Land Record

Transferring Land (U.S.)

A deed is a legal document giving the holder of the deed ownership rights to the land (or other property) in question. Transfers (conveyances) of the property implied the actual handing over of the deed to the buyer of the land.

Recording a Deed

Any holder of a deed was well advised to record the deed (or its transfer) at the local courthouse, since this offered protection in the case of conflicting claims, or ownership suits when the actual deed was lost. To do this, the buyer and seller would prove the sale of land at a session of the County Court by appearing in court (with one or more witnesses if both parties could not attend). The Court would then instruct the Clerk to record the deed. The Clerk did this by hand copying the deed into the Deed Book and certifying the accuracy of the copy. Of course, errors could creep into the copy.

Because the clerk was copying the deed, you may find the property description (the metes and bounds) remains unchanged from that of the original survey. Bad surveys could therefore propagate through a number of sales. On the other hand, the property may have been resurveyed at some point in order to get a more accurate rendering.

As many researchers know, the recording of a deed did not necessarily take place at or near the date of transfer. It was sometimes not done until much later, perhaps after the death of the owner, during the estate settlement. In some cases the deed was never recorded, either for reasons of convenience or cost.

Where land sales are found

Evidence of property transfers can be found in several places:

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