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, February 29, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – www.gbnames.publicprofiler.org

Let me introduce you to my latest favorite website – www.gbnames.publicprofiler.org.  It’s a surprise to me, a person who before this was not very interested in surname origins and frequencies. However, this is a great site to explore. (Professors at University College London gathered the data, and there may be more functions than I have figured out and described here.)

The full name of the site was once perhaps Great Britain Names, but they have expanded so click ‘Great Britain Family Names Profiler’ from the list on the home screen. Notice the other interesting choices there, such as World Names Profiler. When you type in a name at the next prompt, another screen brings up a list of name variations and meanings of the names.  Click the name you want, and the next screen shows a map of Great Britain with areas of high frequency highlighted in shades of blue.
I first tried the family name, BRETT, and from the list of variations, I clicked again on BRETT. A map of the whole island; England, Wales and Scotland, appeared on the left. The darkest hue was in Essex and Kent and secondly, in Norfolk and Suffolk, with some lighter areas along the southern coast. On the right side of the screen is a large scale map of Greater London that showed the BRETTS only on the east side of the city.

I tried another family name, HAYLETT, and the map showed an even higher concentration in East Anglia. As I tried a few more names from my family tree which is really a study of my Norfolk ancestors, I realized that I needed to use another name to see if other parts of the map actually lit up. The name that came to mind was David Cameron, the present UK prime minister. The blue showed  up in western Scotland and only there.
There are two choices of maps – 1881 and 1998. Just click on the earlier time and see the concentration then and the later date to see how migration within the UK changed the traditional places associated with the name.  The BRETT name shows itself in York and Hull area on the 1998 map as well as in the southeast.

One drawback is that the areas correspond with UK postal codes, not the usual county outlines genealogists are used to, but as you pass your cursor over an area, the name of a city appears. For example, holding the cursor over what I believe is Norfolk brings up “NR-Norwich”, the postal code, for the  county seat of Norfolk.
OT (Off Topic) – There are other maps like this on the internet. A present day map of Poland with name frequencies can be found at www.moikrewni.pl/mapa. Google Translator came in handy here.

The name meanings are a bonus as far as I am concerned. I found out that LEWIS is a Welsh name. Too bad my great grandfather with that name was born in Germany. Ah, the brick wall.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – Land Records Offices' Rhythms and Seasons

To everything there is a season…how true, even in a land records office. If you research a little about the real estate market in the location where your ancestors lived, you will accomplish more in a shorter time when searching for their deeds.

Generally, few closings take place in the early morning. Lawyers and title examiners check their offices and review necessary paperwork. Sellers put the last touches on the property so it is ‘broom clean.’ Buyers go to the bank to secure a cashier’s check and do a final inspection of the property. Then everyone meets at the closing site sometime after 10:00 a.m.
The land records office or registry of deeds opens an hour or two earlier.  The personnel always have work to do but have more time in the early morning to answer questions from you, the genealogist and local historian. One caveat is that during a period when a lot of people are refinancing their mortgages to take advantage of lower rates, closings may happen earlier in the day because there are no final inspections to delay the closing times.

Weeks at a registry also have a rhythm. Many people close towards the end of the week, take Friday off and move over the ‘long weekend’ that they have created. If you are going to an area for a family reunion and some research, plan to attend the reunion on the weekend and drop by the land records office on Monday instead of Friday.
For financial reasons, people buying property with a mortgage need to close near the end of the month. The registry needs to catch up filing the paperwork during the first week of the month. You will get much more attention if you can visit or call the office during the second or third week of the month.

Every market area has seasonality. A suburban enclave where schools are important to young families and in college towns that adhere to an academic calendar, everyone wants to close on their new house by Labor Day. A beach resort has a lot of closings before the Fourth of July.  Determine when the local market is busy and avoid contacting or visiting a registry during those months.
Whether you are visiting in person, or calling or emailing about a problem encountered using the website, respect the rhythms and seasons, and you and the Registrar of Deeds will be less frustrated.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – Warranty v. Quitclaim Deeds

A deed is a written document which transfers real estate ownership from one entity to another. A deed often has one of two labels on the top, Warranty Deed or Quitclaim Deed. What is the difference? Did it make a difference to my ancestors?

