Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Using Deeds in Genealogical Research

Do you use deeds in your genealogical research? If not, you may be neglecting an important resource.

Being a child of Virginia and having similar records, most areas of Kentucky use the "metes and bounds" system of surveying. Only the Jackson Purchase area uses the township, range and section system. While not as exact as the system used in the Purchase area, deeds in the rest of Kentucky can provide some very valuable information. In addition to land conveyances, you will find bills of sale, divisions of estates, mortgages, powers of attorney and almost any other transaction you can imagine recorded in the deed books.

Before you use the deed books, check the grantor and grantee indices. The grantor is the seller of the property and the grantee is the buyer or receiver of the property. Sometimes the indices are in separate books. Sometimes they are in the same book, with the grantors listed on one page and the grantees on the facing page. Surnames are listed in semi-alpha order, with surnames beginning with A listed together, Bs are together, and so on through the alphabet. To the left side of the names is the year of the transaction with the book and page number on right side of the name.

Once you find your person listed, write down the year, book and page number. Go to the listed deed book, turn to the appropriate page and the transaction should be there. In abstracting the entry, be sure to give the names of the grantor and grantee, date of the transaction and the date it was recorded, plus a brief description of the property. If the entry is for a bill of sale of a slave, you will want to list the name and any other information given. If the entry is for the division of property among heirs, be sure to list all the names of the heirs and from whom the property was inherited.

If the entry is for a power of attorney, make a note for the reason the attorney was being appointed. This may lead you to another record of importance. For example, if it mentions that the attorney is to conduct business in another state, this might indicate a former residence of the grantor.

If the entry was for the conveyance of land from one party to another, give a brief description of the land from the beginning point and give the name of the watercourse, number of acres and any names of any persons owning adjoining land.

Before the Civil War, many western Kentucky counties recorded mortgages in the deed books. At first glance, it will appear that the grantor is selling a great deal of property, perhaps including his growing crop in the field and household and kitchen furniture. If, however, the entry contains the following phrase, "the condition is such that ...," this is most likely a mortgage, even though the word is not used. Sometime after the Civil War, mortgages began to be recorded in separate books. In Crittenden County, mortgages begin in 1870. The year may be different in other counties.

One of the best reasons to use deeds is to separate families according to the watercourse on which they lived. It is helpful to know if families of the same name were living in the same area, perhaps indicating a relationship. My ancestor, John E. Wilson, is found in early Livingston County, but on Crooked Creek that is today in Crittenden County. No other Wilson family lived in that area. There was a John M. Wilson who lived in the Piney Fork area and Jeremiah, Robert, David, and James Wilson all lived in the Bells Mines area. After separating the families by the watercouse on which they lived, it was determined they were separate families and probably not related.

A thorough researcher will check every available record, including deeds, in order to learn as much as possible.

On a lighter note, try this for fun:

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