So now you know how to find a deed, the terminology in it, and the parts of a deed. You should abstract and transcribe the deed. Then, plot the location of the parcel along with the neighbors. You may find the neighbors by reading the boundaries of the parcel in the property description. Next, overlay your plot on a map to see the lay of the land. You may use Google Maps or Google Earth for that.
Now, you’re ready to dig into the deed to uncover every last clue that may be hiding there.
While examining the record and the map, consider the following:
1. County deed books are typically copies of the deed hand copied by the court clerk into the deed book. It is likely you will not find the original deed unless it’s been handed down through your family. That said, it is possible the deed book is not the original. If the document is typed into the deed book, and the date is 1827, you can bet it is not the original since typewriters were not invented until 1868. See if you can find an earlier version of the deed book.
2. Is the property being sold to a family member? On the surface, you may not recognize a family member, but he may be an in-law.
3. Who were the neighbors? Are they related to your subject? They may be siblings, cousins, or in-laws. Sometimes whole neighborhoods packed up and moved. Recognizing these names, though maybe not related by blood, will help to connect your family in their new locality.
4. Who were the witnesses? Sometimes they are a relative.
5. If a wife is on the deed as a seller, did you find a dower release?
6. How is the title held? If it’s fee simple, the party died without a will, and the parcel passed to his heirs. Look for an intestate probate record.
7. How was the land transferred? By quit claim or gift deed? If a gift, you may want to look into the relationship between the parties involved. They may be family.
8. How much “consideration” (money) was exchanged. A low dollar amount may clue to a family member or a debt being repaid.
9. Did the buyer pay by cash or take out a mortgage? If by mortgage, there may be a mortgage document.
10. If the seller had a mortgage on the property, can you find a release or satisfaction of mortgage when the mortgage is repaid?
11. Notice when the deed was recorded compared to the date of the sale. If a long time passed between the two, what could have possibly hindered the recording? Distance to the courthouse? Property handed down to heirs?
Case Study: On 1 January 1827, Gideon Slade of Hoosick, Rensselaer County, New York, and Chloe his wife, sold land to Philip Slade of Troy, Rensselaer County, for $4,000, containing 100 acres of land and also 105 acres of another parcel. Gideon and Chloe Slade’s names were signed by the clerk, but Chloe’s name includes “her mark.” Witnesses were Sidney Twogood and Cyrus Spicer.
The property description mentions bordering properties of Matthew Brewers, lands formerly owned by Richard Covell and Ebeneser Cross, Norris Pierce, and current owners Josiah Richmond, and Joseph Slade. The record includes Chloe Slade’s relinquishment of her dower right on the same date the transaction was recorded, 2 April 1827. [Rensselaer County, New York, Deeds Book 17:141; FHL microfilm 546,703.]
Analysis: This document is typed (see #1 above), thus NOT the original copy in the deed book. I should search to find the original deeds book because there is the possibility of transcription error in this copy.
This is the only document I have found that names Gideon’s wife, Chloe. I now have evidence of the last time she was known to be alive which was on 2 April 1827 when she appeared to relinquish her dower right.
Gideon Slade had a brother Philip Slade. The Philip Slade of this document may or may not be Gideon’s brother, but it serves as a starting place to investigate.
The witness Sidney Twogood was son-in-law to Gideon Slade.
I will want to investigate each of the neighbors and remember them when the family or group moves to a new locality.
This deed is loaded with clues for further investigation.
If you will take the time to analyze each deed in this manner, you just may find clues to help you in your quest.