Deed Books are found at your county courthouse, and are usually under the jurisdiction of the Registrar of Deeds. They contain a record of property transfers.
Deed Books contain records of several kinds of sales:
Deed of Sale (Indenture) - This is a simple sale of property. The property in question is typically land, but can be next spring's hogs, household property, or anything else.
"Strawman" Sale - This will be evidenced as a sale by "A" to "B", then "B" to "C" (or back to "A"), often on the same day. Party "B" is the strawman, or trusted intermediary in the sale. Strawmen were used to 'clean' the sale from legal restrictions. For example, if husband and wife wanted to change their ownership from "tenants by the entirety" to "joint tenants" they would sell it with one type of ownership and then buy it back with the other. (The legal restriction in this case is that you aren't allowed to sell your property to yourself.) Or suppose two individuals jointly owned property and one of them wanted to sell his part to the other. A strawman might be used because the law may not have allowed a simple transfer of part ownership.
Lease and Release - You may find deeds of sale (particularly in early Virginia) that are written as a two part transfer. The first involves party "A" leasing land to "B", and the second is "A" releasing "B" from the lease obligation. This was viewed (like a strawman sale) as a cleaner way of passing legal title from one person to another.
Property Distribution (Gift) - Some deeds are clearly written as gifts of property. You'll find language such as "for love and affection", or "for $1 and other consideration". Some gifts had restrictions, for example, "sd William Perkins agrees to care for his father and mother during their natural lives." In all other respects the deed will read as simple sale.
Mortgage Sales - These deeds are tricky. They might say "this deed of mortgage" at the outset, so you're tipped off as to what's happening. On the other hand, they may also appear as a simple sale, but at the end there is language such as "said sale to be null and void if sd Perkins pays sd $100 to Smith by March 1st." What has happened here is that Perkins 'sold' his land to Smith for $100, but gets it back if he can repay the loan on time. This loan has the land as security (collateral). If you find Perkins selling the same piece of property several times, check the deeds carefully for this kind of language.
Estate settlement - When someone dies their property gets distributed according to their will (if present) or by their state's probate laws. You may find deeds of sale where some of the children sell their interest in the parent's property, either to one or more siblings, or to someone else. Such deeds contain language like "heirs of William Perkins, dec'd", or "hereby sell their 1/9 interest in sd tract". You might find the Sheriff, under orders from the court, selling the land in question. The proceeds of the sale went into the estate settlement.
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