SEARCHING IN DEEDS AND MORTGAGES
Deeds will tell you more then where your ancestor lived. There are also some good rules of thumb
when searching through the deed and mortgage indexes. Remember, every record you find in the County
Clerk's Office should be considered a potential genealogical source.

There are two sets of indexes for deeds. "Grantee Indexes" are to look up the people, who are buying,
being given land, or given rights of some kind. "Grantor Indexes" are to look up the people who are doing
the selling or giving of the land or rights.
Just as a side note "Mortgage Indexes" run the same way. These should not be overlooked.
Mortgages helped me find an interesting little tidbit in the book my friend and I are writing about Polly
Frisch who murdered her husband and two children in Alabama in the 1850's. It turns out that Polly's
father literally "mortgaged the farm" to her attorneys to pay for her defense.
After running your name in deeds, run the name as well in the "Mortgagor Index", meaning the person
who is taking out the mortgage. Mortgages may give you an indication of when your ancestor built his
house. The word "Chattel" implies there is a dwelling on the property. A mortgage may also describe
something such as "includes the saw mill to be built next to the creek" for example.

Way back in ye olden days personally held mortgages were more common then banks. The person
holding the mortgage may be of some importance. In some cases he is only the former owner. However,
he also could be a yet to be discovered relative! Read the entire wording no matter how boring it seems.
Sometimes there's nothing; sometimes there are little pieces of gold hiding in there between the rhetoric.

RUNNING THE INDEX BOOKS
Let's say you know GGGGrandpa Harry Goodyear lived in Alabama in 1830 because you found him
in the census. The columns in the census indicate he had wife, one son and one daughter.
Go to the Grantee Index first. Write down every deed for a Harry Goodyear, the book and page of
deed, and the location. (I use a fifty-year time frame.) Where the property is located is in little columns
next to the book and page. It will be a number indicating town, range, lot and sometimes section.
It is important to keep the notation of the township, lot, etc next to each book and page number on
your list. Buying and selling several properties within a short span of years was quite common. These
notations will help eliminate confusion. Give yourself enough space between each book and page for other
notations when reading the deed. Now get another piece of paper and do the same thing for the Grantor
Index.
Now you are ready to begin comparing your Grantee list with the deeds on your Grantor List. (Names,
dates, book, and pages are fictitious)

For example:
Goodyear, Harry
Grantee
33/141 L13, Twp13, R3

38/87 L2, Twp13, R4

42/198 L13, Twp13, R3

Grantor
42/231 L13, Twp13, R3

46/309 L2, Twp13, R4

We can see Harry bought two pieces in lot 13, range 3; so which one did he sell? This is why you
leave space between your books and pages. We will compare the lists again after we have added our
notes. But first! We go to the map room. This is also in the Genesee County Clerks Office. They will
be happy to direct you to an atlas to find your parcel.

In Harry's case L13, Twp13, R3 would be in the Town of Alabama, on the northeast corner in
Alabama Center where Alleghany Road and Lewiston Road intersect. (Which, if you are curious, you can
see on the Cemeteries page.) His other property at lot 2, Twp 13, range 4, would be north of Alabama
Center on the west side of Alleghany Rd. O.K. now lets look up those deeds.

Goodyear, Harry
Grantee
33/141 L13, Twp13, R3 - dated 1/19/1829 Recorded 6/21/1829
Joseph Smith to Harry Goodyear $200
Beginning on the northeast corner where the Alleghany Road meets the Lewiston Road, thence 2 chains
north, then east to Bradwell's oak tree, thence south to the Lewiston Road, thence west to the place of
beginning, containing one acre of land be it the same more or less.

38/87 L2, Twp13, R4 - Dated 3/14/1832 Recorded 4/15/1837
Samuel Barrett to Harry Goodyear $320
Beginning at the southeast corner of lot number 2, thence north 3 chains and 22 links, thence west
leaving the Alleghany Road 5 chains and 11 links, thence south 3 chains and 22 links, thence east to the
point and place of beginning.

