that’s done you can log in and you’ll see this intro page:

County clerk screenshot

Here you can search foreclosure notices, marriage licenses, business records — life’s important moments, all documented and filed at the county courthouse.

Deeds documenting property sales are also filed at the courthouse. If you want to know more about the history of a property, click on “name” to search by the name of the grantee or grantor. The grantor is the party selling the property, the grantee is the person who bought it.

You can’t look up a property by its address, but you can look it up by its legal description. To find the legal description for a property, visit the Bexar County Appraisal District’s page and click on “Property Search.” You can type in the name of the owner, the address or look up the property on a map.

So if you do a search for “Tedesco John” my house comes up and you can see the legal description is New City Block 1946, Block 24, Lot 28.

Go back to the document search page and click on the “Land info” tab. It pulls up this page:

County clerk web search

Type in the legal description for my house and you’ll see all the deeds, tax liens, easements, and any other record filed at the county courthouse in connection to that property going back to 1960.

The search pulls up five documents tied to my property, and you can download digital copies of the records. For example, you can pull up this deed showing that I bought the house in 2003 from Angie and Andrew Millman, and I paid for it with an $87,899 bank loan.

Another deed shows the Millmans bought the house in 1996 from someone named Wilma Nora Boyle. My neighbors told me she was a nice woman who had lived in the house for years.

This search goes back to 1960 [UPDATE: The clerk’s office has since expanded the land records search to 1837. You can now ignore the part in this post about the historical records search], but my house was built in 1924. So how do I figure out who Boyle bought the house from?

Go back to the search menu. Under the application menu, don’t click on “Land Records” like you did last time. Click on “1837-1963 Historical Records.” There, you’ll see a “Grantor/Grantee” search option.

Searching for Boyle’s name turns up the fact that she bought the house from the Ring family. Search for that couple and you see that they, in turn, bought the house from Hortanz Wiegand. Wiegand had bought the house from her husband, G.A. Wiegand. And the very first deed for the property was dated Dec. 9, 1925 when G.A. Wiegand bought the house from the builder, L.S. Busby.

If you own a house, your title company might have provided you with deeds showing the chain of ownership for the property. But you can also be your own title company and conduct your own research for any property. In the past, I’ve written stories about controversial land deals and developments. The two Web sites set up by Rickhoff and the county’s appraisal district let me quickly figure out who owns what, where and when.

And sometimes, these old records simply offer a glimpse at what life was like in another era.




15 thoughts on “How to research a property’s history using Bexar County’s free records search

  1. Ethelyn Miller

    Dear Sirs:

    I’m trying to find some information. My father passed a couple of years ago and had transferred two houses into one of my sister’s name with the understanding that the houses were sold to her for a certain amount and that she would continue to pay a monthly payment for a certain amount of years to myself and my siblings. He did this thinking this would prevent us from having to pay money to an attorney for probate. Nonetheless, this did not turn out exactly as he planned because we didn’t know exactly how much he sold the houses for and my sister completely stopped paying the monthly payment to my dad upon his death. In addition, we were unable to find any documents supporting the transaction. I want to know if you transfer property into someone’s name, do you have to file a document with the city outlining how much was paid for the property and other information? Any information you can provide would be much appreciated.

  2. John Tedesco Post author

    Ethelyn, if the house changed hands there should be a deed filed with the county clerk to document the transfer of property. If you live in Bexar County you can register with the website mentioned in this blog post and search by name or legal description. The deed might show the purchase price of the house — but not always.

    Another way to find the deed to the house is to check the Bexar County Appraisal District’s web page. Look up the address of the house. At the very bottom of the page describing the property, there will be a list of past deeds that were filed for the property. This page has the volume and page number of the deeds, and you can look them up that way, too.

    Hope that helps …

  3. Melissa Dwyer

    I had went to this site last year and found so much info. Wanting to dig back in i tried to find it again with no luck. Is it gone now?

  4. Melissa Dwyer

    I had went to this site last year and found so much info. Wanting to dig back in i tried to find it again with no luck. Is it gone now?

  5. Ray Mendez

    I cannot seem to find the historical section on the county clerk’s site. It is not how it appears in your post. Any suggestions?

    1. John Tedesco

      Looks like the clerk’s office simplified the process. Now all land records go back to 1837 on the land records link.

      If that doesn’t work let me know.

    1. John Tedesco

      Usually the folks at the Bexar County Appraisal District can help you look it up. Sometimes the deed has the actual address of the property as well. Thanks for visiting.

  6. Roland Geiger

    Dear John,
    Thanks a lot for this great article. I’m researching the life and times of Charles N. Riotte, born 1814 in my hometown St. Wendel, Germany, who lived in San Antonio from abt. 1849-1860. Because of your instructions I found more than 50 deeds etc. by Mr. Riotte on Bexar’s website. Great.

    Thanks a lot.

    Roland Geiger, St. Wendel, Germany

  7. anthony

    hi, doing research on my property trying to find out if an easement thats on my property has every been documented by the county, I do pay property taxes on it a neighbor that uses it access his small plat behind me is this grandfather in or do I have to have documentation saying it is an easement or not, records don’t show on the subdivision plat nothing on this, can you help.

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