Identifying potential heirs properties in the Southeastern United States: a new GIS methodology utilizing mass appraisal data

Listen to a brief audio clip by author Cassandra Johnson Gaither describing this publication. • Text Transcript


This report presents a methodology for identifying land parcels that have an increased probability of being heirs property. Heirs property is inherited land passed to successive generations intestate, without clear title, typically to family members. This land ownership type is widespread among rural, African-American populations and is also thought to be pervasive in Appalachia, among some Native American groups, and in southwest Texas communities called colonias. The lack of title severely limits property owners’ ability to access credit, to sell natural resources, or to participate in land improvement programs offered by the Federal Government, resulting in land and wealth loss for affected families across the South.

While growing attention is focused on the heirs property phenomenon, fundamental data or information on heirs property extent in the South does not exist. Several estimations have been made in recent decades; however, most of these are either dated or specific to a particular county or group of counties. No systematic methodology for identifying heirs parcels at a regional scale has been proposed. We addressed this problem by using data from county-level taxing authorities, organized as computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) data, to identify potential heirs parcels—that is, those that have a higher probability of being heirs property based on characteristics of the parcel. Data are presented for 10 counties in Georgia, one in South Carolina, and one in Texas.

  • Citation: Pippin, Scott; Jones, Shana; and Johnson Gaither, Cassandra. 2017. Identifying potential heirs properties in the Southeastern United States: a new GIS methodology utilizing mass appraisal data. e-Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-225. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 58 p.

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