If there is one topic I see more often than not in metal detecting forums and on social media outlets, it is from new detectorists wondering how they can research a property they will be metal detecting. How to learn more about a property you’re metal detecting, how to find who the owners of a certain property are, and any history associated with the land in question can be found easily if you know where to look.
I know some in the metal detecting community don’t like to share their sources, but I’m not one of them. Quite frankly, as the old saying goes ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink’. That holds true with anything in life. You can give someone all they need, but you can’t make them use it. So, why hold information hostage?
By sharing some of the tools I use to research a property I will be metal detecting, or I may try to get permission to metal detect, I hope you become a better detectorist and can pass this knowledge on to future metal detecting hobbyists. I never have a problem sharing insider tips for others in the metal detecting community to take advantage of. I like helping people get better at what they love.
It can be overwhelming to start researching, but it doesn’t have to be. If you know where to look and you spend time getting to know the resources I am sharing you will be able to research properties quickly and get a better understanding of the site you are metal detecting. Here are some of my favorite resources that I believe help me to get better results metal detecting.
Local History Museum or Local Historical Society
I am a member of my local historical society and we run a local history museum. There are lots of old maps available for visitors to use and the volunteers at the museum always have some very useful knowledge about the community. Contact local history experts for more insight about a community or a local property that may have substantial historical ties.
Historic Map Works & More
I love maps. I have since I was a little girl and my dad would have me navigate while we were on road trips. Maps are your best friend in metal detecting. The one resource I turn to more often than not is HistoricMapworks.com. It is a free site to use, but you have the option to purchase the maps you view as well. Depending on the area of the country you live in, there may be some very old atlases available on the site and sometimes even old residential photographs. Another map source you can use is the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps on the Library of Congress website. These resources will take time to get used to but they are incredibly helpful.
County Auditor Website Or OnXHunt App to Find Property Lines and Owners
I use my county auditor’s website when I look for property owners’ names. It’s free and usually has boundary lines, tax maps, plat maps, property owner information, and so on. This is also a free resource, so be sure to check your county resources. There are apps and such you can purchase for a low monthly or yearly fee like OnXHunt which is a hunting app that can offer the same features for on-the-go. OnXHunt also allows you to track and mark spots. Both will help you find property owner and boundary line information.
Historic Aerials and Vintage Aerials
Both of these are websites which house databases of old aerial photographs. Again, these are free to use but you have the option to purchase prints. I personally use Historic Aerials more often. It not only offers aerial photos, it also has topographical maps and atlases. When you are viewing aerials of a property, be sure to view the maps on their site as well. Really great information can be found. These are useful for finding areas of activity, changes in the landscape of a location, and so on.
Just like the local museum, your local library probably has a history section where they house microfilm and other useful information about the area you’re researching. I love knowing whose items I’m finding while metal detecting. So, I research old census records, city directories, and newspapers to get a better understanding of past property owners. I usually only do this when a site is producing a lot of finds and I want to know more. Also, the library will have a lot of old maps as well to aid in your metal detecting adventures.
These are only a few of the tools readily available for the metal detecting community to take advantage of. They can make metal detecting a site more productive and help you to gain a better understanding of the history that has taken place at a location.
Some of the resources above may take more practice than others to use, but if you are serious about becoming better at metal detecting then investing the time is well worth it. Even if you are a park hunter, researching the parks you frequently detect may give you more insight into areas that maybe you hadn’t thought to metal detect before. My local park was once a fairground in the 1800s, but I wouldn’t have known it had I not researched old atlases.
I truly hope you find some useful information that helps you to enjoy the hobby of metal detecting even more. It is by far one of the best hobbies on the planet. All because a home or property doesn’t appear to have an old house, it does not mean it doesn’t hold some old history. Happy hunting!
For more websites that are useful for researching places to metal detect, make sure you check out Focus Speed’s Resource List.
Nicole Bauer resides in western Ohio. She is passionate about local history and works to preserve it for future generations as a member of multiple historical societies in her area. She has written for local newspapers as a lifestyle columnist and photojournalist. Nicole has been a lifelong relic hunter and has enjoyed metal detecting for over five years. She is a mom to two sons ages twenty and eighteen and has been married to her husband, Chad, for over twenty years. Metal detecting is a daily part of her life and she can usually be found out walking creeks, woods, and fields searching for items from the past. You can follow her explorations of Ohio on social media and YouTube at Ohio Metal Maven.