Research Property History in Arizona, Part 2

(This is Part 2 of a series written by DAZL team member Chris Seggerman. Read  Part 1. Read Part 3. Read Part 4.  )


Phoenix sprawls: Practically from the Bradshaws to the Sierra Estrella and South Mountain, from the White Tanks to the McDowell Mountains, urban growth has covered the valley in subdivisions and houses, crisscrossing the land with names. Population growth means more homeowners, and more homeowners mean more names to plow through if you are researching from present to past.

But what if you could go back before the sprawl, before phone books full of names, and start at the beginning, skipping back 113 years?  The Maricopa County Land Ownership maps on the Arizona Memory Project cover who owned what from 1903-1929.

Land ownership map

The originals are held at the State Archives, and can be viewed in person. 

Each sheet covers a 36-section township. Earlier years have fewer maps, and the collection’s coverage grew as properties expanded. They act as good visual guides when you need to see who owned the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of a section. Physical details like mountains and canals are sometimes present, sometimes not. And it’s interesting to see if land ownership changed or not when a railroad went through.

Land ownership maps can also be a way to figure out how a place got its name. Ludden Mountain, in sections 5-6 of Township 4 North, Range 2 East, takes its name from Homer Ludden.

Ludden map

Note coverage of T4N, R2E, did not begin until 1914, and no one owned Section 5 yet. By 1923, Homer Ludden owned all of Section 5, and some land around it, including the mountain that bears his name today.