Indexes are essential to the use of land records. Deed indexes, however, include only the names of the grantor and grantee and not of other persons who may be mentioned in the document.
Deed books usually have separate indexes for grantors and grantees. The grantor and grantee indexes may be in separate books, in separate sections of the same book, or on alternate pages of the same book. Usually grantors and grantees are grouped only by the first letter of the surname rather than listed alphabetically by the full surname. Some deed indexes are grouped phonetically. Where this is the case, the book probably contains a key to the index. If you don't understand the indexing system in the office, ask the office staff for help.
When using deed indexes, copy all entries for the surname you are researching, and for related surnames as well, from both the grantor and grantee indexes. Check these indexes for an extended period because deeds were not always recorded at the time they were executed. Copy from the index the names of the grantor and grantee, type of instrument (deed, mortgage, lease, etc.), volume and page numbers on which the document can be found, and any other pertinent information.
When possible, you should search land records and indexes in person. This is the only way to make a through search.
There are published abstracts and indexes. Deeds abstracts and indexes have been published for some areas. But, remember that all published works, including abstracts and indexes, are subject to omission and error in transcription. If you cannot search land records in person, one of these published works may give you the citation you need to order a photocopy of a deed.
Never consider a published deed abstract a satisfactory substitute for the deed itself. Much valuable information included in the deed may have been omitted from the abstract.
The photocopy of a deed is often difficult to read, and the deed may contain legal verbiage not pertinent to your research. You should learn to prepare an abstract of each deed for your ready reference.
Include the following information in the abstract of a deed: (1) Your name and address and the date on which the deed was abstracted. (2) Source of the deed, including the county and state in which it was recorded, the volume and page numbers from the book in which it was recorded, and the courthouse or other repository in which it is kept. (3) Name of the grantors and place of residence. (4) Name of the grantees and place of residence. (5) Date on which the deed was executed and recorded. (6) Consideration received by the grantor. (7) Signature or mark of the grantor(s). (8)Names of witnesses. (9) Description of the land being conveyed, including the names of adjoining landowners and any recital of the process by which the grantor came into possession of the land. (10) Include the use of terms denoting occupation, social status, or military rank of the grantor or grantee, or information indicating when and where the grantor appeared to acknowledge his signature. (11) Information contained in a dower release.
Lastly, read the entire deed as you prepare your abstract. There maybe an important piece of information tucked away in the legal language that you should include in your abstract.
The genealogical information contained in land records is there for the sole purpose of conveying a clear title to the property from one party to another. You can assume the information is stated accurately except where there is a dispute amongst family members.
Remember, local land records are copies of the original documents. Even the most careful recorder may make a mistake in reading or transcribing the original deed.
You should always use land records in conjunction with other types of records during your research.
You should always include the source of a deed in your abstract, you should write a citation on each photocopied deed in your files.
A citation of a deed should include a descriptive title of the document with the names of the parties, volume and page numbers, and the office or repository in which it can be found. When citing a deed in a footnote, you may also want to include the date of the deed and, perhaps, the date it was recorded.
Example: Deed from Charles Nix to Wesley Hooper, 28 May 2012 (recorded 1 June 2012), Deed Book 14, pp.15-16, Recorder's Office, Poinsett County Courthouse, Harrisburg, Poinsett, Arkansas.
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