Tracing my cars owner ship

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    how can i trace my cars ownership history?

    the vin is 2006822

    its 1290 4 door


    Hi Eric,

    I’ll correct your typos: 1932 Pierce Arrow, Model 54.

    You can TRY to see if there are state of Indiana records showing who owned the car previous to your family purchasing it.. BUT it is very rare that a state keeps records very far back.

    AND all records used to be only on paper. But now, all records are kept digitally. Since it takes time and therefore money to transfer paper information into a database, rarely are early records converted to digital.

    It is possible that the Pierce Arrow Society has the car listed in old rosters. Did your family member join the Pierce-Arrow Society?

    [sorry I can’t remember the person or relation to you that owned the car prior to your ? Cousin? ]

    The Pierce Arrow Society creates a Roster of members and their cars each year. IF the PAS member list their car or cars with the PAS, then the car will show up in each year’s Roster. Today, the Roster is both published and mailed to each PAS member, but also available online on our website..

    BUT these records are not archived such that they can be searched several years or decades back in the past..

    There is a running record of cars with the Society’s original editor, librarian, and record keeper..

    You can WRITE to Bernie Weis and he might have records of your car in his personal archives.

    You can only contact Bernie by mail.. not email.

    I hope this helps.. if you can give me approximately the year when your family acquired the ’32 Pierce-Arrow, I can look into my pile of old rosters and see if I can find the car. But before that, unless it was a PAS member who had it listed, and then sold it to your family… the history might end there.

    BTW: have you had an opportunity to do any work on the car? Let me know if you need some help or advice.

    That sure is a rolling time-capsule. !!

    Greg Long



    Good luck on the search. I have been trying to research the ownership history of my 1928 Series 36. My car came from New York in 2000.

    While at the Buffalo Meet in 2015, I went to the New York DMV to see if they had prior owner info beyond what I had. They informed me that yes, they did, but it is against the law for them to give out that information. California DMV is the same. It turns out there is a Federal law called the Driver Privacy Protection Act that makes it illegal for any state DMV to give out ownership information.

    As Greg said, your best bet is probably to WRITE Bernie Weis. He was able to provide several of the prior owners of my car. Not all the way to the beginning, but back to the 30’s. With some research while in New York, I was able to contact the son of one prior owner, who it turned out restored the car. The son had photos his dad had taken of the car during restoration, and allowed me to make copies. The search has been an interesting adventure.

    Greg, How did you come up with a 1932? That serial number comes up to a 1929 133. The PAS Roster also shows Eric’s car as a 1929.



    I can’t see or read very well: I thought I read ‘Riggen”. which is the last name of the new PAS member who bought a ’32 Pierce at the Auburn Auction from a Cousin of his, who had believed the Auction salesman that the car would bring much more money at auction. This was two or three weeks prior to the 2019 Annual Meet at Pokagon State park..

    So, I need to clean my eye-glasses and squint harder at the computer screen..

    Thankfully other than my mix up of cars and owners, the suggested information is still valid.

    Greg Long

    I sure wish we could go back and edit our previous posts.



    The car number he gave is valid for a 1929 car (which the roster says is what he has). Check the 1929 list.



    Eric & David,

    The Bernie Files show that the car was previously owned by: John J. Doherty, 10808 E. 48th St., Spokane, WA 99206.

    It lists the engine # as: A-8814.

    I trust that this information helps.




    There is a little more information in the PAS records. I will e-mail it to you at the e-mail listed on the PAS roster. Dave


    What are The Bernie Files?



    They are a set of files put together by PAS member Bernie Weis with whatever information that he could locate on many Pierce-Arrow cars. They generally include serial/engine number and whatever prior owner information he could locate. It had to have been a massive undertaking.

    I think Peter must have access to the information as he provided what there is on your car above.

    If you want information on your car from Bernie, you can contact him by U.S. Mail using the address listed in the Roster. He does not do e-mail.

    I contacted him by mail when I purchased my car and he responded by phone, so if you mail a request to him, include your phone number.

    Did you get my e-mail?



    Please Do NOT GIVE UP finding a digitization of state registration records showing your Pierce-Arrow’s car and/or engine number!

    Each state maintains records differently: overall, the size of the digitized data bases keeps increasing. A good example is Connecticut Motor Vehicle Registry. Registry volumes are scattered – one year, 1917, is posted as a Google book; others are found querying the Connecticut State Library; another under the UConn Library – and so on! Once into the 1920s, the increasing number of cars complicate the search – there are 12 Connecticut volumes just for 1926; car names are highlighted but may be abbreviated (such as P-A), so you need to look closely.

    In New Jersey there is a Freedom of Information law, being told the state must reply; my experience is that became the beginning of the experience and I let it go. In California, some Schwabacher-Fry (I hope I am spelling that correctly) registration directories have been digitized – you can find Tom Mix’ license plate number but not Fatty Arbuckle’s – he kept his name out of the Roster.

    Whatever the results, I think it will be fun searching. So, I’m looking forward to learning the history of more Pierce-Arrow cars and other’s experiences going through the state records. There should be some dealer photos available, too, to illustrate some stories – I hope some will be published in future editions of the ARROW.




    I have been going directly to DMV and getting stonewalled, It sounds like there are some ways to get around the bureaucrats.

    I have been trying to get back to the original owner on my 1928, reportedly Al Jolson, so far with no luck. I will try some of the methods you suggest.