42/198 L13, Twp13, R3 - Dated 2/21/1837 Recorded 4/15/1837
Peter Ward to Harry Goodyear $390
Beginning 2 chains north of the southwest corner of lot number 13, being the northeast corner where the
Alleghany Road meets the Lewiston Road, thence north 3 chains to a rock, thence east 2 chains, thence
south 3 chains to Bardwell's oak tree, thence west 2 chains to the place of beginning, containing land
more or less.
Grantor
42/231 L13, Twp13, R3 - same description as deed at 33/141
Dated 2/23/1837 Recorded 4/15/1837
Harry Goodyear and Martha Goodyear to Alfred Goodyear
Quit Claim deed $1.00

46/309 L2, Twp13, R4 - same description as deed at 38/87
Dated 7/7/1842 Recorded 8/14/1842
Harry Goodyear and Sarah Goodyear to Michael Doogan
Quit Claim deed $1.00

Now what have we learned from all of this? A lot more then just where good old Harry lived!
Let's take them one at a time. Harry kept one piece of property in lot 13. We have also figured out
which one it is by our notes taken from reading the deeds. This could mean that Harry lived and died
here in Alabama. So make a note to check surrogate court for a will or probate file after the date he sold
the last piece of property (if you haven't all ready been over there.).
Batavia was the only place to file the deed. Because these men were mostly farmers or ran a
business; a trip to Batavia was quite a big deal, especially by horse and buggy. Having a big gap in dates
between when the deed was signed and when it was recorded was not unusual. Trips such as these were
based on weather, crops, harvesting, etc. The deed is binding from the date it is signed, being the dated
date of the deed not the recorded date.
A man did not have to have his wife's name on the deed when buying, but he did when selling. I find
the Grantor's Index one of the best sources for finding wives. By looking at the two pieces of property
Harry sold we can figure out that his first wife Martha died between 4/15/1837 and 7/7/1842. Also that
he must have married his second wife sometime before 7/7/1842. This would help explain any age
differences between women in comparing an 1830 census to an 1840 census.

Harry and Martha Quit Claim one of the parcels in lot 13 to Alfred Goodyear in 1837 for one dollar.
A Quit Claim deed is almost always a relative. If this were a real search my first guess would be that this
was the son indicated on the 1830 census.
A Quit Claim deed is exactly what it says. The parties are quitting any claim they have on the land and
basically not guaranteeing a thing. Unlike a Warranty Deed where a sum of money is exchanged and they
warrantee the title is clean of any encumbrances. A minimum of a dollar had to be paid when transferring
property, so most Quit Claim deeds are only for $1.00.

In 1842 Harry and Sarah Goodyear Quit Claimed the property in lot 2, range 4 in Alabama to Michael
Doogan for $1.00. If I follow the same theory of Quit Claim deeds, almost always being a relative, I can
assume two things. One, that this is Harry's son-in-law. Remember the 1830 census indicated he had one
daughter? It is now 12 years later she could be married by now. Her name would not have to be on the
deed when they bought, only when they sold.
There is another possibility. Michael Doogan could be related to Sarah, the second wife of Harry. He
could be her brother or a son from a previous marriage. I would make a note to see whose name was on
the deed with Michael Doogan when he sells the property.

OTHER TERMS TO KNOW:
Excepting and Reserving - You may find this clause on a deed after your property description. For
example ………being 5 acres of land more or less. Excepting and reserving one acre deeded to Robert
Crumb at Liber 182 page 93. This means they are conveying the 5 acres MINUS the one-acre already
deeded to Robert Crumb. So your property is really only 4 acres not 5.

Easement or Right-of-way: You may see this on a deed after your property description as well.
Once done, they forever follow the property unless rescinded for some reason. It could be an easement
for an access lane to get to a farmer's field behind the property. Modern easements are done by utility
companies in order to run phone lines or put up poles, for example. You would normally find a separate
document for this in deeds by the original parties. In genealogy it is not all that important. I only mention it
so you understand better what you are reading.

"Life Use" Clause: This you will also find after all of your property descriptions. It will probably say
something like this, "Grantor reserves life use of the premises." What it means is, that the person conveying
the property to the new owners has a right to live there until the day they die. So genealogy speaking,
although they are the grantor selling to the new owner they are most likely still living at this address.
The grantor is 9 times out of 10 a parent or some other relative. In our area sometimes the buyer will
be a non-relation, like a farmer. If the property was a farm this is done so the farmer has more land for
crops. He usually is not interested in the house. He'll let the seller stay there and usually gets the parcel at a
good price because of that.
But, if the seller was your great-grandmother, for example, I would keep running her name, as well as
the new owners, and see where it leads. Normally when it is the new owners time to sell, something will be
said about grandma because of the Life Use Clause.
Measurements: Below is in reference to a Surveyor's chain not an engineer's. It is the measurements
you will find in early deeds. This was how the lands in this area were originally measured divided up.
(See The Great Survey)
One link = 7.92 inches
100 links = one chain
One chain = 66 feet
One rod = 16.5 feet
Acre = 160 square rods or 43,560 square feet.