Great Things Found in Deed Records

20 Jan

Good stuff!  Yep.  I found some really good information in 1792 deed record today.  Many genealogists don’t realize just how valuable deed records can be.  They are probably one of the most overlooked sources of genealogy data.  Yet; I probably rely more on deed records, than anything.

A find I had a couple of days ago is a great example.  So… I thought I would talk about it a little.  First; allow me to back track a little with this story.

A couple of weeks ago, I began some research for a client; in an attempt to break down one of her brick walls.  Her ancestor; Michael H. Martin; was known to have resided in Washington Co., TN.  In fact, he married there, in 1823.  In order to get to the point about the value of deeds; I will skip ahead a bit, and shorten this portion of the story.  So…. long story short; I was able to find Michael H. Martin, named in his father’s will; in Washington Co., TN.  His father was Joseph Martin.

Joseph’s will was dated in April of 1823.  Since there is not an 1820 census for Washington County, I really don’t have an estimate as to when he was born.  However; I did know that his son, Michael, was born about 1790, per his census records.

Since Joseph never appears on any census records; I had to rely on other records in order to learn more about him.  So… I started digging into the Washington Co. deed abstracts, which have been transcribed and published.  I found Joseph had several land transactions that were witnessed by other Martin’s; and some in which he had purchased or sold land to/from another Martin.  These are always good clues; since land was frequently bought and sold between family.

During the search of these deed records; I had seen a couple which referenced me to Greene and Sullivan Counties; which both border Washington County.  So…. of course; I knew I also needed to check records in Sullivan and Greene Counties.  In Green County deed records, I found the following deed abstract:

A deed of conveyance from Ann Martin, Thomas Martin, Sarah Martin, James Martin, Eleanor Martin, Ephraim Chidester, Isabella Chidester, James Moore, Thomas Boyd, Ann Boyd, John Galbreath and Mary Galbreath to Joseph Martin.  Dated 20th of March 1792 for 68 acres and allowance & 32 & allowance.

This deed provides lots of great clues into the family of Joseph.  This type of deed was very typical.  I find them often.  These folks were all likely selling land that they had inherited, to Joseph.  The Martin’s named in this deed, would most likely have been siblings of Joseph.  One of the Martin women named, may have been the mother.  In the case of Ephraim and Isabella Chidester; Thomas and Ann Boyd; and John and Mary Galbreath; these wive’s would have been Martin’s; and would have been heirs of the father of this family.  The husbands are named because these daughters are married.  In other words; although the females in these cases would have been the heirs; their husbands would have been party to this sale of land also.

I must admit that I am a little stumped as to the James Moore mention in the deed.  No wife is mentioned for him; so it does not appear that his wife was an heir.  He is also not a Martin; so he would not have been a sibling to Joseph and the others.  It “could” be that he was a grandchild of the deceased Martin; whose parents have already died; thus he would have received that parent’s share.

Bottom line…. Because of this deed, I now have several siblings of Joseph; as well as husbands names for 3 sisters.  Because Ann Martin is named first in this deed; she may have been the mother.  So… I also have the name of a possible mother of Joseph.  I also have all these other names now, that I can search for; in order to help me find Joseph Martin’s father.

I usually have to look at microfilmed deed indexes; and then search for deeds of the surname of interest.  Those indexes give me a grantor and grantee’s name; along with a deed book number and page number.  AT that point, I am able to obtain the necessary microfilm which contains that deed book.  I am then able to locate the original deed; and analyze the data in it; in hopes of obtaining some information about the family I am after.  In this case, I was fortunate to have books of transcribed deed abstracts.  That made it easier in this case.

A great tip.  When searching deeds to try to find siblings and/or parents of an ancestor; look for “et al” in the deed indexes.  “et al” stands for “and others”.  If a father owned land at the time of his death; that land was normally inherited by his wife (if she was still alive) and children.  Most of the time, those children would all sell their share of the land; wither to a sole sibling, who wanted the land; or to another person altogether; that may not have been related to the family.  Although the siblings are “collectively” selling their portions of the land; and this is all done in a single deed record; only one of those siblings’ names would appear in the index.  As an example; you might find the grantor (seller) listed as Joseph Martin et al”; and the grantee (purchaser) listed as John Doe.  Because the “et al” is there; I know that Joseph Martin “and others” are selling this land.  the “and others” are very often siblings.  These are often cases such as I have mentioned, where siblings are selling land in which they have inherited.  These types of deeds will give us names of the siblings; and will normally give us married names (and husbands names) of the daughters.  They will also often refer to the name of the person the land was inherited from; thus giving us the name of the father.

Be sure to think about deeds when you are researching your ancestors.  You don’t have to know a father’s name in order to find a father’s name in the deed records.


Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Deeds


2 responses to “Great Things Found in Deed Records

  1. June Martin

    February 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Very interesting. Micheal H Martin and his wife Mary “Polly” Tadlock are my 4xgrandparents. They have children buried at the Providence church just south of Johnson City. I believe they are there also, and will complete my search the next time I am in TN.

    • digginbones

      February 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      Great. Glad that the information was helpful to you.


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