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Genealogical Value of Deeds

Posted Friday, November 16, 2012, at 1:14 PM

Finding a deed in which your ancestor was a grantor or grantee will, at the very least, place him or her in a particular place at a given time, an important building block in genealogical research. Many deeds contain much more genealogical information.

Place of Residence

A deed usually indicates the place of residence of both the grantor and the grantee. The first grantee deed for an ancestor in a particular locality may give his former place of residence. The last grantor deed in a particular locality may give his subsequent place of residence.

Sometime after the deed was executed, the grantor appeared before an official to acknowledge his signature so the deed could be recorded. Always note the place of this appearance because it may indicate a new place of residence.

Personal identity.

It may be possible to identify a grantor or grantee and distinguish him from other persons with the same name by information included in a deed. A grantor or grantee may be identified by reference to his occupation, social status, or military rank.

Often the first name of the grantor's wife is given either as a cograntor or in a dower release. It is less usual for the name of the grantee's wife to be given in early deeds. However, this did happen when a man deeded property to his daughter and son in law. It also occurred when the grantor wanted to insure that the property would pass to the heirs of the grantee's wife.

Two grantors with the same name may be distinguished from each other by research in earlier records to determine from whom the land was received. A tract of land transferred by will or deed from father to son establishes the identity of the son.

A grantor may also be identified by the form of his signature or by his mark if the mark is unusual and was carefully copied in the deed book.

Family relationships

Family relationships may be revealed in deeds in a number of ways. A quitclaim deed, which includes as grantors all the heirs of the deceased landowner as well as the husbands of married daughters, is obviously very helpful. It may equal in value a decree of distribution or other probate document. One quitclaim deed, however, may not give a complete picture of the family since an heir living at a great distance may have executed a separate deed. This is one of the reasons it is important to examine all deeds for a particular surname and for related surnames.

A family relationship may be established through information found in a deed of gift when a father deeds property to his son or to this daughter and her husband. Even through a relationship is not stated in the deed, a very small purchase price suggests a family relationship between the grantor and grantee.

Some older deeds, particularly those with metes and bounds descriptions, may include as part of the land description a recital of how the land came into the grantor's possession. This recital may include several generations of family members with references to other deeds or wills.

Witnesses to a deed may be relatives, although their relationships will not be stated in the deed.

Dates of marriage and death

Although deeds rarely provide direct evidence of a marriage or death date, examining a series of an ancestor's grantor deeds may provide clues to the approximate date of such an event.

The approximate date of an ancestor's marriage may be indicated when a wife begins to appear as a cograntor or to executive a dower release. The approximate date of a wife's death may be indicated when she no longer appears with her husband as a cograntor. A second marriage may be indicated when there is a change in the wife's given name. The approximate death date of a man may be indicated when his wife's given appears as a sole grantor or when a quitclaim deed is executed by the heirs.

The approximate marriage date of a female grantor may be indicated when a woman who had conveyed land in her own name later appeared with her husband to acknowledge her signature on the deed.

Although the deed is the most commonly used land record in genealogical research, there are other types of local land and property records you may use.

Next week, we will explore these together. Mortgages, Leases, Bill of Sale, and Plat and Plat Books.

I welcome comments, queries, and suggestions at: poinsetthhs@yahoo.com attn: Ms. Sylvia.

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Sylvia Evans
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