Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Delving into the Deeds

In addition to the Yarians, Ruperts, and Switzers I have Berlin, Coy and Hoffman ancestors who lived in Columbiana County, Ohio. All of them in the 1803-1860 time period and all in the northeastern tier of townships: Unity, Fairfield, and Salem, and Green (which would become part of Mahoning County when it was formed in 1846).

By the beginning of my second week in Salt Lake City, I had pretty much gotten through my original, rather short, “to do” list except for one item that I knew would consume a huge amount of time. It simply said “Land Records – Columbiana County.” I've had good luck before with land records naming heirs of an ancestor and was hoping for some more luck, especially in the Rupert and Switzer lines.

If you have never done any work with deed records, be forewarned that it can be tedious and confusing. But it can also be extremely rewarding. First you have to search for the desired name in the General Index to Deeds. There are generally separate books for those purchasing land (grantee) and those selling land (grantor). The index will provide the name of the grantor and grantee, the date the transaction was recorded (could be just the year, and the recorded date could be many years after the date of the transaction), the location of the land (in the case of Ohio it is by Range, Township, and Section), the type of deed, and the volume and page number of the deed book in which the transaction is recorded.

This nice tutorial Taking The Mystery Out of Land Records is helpful as a reminder or as an introduction to working with deeds as is this list of Terms used by the Register of Deeds. (There are many others “out there” on the internet, these are two that I've used in the past.)

There were four rolls of microfilm with the grantee index and five rolls with the grantor index covering the years 1798-1897. It would take nearly two full days, but I transcribed each entry in the index books for my known or presumed ancestors John D. Berlin, Henry Coy, Detrick Hoffman, John Hoffman, John Rupert, Jacob Switzer, and Conrad Yarian along with a few entries for others with the surname Rupert and Switzer..

The first day I made it through the grantee index, writing them out by hand. Then, that night back at the campground I typed each entry into a spreadsheet. Duh! Duplicate work. The next day I arranged the netbook so I could type directly into the spreadsheet. A little awkward, but it worked quite well.

After getting the entries from the grantor index entered I sorted the spreadsheet several different ways to review the data. One was attempting to match up the sale of a piece of land to its corresponding purchase, another sort was by township, and yet another by surname.

All of that was done so that I could determine which deeds should actually be looked at. There were too many of them to review them all. Top priority was given to those that were sold by “so and so, etal” (etal means “and others” which could indicate a sale by heirs of the owner of the land) and to those that were sold with a “Quit Claim” deed (sometimes indicating a sale to another family member). I then went to the Library Catalog to get the film numbers and added that information to the spreadsheet.

A small portion of my list of deeds.

I actually looked at about 1/3 of the entries on my list. I had highlighted the records that I really wanted to look at and had sorted the list by film number so I could see what else was on the same roll of microfilm. Even then, I didn't always look at everything from my list on the same roll of film – sometimes I got distracted by what I found in certain deeds and went off on another tangent looking for something else! That's the beauty of being at The Library where a wide variety of sources are available.

As I looked at the deed records I abstracted information from those that were “of interest” to me, adding that information to the spreadsheet. Some documents were scanned while others were just abstracted. There simply wasn't enough time (or even a need) to scan them all.

The spreadsheet with data added after reviewing the deed.

Was it worth the time it took to make that extensive list of land transactions? Yes, indeed! (Pun intended.) It was definitely worth it. What I found in those deed books was cause for more than one Happy Dance and in future posts, I'll summarize a few of the things I found and the discoveries which followed.


Susan Clark said...

Thanks so for the review. I haven't tackled them in years and am about to. Love your spreadsheet system!

Carol said...

Going to say it again, it was a joy watching Becky work the deed books! She is soooo organized and focused. Well done!