    I was very lucky with my 1915 C-3 which is an extremely original car as in papers received with my car was the original owner’s California certificate of registration for the year 1919.They had a second home in Pasadena and my car was kept there.From there I traced the name to Beverly Hills and found myself talking on the phone with his nephew who was 7 years old in 1914-1915 and told me quite a bit of history.My very low mileage 1929 Roadster came from Colorado and with the history I had found title documents at the Ouray County court house as Colorado registrations are kept by the counties.If nothing else I feel a good place to start is to ask the person from whom you bought the car get a name of their seller trying go back as far as you can.Some sate libraries have old registration books which one can peruse either online or in person but this will give your eyes a workout.New Mexico has vehicle records from 1912 through 1934 and these are at the State Library in Santa Fe.I have catalogued virtually all of the Pierce Arrows ever registered in New Mexico plus other interesting cars.


    When I was looking for Fatty Arbuckle’s car in the California registration directory published by Schwabacker-Fry (again, apologies if misspelling) in San Francisco, I had the license number from a picture of Fatty with the car but was not sure what the listing gave as it year. I noticed Fatty’s (real or stage) name was erased with blank space but also noticed other blank spaces – he had more than one car.

    I think Al Jolson’s name was a stage name, but you might check for a stage name listing. A photo of one of his cars of the time could provide a license number. He also had more than one car, so looking it up might reveal what the others were. I think Jolson may still have been in New York part of the time (Ruby Keeler was in the city), so there would be more than one state to check. There is a New York digitization around, maybe early 1920s, one prominent person listed his Pierce as a Harrolds!

    The 1928 Los Angeles distributor was William Bush (at least for most of the year, until Studebaker took over). I do not know if he left an archive. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences may have a suggestion. Bush’s Beverly Hills salesman was still alive and attended the PAS Glens falls meet – I am forgetting his name but John Meyer met and interviewed him – looking back in the Arrows may reveal other clues.

    Hope this helps



    Brooks and William,

    Thanks for the hints. It sounds like I need to refine my search methods.

    What I have found on prior owners of my car says it lived in New York up until 2000 when it came to California. So researching information from New York will be my first step.

    Would either of you (or both) be interested in putting together a “How to research the history of you P-A”” article together that I could publish in the Service Bulletin?

    I am sure there are a number of members that are struggling with finding prior owners of their car and would find the information very useful.



    Brooks, William and Dave,

    I am following your posts with great interest. I would love to know who owned my Series 81 before Sinclair and Suzanne Powell….and before them etc. Would appreciate a step by step (with many options) plan of attack.



    Eric, other ideas are to look under the seats for mail that may have have slipped down and contain the owners name and address. When I restored my 1933 1247 i found several items that enabled me to trace my car to the family that started Quaker Oats, and were on the Titanic. Yes the Titanic sank in 1912 , but that is how the family got their wealth. Another path is to talk to people who may have seen your car at old car shows in the 1950s, or 60s. Good luck Doug Vogel


    Jack Doherty live in Buffalo before he moved out West. I knew Jack, he had been a policeman for the city of Buffalo. He was a good friend of Bob Sands. Contact Bob, he probably has more info on the car


    Every situation to tracing a car’s history is different.If one can,tracing back through the previous owners starting with the party from whom one purchased the car.To give an example: With my 1930 Packard 745 I did just that and got some information from the person from whom the collector who had my car had purchased the Packard.This person however a short time later passed away but out of all of this I got the name of the first purchaser but it is just an initial and a last name.My car was purchased at the Brooklyn NY Packard store on9/20/30 and his last name was on one of the old keys with the car.I was told he was a golf pro and even contacting a golf person from that time who was still around did not provide any information.I am at a bit of a dead end unless I make trip and try to search the course of all of this I was able to talk with another collector who had seen the Packard at a show in Michigan over 60 years ago and took photos.He sent me copies.I am citing this to show every case is different.If one could find a book of New York auto registrations for say 1930 it would take long time to go through them and your eyes would be very tired.If you have some names it is amazing what you can find on the Web.You have to though make this search fun.It is alot like searching down one’s family and there are alot of good resources for such searches.


    I am glad this is of interest.

    It also reminds I forgot to mention my using several different computers when doing this type of searching. The college here is one source, the genealogy section of the local library another, etc. I can begin through Internet Explorer (I understand it is no longer being supported) or Firefox – but as I was looking for more Connecticut Motor Vehicle Registry versions in the genealogy library, I used Google Chrome. I found one year, 1926, I had not noticed before and the site allowed printing the page, which most sites I have found resist.

    I emphasize the Connecticut Motor Vehicle Register because they have best digital site example I have found – relatively easy to use and impressive to look at. The site is in color; once there, it opens to two blank pages, as if opening a book. Typing the make of car (remember to query abbreviations, too) leads to a signal that the computer is searching, that can take longer than you think. Suddenly, along the bottom of the screen, little flower-like shapes appear. Clicking on each brings up a page.

    So, for example, looking for the oldest licensed-running Pierce/Pierce-Arrow in the state in 1915, 1920 and/or 1926 (remembering each year may have different access issues) becomes a treat. Once having that – say, are the answers all the same? – it may spark pairing a period photo thought lost or some original document or anecdote (such as the examples others are mentioning) to bring some life to the identification.



    Does anyone know if the 1914-1915-1916 Minnesota Auto registrations are accessible online?

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