I have read many land deeds during my 38 years of genealogical researching. Most are run-of-the-mill, with a land description, the names of the buyers and sellers, cost of the purchase and the transaction/recording dates.
However, land deeds might contain information proving births, marriages,deaths and familial relationships not found in any other surviving records.
Off the top of my head, here are several examples:
- Proof that Martin Miller of Muhlenburg County, Kentucky was the son of Revolutionary War soldier and pensioner Henry Miller of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Botetourt County, Virginia and Franklin County, Tennessee was found in a land deed that Martin filed not in the courthouse near his home, but in Franklin County where he gave permission for his brother-in-law to act in his stead selling his share of land inherited from “my deceased father, Jacob Miller, of this county.” It can’t be clearer than that, but I had searched for documentation for twenty years before I stumbled on Franklin County, Tennessee.
- Proof that much-married Isaac Sturgell’s first wife did not die between the 1860 census and Isaac’s second marriage on 30
September 1867. Mary Bandy Sturgell left and/or divorced Isaac and moved from Barry County, Missouri to Peoria County, Illinois near where siblings lived as evidenced by a quit claim she filed from Peoria in which she released her rights to the land, which Isaac was trying to sell. The quit claim wasn’t filed until 1883!
- William Hay of Stoneham, Massachusetts during the American Revolution, removed to Addison County, Vermont as proven by a land deed he filed to claim his share of the estate of his “esteemed grandfather, Peter Hay,” who died in 1790. I long thought that William died in Massachusetts with his death for some reason not being recorded.
I could go on with many more examples, but I will share just one more. My 3X great grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Astle, born c1811 in New Brunswick, Canada. She died in Calais, Maine in 1889. Astle is an uncommon colonial surname and I was sure she was a grandchild of Loyalist James Astle, who fled New York for Quebec and then the little town of Nelson, Northumberland, New Brunswick, Canada, where he died in 1819. James had several children, including a son named Daniel, who predeceased his father in 1815, also in Nelson. No probate records exist for Daniel, nor is there a death record. The only tidbit that has survived is a newspaper notice that his brother, John, filed announcing the administration of Daniel’s estate.
I could account for other Astle grandchildren, placing them in families, but, if Daniel had been married and had children – he was about 32 when he died – I had found nothing to prove their existence.
Nothing until an 1848 land deed – a deed filed 33 years after Daniel’s death – gave me my proof.
Land Deed Book 44:588
Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Canada
This is another record that isn’t the easiest to read, but the lengthy deed includes the following passages:
This indenture made the twenty first day of October in the year of our Lord on thousand eight hundred and forty eight Between George Ripple of the parish of Nelson in the County of Northumberland farmer and Jane his wife James Astle of the same place Yeoman John Astle of the same place Yeoman and Elizabeth his wife George Astle of the parish of Stanley in the County of York and Elizabeth his wife Thomas Coleman of Calais in the State of Maine Yeoman and Elizabeth
his wife and Abraham Clark of the parish of Nelson County of Northumberland and Hannah his wife of the first part and James Mitchell of the parish of Blissfield aforesaid farmer of the second part
Witnesseth. . .being on the north side of the southwest branch of the River Miramichi in the parish of Blissfield . . . . .being a one- seventh part of Lots twenty eight and thirty nine formerly granted to . . . James Astle deceased . . . .
at the upper boundary of the lands assigned to Angelica Walls . . . .
the said Jane wife of George Ripple as the widow of Daniel Astle deceased and the said James Astle, John Astle, George Astle, Elizabeth Coleman and Hannah Clark as children and heirs of Daniel Astle deceased
Land deeds often reveal until-then lost daughters, with married names and/or the full names of their husbands. In the event that some of the heirs moved away outside the county where the land was located, the new places of residence are often stated.
Often, when scanning the index to a set of land deeds, the clerk has helped us out a bit by including the Latin phrase “et al” after the grantor’s (seller’s) name, which means “and others.” That is a tip off that at least one other seller is involved in the transaction. Sometimes, a sale is entered as “Name, Heirs of,” which is an even clearer indication of multiple sellers.
However, DON’T bypass any land deeds just because there is a single seller noted in the index. I have occasionally come across indexed records where ONLY the name of the FIRST seller is in the index.