In the law, home owners have a bundle of rights.  A warranty deed assures the grantees that the grantors are conveying all the possible rights to the property. Grantors are guaranteeing that they have good, clear title and agreeing to defend the grantee from all title claims.  A Quitclaim Deed conveys to the grantee only the rights the grantors have which may or may not be the complete bundle. So if the seller’s title isn’t clear, the buyer’s title isn’t clear.
A Warranty Deed is also referred to as a ‘full covenant and warranty deed’ or a ‘general warranty deed.’ It is used extensively in the U.S. because some considered it the best deed a grantee can receive.  In my home region, western Massachusetts, almost all property sales are via a warranty deed, while in the City of Boston, a quitclaim deed is most prevalent. E. Wade Hone, a Utah resident, in his book for genealogists, Land and Property Research in the United States, states that quitclaim deeds are the most common type.

This is an example of a warranty deed from 1913 in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. The warranty clause is in the preprinted area below the legal description.
Warranty and Covenant clause is last paragraph.

For all practical purposes in the modern day, both types of deeds adequately convey property. Titles are searched for the past 50 or 60 years, and title insurance is purchased.  Modern home buyers are very well protected from title issues.
There are historic reasons for the two major types of deeds. However, it would be rare to find title issues in our ancestors’ land transactions.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday – Land Records Term – 'Seized'

When people use the word ‘seize’, I think they mean grab or take but with a slightly more negative connotation. When I first saw the word in a land deed, I could see that it had a different legal meaning, different enough to need a comment or two here.  Read the next passage from a late 1800s deed  and see if you can get the other meaning from the context:

“…the estate of said James Damon of which he died seized…together with all the personal property of which the said James Damon died seized.
 Hampshire MA Registry of Deeds, Book 362 Page 195

It appears to mean that James Damon of Chesterfield, Massachusetts died owning the property.  According to the dictionary that‘s right, the word ‘seize’ can mean “to make someone the legal owner of property or goods.”

I have not seen many modern Massachusetts' deeds use the word, but here is an example from a 2000 deed in Florida. It is part of the covenants and warranty paragraph of a Warranty Deed.

“And the grantor hereby covenants with the said grantee that the grantor is lawfully seized of said land…”
Manatee County FL,  Book 1659 Page 6643

                                                                                                                                        ©2012, Susan Lewis Well

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Illegitimacy and Bastardy Bonds

Some definitions:

Bastard – an illegitimate child, often referred to in baptism records as a ‘base born child.’

Bastardy Bond – document by which a father acknowledged paternity and agreed to pay the mother’s maternity expenses and maintenance of the child.  The money could be paid as a lump sum or in installments. If the father did not want to leave so public a record, his admission and agreement might be included in the Vestry Minutes instead of a separate bond. A more reluctant father might go to court to try to avoid paying and the records will be found there. Another way to think of it is that the parish council took the reluctant father to court to force him to pay. (After 1844, a woman was allowed to apply directly to the courts for maintenance orders.)
Bastardy Examinations – In 1733, a law was enacted that required a woman to declare an illegitimate pregnancy and tell the father’s name. Bastardy examination papers were the result of her interview with the overseers.

An unmarried woman was under a lot of pressure to name the father of an illegitimate child. In the 1600s, an unmarried pregnant woman could be sent to jail for a year. Whippings were carried out against women into the 1700s. Later, if the man was unmarried, he was pressured to wed the mother.  On the other hand, a man might make payments to the mother directly or to the parish as the intermediary. Only the latter were recorded in the parish documents.

Everything was done to prevent the mother and child from being a burden to the community.  Laws were tweaked and treatment of the mothers changed. An act of 1732/3 stopped removal of women during pregnancy and during the first month after childbirth. In 1743/4, it was decided that an illegitimate child’s parish of settlement was the mother’s parish, not where the birth took place.

It is easy to spot a bastard birth in the records because no father’s name is given, although it sometimes is in later records.  Sometimes a child is given a second name which is a surname that appears to be indicating the father - for example, John Haylett, base born son of Sarah Brett. So there is no confusion, when children were born after their father had died, the word ‘posthumous’ is used, such as ‘John Brett, son of James (posthumous) and Mary Brett.’

©2012 Susan Lewis Well