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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Deed Wording Changes with Time and Place

The content of deeds follows state statute and local custom. My 21 September 2011 post introduced you to the seven “Elements of a Deed,” but their exact wording can and will vary especially the ‘words of granting’.

Here is a modern example of a change to deeds in one location. In the past twenty five years, the first line of deeds in Hampshire County, Massachusetts has changed by local usage, not state statute. For centuries, the opening line was “Know all men by these presents.” At first, the modification used by some in the legal community was “Know all men and women by these presents.”  The next attempt to be gender neutral was “Know all persons by these presents,” and finally, for now the most used phrase is “Know all by these presents.” In this example, no meaning has changed, but the wording has.
Of the seven “Elements of a Deed,” it is the ‘words of conveyance’ that have changed the most over time. Generally, the older a deed, the longer the list of verbs used to grant the property to another. Where a modern deed is likely to say “John and Jane Smith grant to James and Judith Jones,” an older deed might say “grant, bargain, sell, convey, warrant and confirm…” This last quote is from a 1913 Montana deed.

However, just to keep you on your toes, let me quote the words of conveyance from a 2000 Florida deed – “grants, bargains, sells, aliens, remises, releases, conveys and confirms…” Local custom, state law and time affect the wording of a deed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Two Family Tree Magazines

I wanted to recommend a magazine article about English research, and in the process, I found an interesting coincidence. There are two Family Tree Magazines.

Family Tree Magazine (U.S.) is published seven times per year by F + W Media, Cincinnati, Ohio. I would be lost without this publication. There are interesting articles about all aspects of research, technologies and websites. They are doing a series about the genealogy resources available in major American cities. The format is colorful and modern.
In the issue dated November 2011 is an article, “Plain English”, with all the basics of English genealogy plus a history timeline; map of English county boundaries in 1870; and lists of websites, books and organizations.

Their website, www.familytreemagazine.com, has free forms among its many offerings.  I cannot say enough good things about this magazine!  However, I will mention that with a subscription also comes a weekly enewsletter and yes, some ads for the company’s other offerings (books and webinars) plus other ads for genealogical products and tours. I’ve been with them so long, I have forgotten whether I ‘subscribed’ to the email or not, but the editorial content is worth any annoyance.
When the November issue arrived, I decided to see if I could find it at a local newsstand before recommending it to you so off I went to Barnes and Noble. Family Tree Magazine was there, but I was in for a shock – most of the genealogy magazines they stocked were from the UK. They were not inexpensive, but they were full of fascinating, yet unfamiliar content.   

Family Tree Magazine (U.K.) dubbed the “world’s bestselling British genealogical publication,” was a surprise find. It is published thirteen times per year by abm publishing, ltd. in Lincolnshire.  Their website is www.family-tree.co.uk. Besides general information about subscriptions and newsstands in the UK, there is a family names section, a list of family blogs, a bookshop and forum. There is an index for all the magazine’s issues for its 25 year history.  
Look for more on the other UK genealogical magazines in other posts.

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. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why the Twin Specialties

I have decided to blog about genealogy with emphasis on U.S. land records and English research. Many of you are wondering why the widely separate specialties so here is the inside scoop.

Before I was a genealogist, I was a real estate broker and appraiser. Both careers required knowledge of deeds, especially retrieving them, understanding their clauses and comparing the land description with a map or survey. I did not learn about these records from a genealogical prospective. I came to genealogy knowing about land records and have a slant that I hope you will find helpful.

My great grandmother, Eliza BRETT, was born in Norfolk, England, in the medium sized parish of Swaffham. Her line was easy to trace using my local LDS Family History Center in Massachusetts. Their web site, www.familysearch.org, now has Norfolk parish records online to help with new inquiries.

I joined the very helpful Norfolk Family History Society in 1995 and recommmend that all English researchers join their county society as soon as possible.  A list of societies can be found at www.genuki.org.uk. (Click 'Societies' from the list on the right side of the home screen and then the first choice on the next list.)