United States Deeds

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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, bills of sale, powers of attorney, indentures, adoptions,livestock brands, wills,apprentice papers, tax lists, and other miscellaneous documents.

Value of a land deed

  • A deed often took the place of a will. A parent may have sold land to the children or to brothers or sisters. Brothers and sisters may all have signed a deed giving up their claim to property received from their parents.
  • Deeds of sale often give the first name of the wife.
  • The first deed in a new place may mention the previous county and town of residence.
  • If a person has moved, the deed for their previous property may tell the new county of residence.
  • Deeds often give the names of adjacent property owners, who might be family members.
  • Land was often given to soldiers or their widows for military service.

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.

Finding a Deed

The Family History Library has a large collection of deed records including most counties and towns. To access these records go to the Family History Library catalog (www.familysearch.org) Place Search > County or Town > Land


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.