What You Can Find in Land Records

Land records have a lot more to offer our genealogy research than what you might think. They aren’t just dry records of buying and selling land. Here are 11 things that are common to find in land records.

Generations Cafe Podcast, Episode 37

You can listen to this episode by clicking the play button below. (You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and most other podcast apps.)
Length: 13 minutes.

The first 7 items are in almost all deeds.

1. Names of the Grantors and Grantees

Not too surprisingly, deeds include the names of the grantors (the sellers) and the grantees (the buyers).

2. Residence of the Grantors and Grantees

You might be surprised to learn that deeds typically include the residence of the grantors and the grantees. That’s especially important to remember when you realize that people don’t always live where they own land.

3. What Type of Deed It Is

There are different types of deeds (including some that can give clues to point you toward court records). Reading the legalese in the deed to understand what type of deed it is will help you understand what is really going on.

4. Legal Description of the Land

Again, it will take a careful reading of the deed, but you’ll be able to tell exactly what is being transferred.

5. Consideration

Consideration is just a way of saying “payment.” Not only does the amount of consideration give you an idea of the worth of the land, but when it’s a token amount, it’s a clue that there’s a relationship between the grantor and the grantee.

6. Dates

Most deeds aren’t recorded on the same day they are executed. There can be a delay anywhere from a few days to several years. Be careful to note whether the date is the date of the deed or the date it’s recorded. (Both will be included.)

7. Names of the Witnesses

Like most legal documents, there needs to be a witness or two. It isn’t unusual for the witnesses to be neighbors or family members of either the grantor or the grantee. (It’s also possible that one or both of the witnesses is just a courthouse employee.)

The next four items are common to find, but aren’t in all deeds.

8. Release of Dower

A release of dower is when the wife of the grantor acknowledges that she’s giving up any claim that she would have had to the land had they still owned it at the time of the husband’s death. Not to be confused with dowry.

9. Statements of Relationship

Sometimes you’ll luck out and the deed will list relationships, either between the grantor and grantee or between the grantor and a previous owner.

10. Chain of Title

Speaking of previous owners, some deeds will contain a chain of title, showing who the grantor obtained the land from. Sometimes this chain can go back to several previous owners.

11. Neighboring Landowners

It isn’t uncommon to find the names of the neighboring landowners, especially in a metes and bounds description. Talk about a great way to find some of the FAN club (friends, associates, and neighbors).

Land records are so important to genealogy research that we’re devoting the month of November to it inside the Generations Cafe Circle. Click here for more details. 


Posted: November 8, 2019.

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  • Very interesting podcast. I learned a lot about land records which I have been hesitant to research. Thank you.