The first time you look at a deed, you may think there’s too much legal language and it’s too confusing, but once you understand how deeds are usually arranged, it will be easy to pick out the information you need.
So, hang in there while I explain it to you. I promise, you’ll feel a lot better about deeds when we’re done.
Deeds commonly include the following:
Date of the transaction: This may appear at the beginning of the document or at the end
Grantor (seller): The deed usually does not say “Grantor,” but instead begins with the phrase “between” then his name, his wife’s name, their residence, and “of the first part.”
Grantee (buyer): The deed usually does not say “Grantee” but after the party of the first party of the first part you will find the word “and” then his name, his wife’s name, their residence, and “of the second part.”
Consideration (money paid): How much is paid and how it is paid, whether by cash in hand or by a mortgage.
Property description: Number of acres, the town and county named, then the words “bounded as follows to wit” with the legal property description “Beginning at the …”
Type of deed: quitclaim, sheriff’s, warranty deed, or deed of trust.
Sellers’ Signatures: The sellers names are “signed” and “their mark” is included if they cannot write. Note, if you’re looking at a deed in a county deeds book, this is not their actual signature. The clerk has signed their name. The buyers do not typically sign the deed. Following the sellers signatures is usually the letters “L.S,” meaning “Locus Sigilli” or where a seal would be placed.
Witnesses: names and residences
Dower right relinquished: by the seller’s wife of her own free will
Date and time of recording and court clerk’s signature
Now, that wasn’t so complicated, was it?
While you have the deed in front of you, you should record the pertinent details on a Deed Abstract Worksheet. Blank forms may be found online at Rootsweb and the GenealogyForum. Be sure you include where you found the document, i.e. [Name of County] Deed Book B: [page] 26; FHL microfilm [number], and the date you viewed it.
You should also transcribe whole the record. A transcription is an exact word-for-word copy of the document. This may sound like an unnecessary step, but when you transcribe a record you actually look at each word and begin to mentally process what you are seeing.
In my next post, we’ll talk about how to analyze the information you find in a deed. That’s the part that will help you with some of your more difficult genealogy problems!
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