Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Value of Researching Deeds

I've been preaching about the value of using deeds in genealogical research for a long time, but I know some of you haven't yet made the plunge into those big, heavy volumes in the county clerk's office. Maybe it is time to talk about why these records are so valuable. Here are just a few reasons:

1.  The maiden name of married women can sometimes be found in deeds. In a Caldwell County, Kentucky deed (Book E, page 77), we learn the maiden name of  Logan Armstrong's wife, Polly, when the heirs of Job Dean conveyed land in 1826.  Or was Polly the widow of Job Dean, as Nanakat suggests? We know that Logan Armstrong married Mary Dean 21 June 1804 Livingston County, but it doesn't say if she was a widow or not. Nanakat builds a strong case for her being the widow. Thanks, Nanakat!

2.  Deeds sometimes tell the current location of former residents. In a Caldwell County deed (Book E, page 211), we learn the maiden names of Andrew Dunn's wife, Betsey,  and Vincent Anderson's wife, Sarah, when the heirs of John Jenkins dec'd sold  land on Eddy Creek in 1826. This deed is doubly valuable as the heirs were no longer Kentucky residents, having moved to Alabama. In a 1914 Crittenden County deed (Book 33, page 296), the children and grandchildren, heirs of Martin Gahagan dec'd, are listed. Several of the heirs were from Crittenden County, but another one lived in Eldorado, Illinois, another in Denver, Colorado and the guardian of two others lived in Oak Hill, Kansas.

3. Property divisions often name the heirs of an estate. This is especially important if the parent died intestate. The heirs of  George Towry are named in an 1838 Caldwell County deed (Book I, page 71). Another example is the Crittenden County deed (Book C, page 614) of 1854 whereby Margaret Stallions conveyed land to her children, the heirs of Josiah Stallions deceased.  Josiah left no will so the names of his heirs is important.  Sometimes all of the names of heirs are not listed, but we can determine how many heirs there were by the wording in the deed. For example,  an 1857 Caldwell County deed (Book S, page 332) mentions Nancy Cooksey, formerly Nancy Young, daughter and heir of James Young, but does not name the other heirs. However, the deed states she has "an undivided interest of one ninth as one of the heirs of James Young dec'd."  From this we know there were, indeed, other heirs of James Young.

4.  The relationship between a parent and children is often shown in deeds. Again, this is especially important if the parent left no will. In 1819, Zachariah Chandler of Caldwell County, in consideration of his son Josiah Chandler Jr's bond to the father and $1000, conveyed  200 acres of land on Lick Creek. Also, the son promised to care for the father the remainder of his life.

In order to be a thorough researcher, you should include deeds in your research plan.

Published 28 Feb 2013, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,


Nanakat said...

I would have to dig to find why, but I remember thinking that Logan Armstrong married the widow of Job Dean, not his daughter.

Now, I have to go dig into my files (I really need to get them on my computer).

Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury (a descendant of Catherine Armstrong Brasher)

Nanakat said...

Sorry. Should have said this first:

Amen! Deeds are a wonderful source of family information. They can help when nothing else (vital records, probate, census) is available.

Becky Wiseman said...

I love Land Records. I've broken two brick walls using them. Much of the time deeds are pretty dry, but when you find even one that helps tumble those brick walls, it makes the time and effort well worthwhile.

Brenda Joyce Jerome said...

Kathleen, if she was the widow, please let me know. As far as I am concerned, land records are probably the most valuable in research.

Nanakat said...

Well, what I've found so far are notes that indicate that Mary Maxwell, daughter of Edward Maxwell and Jane Montgomery, married Job Dean first on 16 Nov 1796 in Washington Co, KY, and after he died, she married Logan Armstrong. I have that the bond for her marriage to Logan Armstrong was provided by James Maxwell on 19 Jun 1804. I'll keep digging.

PalmsRV said...

I, too love combing through deeds. Here's a link that I also posted on my blog (In Deeds) today -- it's a deed search tutorial:

It reinforces what you have said, Brenda.

Geolover said...

This is a really solid post, and great that you cautioned about needing more information in order to avoid misinterpretation.

One example is a Bourbon Co. deed where the vendor conveys to heirs of a decedent who'd purchased land, then lists the heirs. Most were children, but one of them turned out to be the widow Sarah. A family genealogy had been published in a NJ journal some decades ago listing Sarah as a daughter. Only evidence from tax lists and other deeds confirmed who she was, one of the deeds being in another State where she conveyed her interest in her father's land -- giving her KY residence. The latter deed was her only ID as daughter, too!