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RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees
Guide No. 29A:  Basic American Land Terminology

Grants — Royal, colonial, federal, state land grants — a grant consisted of a land warrant which authorized 1) lands to be laid out and surveyed; 2) a plat showing the location; 3) a patent or title to the property.

Deeds — Land transactions between two parties. They include sales of land, gifts of lands to relatives (or others) and settlements following disputes.

Mortgages — Temporary transferals of title to property for the purpose of paying debts. Relatives of parties to mortgages are often mentioned in these records.

Power of Attorney — The appointment of individuals as attorneys for persons who have usually moved away, but who become involved in business transactions in places of former residence. These include: sales of land and other properties, collections of legacies left to those who have removed and settling of debts.  

All county records are usually located in the office of the clerk of the county where the transaction occurred. Deeds, leases and mortgages are usually indexed, and many of the indexes and actual records have been filmed by the Family History Library. Also, subscribers to Heritage Quest can borrow rolls of microfilm to read deed indexes and transcripts.

Other Related Terms and Records

Articles of Agreement — Made between property owners and their heirs or assignees concerning how property is to be settled after events or conditions transpire, such as decease of the owner, after heirs reach a certain age, or after services rendered.  

Bills of Sale — Papers showing transfer of ownership of slaves, cattle, livestock, furniture or crops.  

Contracts — Sales of property on contract and other agreements based on the terms of a contract between individuals or parties.

Leases on Property — Made to individuals or companies for farming, mining, logging, etc.

Tax Records — Real and personal property assignments and collections, describing land holdings, slaves, livestock, carriages, and sometimes show inheritances, assessments for children in school, for eligible voters, etc. During colonial period may include tithables payable to church wardens of a state for church expenses, such as caring for the poor.  

Legal and Additional Land-Related Terms

Additional Resources

Links in this Guide
(in order they appeared)