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Writing History & Mysteries

When I'm not delving into historical research, I'm planning a character's demise.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for TITLE Search

An 1829 tavern I researched in Barre, NY. Here are folks that are part of an archaeology dig.
A title search is basically the genealogy of a piece of property. It is most often used by abstract companies to create a chain of title (ownership) for the property for a lawyer or bank when people are buying, selling or taking out a mortgage. It is often used when someone is seeking historic landmark designation for their building or the property as a whole.

I'm a historian that used to work for an abstract company, and now I just research historic properties or Indian land. If you are researching your house, aside from looking in the usual places like deeds, mortgages, atlases, etc here is a few tips to keep in mind while you are looking. It is what I call my 50 year rule of thumb:

If you get to a point and you can't find the next deed back, look up to 50 years ahead after the owners death. Why? Because families often do what they want and not what they should. Here is my made up example.

Joseph Bolton lived in Alabama in the 1850's.  In fact he lived there most of his life.  Joseph had a wife named Sally, and one son named Charles.  Poor Sally died however leaving Joseph and Charles to run the farm all alone.  In 1865 Joseph decided to move to Michigan.  Charles had married and decided to stay on at the farm in Alabama with his wife Beth, and son Michael. 

     In 1870 Joseph dies in Michigan, but he did leave a Will.  In his Will he leaves the farm to his son Charles.  (You however have no probate file to check because he died out of state.  You might get lucky and find a duplicate here, but in this case it did not happen that way.)  No Executor's Deed was ever filed transferring the property from Joseph's estate to his son Charles. Charles just figured well it was in my father's Will, so I guess it's mine now. 

     Michael grows to adulthood, marries, and has a son named George.  Poor George won't see his grandparents very long because Charles and Beth Bolton die in a train accident in 1901.  Charles left a Will as well and "willed" his property to his son in the event that his wife was already dead.  Again no Executor's Deed was filed.  Michael figured the same thing as his father did.  Well I guess now it is mine.

     In 1910 Michael Bolton decides to sell the property.  He of course ends up hiring an attorney to clean up the mess his family has created.  Finally in 1911 the original deed of Joseph Bolton from 1858 is filed at the Clerk's Office, and several affidavits’ explaining the whole messy affair.  The title is now clear, and Michael Bolton sells his land in 1911.  The deed to the new owners not only has the usual stuff; it is also clearly written as to how the property exchanged hands.  This is nice if you are doing genealogy.

     This type of thing, of course, is an Abstractor's worst nightmare; but it is an excellent lesson in genealogical searching!  So always check ahead at least fifty years.  When it comes to family conveyed property assume they will make a mess of the title.


Stay tuned for more history tidbits throughout the month of April!

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  1. Great lesson here! For genealogy, but also about keeping family affairs and land titles clear and clean.
    Visit me at: Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B of Tremps' Troops
    with the A to Z Challenge

  2. Very interesting. Great to know for those looking to purchase old structures and land it's on. Do your research.

  3. hi Just popped in from the A-Z challenge to say hello.
    I enjoyed this post!!
    fellow A-Z blogger
    Kim in Australia

  4. We tried to purchase land that we thought was in the family (years ago now). Goodness the paperwork had no end and people making handshake agreements that have passed is a nightmare.
    Hope you have enjoyed the A to Z challenge


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