Alabama Abstractor’s Helpful Hints

This month’s edition features “Helpful Hints” from many of our experienced title searchers, abstractors, and examiners.  The ability to search the Probate real estate records is a skill set that takes years to hone.  There are many nuances in each county’s Probate Office that carry risks if you aren’t familiar with them.  We’ve asked some of our expert LTAAL abstractor/attorney members to give us some “Helpful Hints” to assist you.  Please feel free to email Anna Batten ( if you have other “Helpful Hints” to contribute to future newsletters.  Our industry is local so we need all our local experts to share your knowledge for the benefit of our title industry in Alabama.

Searching county records can be like opening a treasure chest of puzzle pieces.  Once you find a golden nugget, your interest is peaked for the next one to fit the puzzle! While most counties use the same rules for indexing, no two counties are the same in many ways, and spending a little time learning how the system works is worth it.  Learning how an indexer thinks is important because no two brains work alike and while indexing rules are in place it does not always fall into those categories so that leaves the indexer to decide.  While computerized indexing has made our jobs easier it has also made it harder because of typographical errors in indexing.  Most all counties have “wild card” searches that allow you to broaden your search for those misspelled names.  If you find an error in indexing REPORT IT to the county so they can fix it.  We are all humans and mistakes are inevitable, but when it comes to records, it can be risky!  

Also, accessibility to online records is growing rapidly in Alabama, but be sure you know what you have access to when you use those online portals.  Find out your dates, and what books are scanned, indexed, and available for running title in that county.  Helpful hits for the day are to learn the county “wild cards”, always use them to double-check your work; and know the dates and books available to search if using the online portals.  Don’t let a missed judgment or estate get you because those books are not available online.  By: Stephanie Burton, River Region Title Services, Dadeville

Chris Cline, USA Title/Extreme Abstract, Moody says:

Creating relationships is the most important part of working at a courthouse, not just with courthouse employees, but with other searchers too.

Several counties across the state have odd schedules. Before traveling a long distance, plan to call ahead and verify their hours of operation.

Meagan Yarbrough, Attorney at Law, Decatur says:

The following counties have their probate real estate records on the database Syscon Online: Bullock, Choctaw, Clay, Colbert, Cullman, Dallas, Franklin, Lauderdale, Limestone, Perry, Randolph, Talladega, Calhoun, Clarke, Coffee, Crenshaw, Dale, Elmore, Geneva, Lawrence, Monroe, Pickens, Sumter, and Walker. As of 7/27/23, they are currently waiving the $25 registration fee to become a subscriber to the website. You do not have to become a subscriber, but currently, their pay-by-document option is down due to not being able to accept credit card payments. It would be a good time to get registered while the fee is being waived! 

The following North Alabama counties have their own websites for online records. Morgan, Madison, Winston, Blount and Jefferson. With Morgan and Madison County, you can obtain an account without having to pay. The other counties allow you to register as a subscriber or pay to print each document needed. Most online records shouldn’t be relied on for a full search, but Morgan County does have all of their historical index books online and then you are able to search for the book and page on the online records screen. Most full searches for Morgan County can be done solely online. 

See the County specific tips in the article, “Abstractor Tips for Lee, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, Morgan, Shelby, St. Clair, Talladega, and Tuscaloosa Counties.”

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