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Land and Property Search Jargon: How to Know What They're Talking About

Boost your genealogy search power by becoming familiar with land records.

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Melissa Slate
Word Count: 451 (approx.)
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For the new genealogist, using property records can be a daunting and sometimes overwhelming proposition. Many genealogists shy away from using property records altogether; however, this is a big mistake, as many useful clues can be gleaned from property records. One thing that will help to alleviate some of the anxiety over using property records is to become familiar with some of the terminology involved.

A deed book is a collection of records that recount the transfer and acquisition of land parcels. Many different types of land transfer records may be recorded in a deed book. The most common type of land deed is the Deed of Sale, which is a deed received by the buyer during a straight purchase of property. The Deed of Sale may also be known as an "Indenture." Mortgage sales were recorded when land was placed as collateral on a loan. These deeds may state "Mortgage Deed" somewhere in the actual deed itself or may contain a clause that voids the sale if a certain amount is repaid within a certain time frame.

There are also Deeds of Gift which often used the terms "in consideration of love and affection" or were transacted for a very token amount such as one dollar. When you see deeds like this, look at them very carefully because usually the Grantee (the receiver of the property) is related to the Grantor (the seller or giver of the property).

"Strawman" sales are more than one transfer of a piece of property occured in a given day or a very short period of time and were often used to circumvent legal inconveniences to the persons involved in the transactions. The "strawman" was a middleman in the transaction. The property transfer or sale usual went something like this: Mr. Cooke sells a specified piece of property to Mr. Cole who then, maybe the same day, sells the same piece of property to Mr. Jordan. Mr. Cole was the "strawman" or middleman in the property transfer. Here again take close note of the persons involved in the transactions, as they are usually relatives or very close friends.

Estate settlements may also be found in deed books in which heirs of a piece of property sell to another family member or to an outside buyer. Deeds may also be found in will and probate records and may not be recorded in deed books.

These are just a few of the types of transactions that you may find recorded in property records. You may also find deeds recorded for different types of property other than land such as livestock. Careful attention to the circumstances surrounding the deeds as well as the persons involved could yield valuable clues in your genealogical research.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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