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Volume 4, Number 20 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 November 28, 2012
Author's Notes In this article we discuss the terms that you find in a Deed Record. It is interesting the different terms that are used in various parts of the country. Hopefully, you will be able to use this information on Deed Records to find another piece in your genealogy puzzle. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at email@example.com. As always, we enjoy hearing the comments after each newsletter.
James L. Douthat
Deed Record Terms
In researching your family and their background, don’t forget to check out the deeds. Sometimes the most subtle hints are found in the deed. You may find relationships, neighbors that married into the family, where the family migrated and later sold the land. A careful search of the deeds is well worth the time and effort.
I just transcribed a deed for a possible ancestor. In this deed it mentioned the name of the wife and her parents. The deed began “In & for the consideration of the Love & Affection we Louis & Linda Jones have for our son-in-law Jas. Clemons and his wife our beloved daughter Nancy Ann Clemons & her children, we the said, etc...” Here in one sentence gave me the couple and her parents by name. Would you not like this sentence in your research? It may be there in the deeds.
You may want to begin your deed search by looking at the “Grantee/Grantor” index in the court house. This is a listing of the buyer [grantee] and the seller [grantor] sometimes alphabetical and sometimes chronological. The time spent here will save hours later in your search. The index will give you the Book Number and Page Number where the deed can be found. In reading the deed entries, note that there might be two or more deeds per page so study the page carefully.
Now in reading those deeds you will find words particular for land entries. Here is a listing that might be helpful.
ACRE - This is a measure of land that is 4,840 square yards in size. Sometimes it is expressed in rods which contain 160 square rods to the acre. In the grid system of land records, you might see the term ‘section’ which is 640 acres, which means you can have one-half a section, one-fourth section, etc.
ARPENT - The French term for a section of land like the acre. The arpent will be found in areas where the French were prominent such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri and northwestern Florida. The arpent is equal to 191, 994 feet or one arpent is 0.84625 acre. In Missouri, the arpent is 0.8507 acres or 192.5 square feet.
CHAIN - The chain is used in land records as early as 1620 and it is 66 feet long with 100 links. One mile is 80 chains. In many early land records, you will find the name of the “chain bearer”. This is usually a local young man or older teen. Note the name as he might be related somehow.
DEGREE - Normally the degree indicates the distance around a circle, but in land records it is a surveyor term to note the angle off of true North/South directions. You may find in the deed the directions of SW40 which means the direction of the line being surveyed is 40 degrees in the southwesterly direction of the compass. These measurements are of value if you are trying to plot the land on a map or to match up with other tracts of land.
LINK - A measure that is 7.92 inches long or 1/100th of a chain making 25 links equal to one rod.
METES AND BOUNDS - The process of surveying using the measurements and boundary markers such as trees, rocks, streams, etc.
MINUTES - The minute in surveying is 1/60th of a degree.
PERCH or POLE - The measurements equal to a rod.
RECTANGULAR SURVEY - Sometimes known as the Grid System, which is a system of land surveying based on longitude and latitude lines. Most all lands west of the Appalachian Mountains are surveyed in this fashion. In these deeds, you will find the terms of range, township, sections and quarter-sections, etc.
ROD - The rod is a measure equal to one-fourth of a chain or 25 links and is also called a pole or perch and measures 16 ˝ feet.
VARA - For those sections of the country settled by the Spaniards, this is a unit of measure that will vary in length depending on location. In Texas, the vara is 33.3333 inches [36 varas equal to 100 feet]. In Florida, the vara is somewhat larger while in the southwest the vara is somewhat smaller.
If you get confused in your search don’t fail to consult the Clerk in their office. They should be able to answer most of your questions. One note, the Civil Districts used later change from year to year and the Clerk may not know where they are as time progressed. You may have to consult the local tax list for this information.
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