United States Deeds

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Portal:United States Land and Property

A deed is the written legal document transferring ownership of property. Generally county offices have the jurisdiction for the recording of deeds except for Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island, which kept deeds in the town records.

Be aware that deed books contain a variety of records relating to property, not just land. Deed books might contain mortgages, leases, the sale or manumission of slaves, powers of attorney, indentures, adoptions, livestock brands, wills, apprentice papers, tax lists, and other miscellaneous documents. 

Parts of a land deed

  • Date of land sale and date of recording
  • Names of grantor (seller) and grantee (buyer)
  • Granting clause, specifying the interest being transferred and consideration
  • Property description
  • Recital clause, if present, states how the seller got the land
  • Warranty section, stating how the seller will be liable to the buyer in case of later problems with the land
  • Execution Section containing acknowledgements, seals, and signatures


  • Deed books are copies of the original documents so are in the clerk's handwriting, or typed. Seals and signatures aren't the originals.
  • The deed might not have been officially recorded until property, especially land, was distributed to parties outside of the immediate family. Therefore, deeds might be found recorded decades after the original owner died.


Devine, Donn, "Land Records: What You Can Learn, and Some Pitfalls to Avoid," Ancestry, 12:1 (Jan/Feb 1994), 16-18.

Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves. “Land Records,” in Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, eds. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. 3rd ed. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2006.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. "Analyzing Deeds for Useful Clues," OnBoard 1 (January 1995): 8. Also posted under Skillbuilders on the Board for Certification website.