Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deeds Have Essential Elements

There are seven elements that must be present in each and every deed. Without them, the document would not legally transfer real property ownership from one party to another. The specific language of a deed varies by state statute and local custom, but these elements represent the baseline or least amount of information a genealogist can expect from a deed.

1.    Name of  the Grantor
2.    Name of the Grantee
3.    Words of conveyance
4.    Consideration ($$$)
5.    Legal Description
6.    Signature of the Grantor
7.    Delivery and acceptance

The first four items are found in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence of a deed.
The grantors and grantees names should stand out in the first sentence.  The Grantor or the seller conveys the property to the Grantee or buyer. Because one way to search for a deed is to use the Grantor/Grantee index, it’s good to keep these terms in mind.

Third, there must be ‘words of granting’ such as “do hereby grant, convey and transfer to the grantee, his heirs and assigns forever...”
The fourth element is the consideration – the good and valuable items exchanged for the property. Today, it is usually money. Some states require that the consideration be expressed in monetary terms, so modern deeds often give the true sale price of the property. The older the deed, the more likely you are to find the phrases “for love and affection” or “for one dollar and other valuable consideration.”

A legal description of the land is the fifth element. In this portion of the document, there is a carefully and technically worded paragraph describing the boundaries of the plot or the location on a survey. There’s only a general reference to buildings, never a description of the style or size of a house or barn. 

The Grantor must sign the deed. At deeds repositories, older deeds are handwritten copies of originals and do not have your ancestors’ original signatures.

The seventh element is delivery and acceptance, something not written into the document. Because the document is recorded at a deeds repository, you can be certain that this element is completed

By recognizing this basic information, you can quickly see extra clauses that might contain a goldmine of genealogical information. Long lists of Grantors may mean a group of heirs selling the homestead, for example. More than one legal description indicates two or more parcels of land being sold on the same day to the same buyer. 


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  2. My best land record finds have included the wife's name as signer on the back side of the doc. giving up dower rights.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)