Deeds: Part Three

Alicia Crane WilliamsFollowing up on my previous post, Jerry Anderson reminds me that some colonies did not require a wife to sign a deed releasing her dower rights. This just emphasizes the complexity of the subject of land records and the fact that you will need to learn all the ins and outs that apply to the records you are searching – not exciting stuff, but necessary. I am not up to speed on current genealogy how-to publications, so perhaps readers can chime in here. The old classic I used was Val D. Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. I just looked it up online and it is still available – a copy in “acceptable” condition can be bought for $1.99 at! If you happen to find a copy in your library, check it out. Of course, it will be out of date regarding technology, but basic research information never changes.

Types of deeds

Warranty: The deed that we have been dissecting in Parts 1 and 2 of this series is a warranty deed. It warrants or guarantees that the seller has the right to sell the property, and if some problem develops over the title, the buyer has the right to get his money back (provided he can find the seller, of course).

Quitclaim: A quitclaim deed is made by someone who has, or could make a claim to have, a right in the property even though they do not own it. For example, if a father leaves the farm to his younger son who then sells it, the other children may make quitclaim deeds stating that they will not try to make any claims on the property. A widow may also make a quitclaim for her husband’s property other than her dower thirds. The words “quitclaim” and/or “acquit” will appear in the deed.

Mortgages: When someone borrows money against his property, a deed is executed by the borrower transferring the property to the lender for the amount of money being borrowed, with stipulations about how much is to be paid back to the lender and when. When the mortgage is paid off, the lender notifies the clerk who makes a notation in the margin of the book where the deed was recorded that the terms have been met and the deed is now void; or the lender will execute a similar deed selling the property back to the borrower. In early New England the word “mortgage” does not usually appear in the deed, which can be especially confusing when you find someone “selling” the same property over and over again every few years!

Deed of gift: Usually between a parent and a child and often in lieu of a will, a deed of gift is a warranty deed in which the land is transferred “for the love of” or “for valuable considerations,” while the grantor is living. It may include conditions such as the grantee taking care of the grantor during his or her lifetime.

Next: some basics about probate records.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

5 thoughts on “Deeds: Part Three

  1. I have a copy of the 3rd Edition, published in 2000, sitting on my desk right now, which I am using to research for a class I am developing for next year. Still valuable, because apart from the internet resources which change every hour of the day, all the other resources remain the same. It is well-written and comprehensive, which is why I borrowed a copy from my local public library. The 2nd 1990 edition is now available used on Amazon for practically nothing, though Val did make a lot of additions and amendments in the 3rd edition that you would definitely miss. The first 1973 edition is also available used on Amazon. It is on my wish list…holding out for a “like new” copy of the 3rd edition, maybe if I get what I want for Christmas. Hey Kids, you listening?

  2. Does anyone know if persons who purchased shares in a new township were given a deed–perhaps either by the General Court’s Committee that oversaw the town grant before the town was incorporated, or by the town’s Proprietors’ Committee? And if a buyer failed to “take up” his grant, would the share be re-sold and by whom? Thanks, Eileen

    1. Eileen, The General Court made grants to groups of people who intended to create a town. There was no payment to the Court which was acting in the interest of the colony to make certain the land went to reputable inhabitants and that it did not impinge on grants given to other towns. The town Proprietors would divide the grant into lots, usually distributed according to how much money a proprietor had or was expected to put into the costs of settling the town, any additional lots were also distributed in order of wealth, which was why a few families maintained control of the town for many years. No one paid the town for the lot, but they were expected to improve it and if they failed to do so, the town could take the lot back and give it to someone else. A grantee could sell the lot and any rights he had in future lots to another individual and that would be the first time money changed hands.

  3. A question about quitclaim deeds: I have been researching late 18th century Maine deeds and several times I have come across quitclaim deeds which, it seems to me at least, involve deeding back to the original owner property that had been bought in a tax sale, and once the original owner paid the taxes (plus fees) to the purchaser, the property reverted to the original owner. Am I right in this?

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