|Genealogical Data in Deeds|
A deed by which a grantor (seller) transfers to a grantee (buyer) a piece of land may seem an unlikely source for genealogical data, but one never knows. In Pennsylvania the Penns and the Commonwealth granted land to persons who applied. Sometimes the application (on file at the Division of Land Records, Harrisburg) contains historical or genealogical data. Upon receipt of the application a warrant was issued, a survey made and finally a patent was granted. One never really owned the land without a patent. There is still some unpatented land in Pennsylvania. In some cases the patents were issued 100 years after the warrant. Pennsylvania was not surveyed in advance as in western states, so warrantee maps, such as in the Horn Papers, volume 3, show farms of many odd shapes, often related to geography. It should be possible to take any piece of land in Pennsylvania and trace it back to the patentee by title searching. Sometimes this is difficult: (1) The deed may not have been recorded in the courthouse. This was not necessary, as long as the person possessed the deed. The trip to the courthouse was too long, or the process of recording may not have been understood. (2) Deeds were taken to be recorded - maybe 100 years later, making them hard to locate. The Washington County Recorder has deeds left for recording and never picked up by the owner. (3) The land may have passed down from parent to child - by will, sometimes for several generations. Or the oldest son may have just taken over the land. No deed was required to transfer land this way. When the land was finally deeded out of the family, there may have been a recital of owners for several generations - enabling the family line to be traced. From a warrantee map it should be possible to determine the present location of the land A deed consists of several parts; (1) The name and place of residence of the grantor(s) - if a man was married, he and his wife issued the deed jointly. If the deed was made by the heirs of an estate it may show persons living in other counties or states. In all cases, the township stated was as at the date of the deed. Since then new townships may have been formed, making research necessary. (2) The name and place of residence of the grantee(s) - if you are lucky your ancestor may have bought the land while living back east, before moving west. This will show you where he came from. This does not often happen. (3) Description of the property as taken from the survey or an earlier deed. The names of earlier owners may be given - sometimes even the patentee. If the survey has a name, it may be a useful clue in your search. (4) Names of adjoining owners. This is especially important. One of my ancestors got his warrant in 1763, but he was an adjoinee when his neighbor got his land in 1738. Check the deeds of adjoinees . They may be relatives of your ancestor. (5) Names of witnesses. One may be the man who wrote the deed. The others are relatives or close friends. Check their ancestry. If you find where they came from, it may help you. Washington County was formed from Westmoreland County in 1781. It included all of southwestern Pennsylvania west of the Monongahela and south of the Ohio. Before 1781 Virginia claimed this area and had organized it as; West Augusta 1775; Monongalia, Ohio, and Yohogania Counties 1776. You will find deeds for: West Augusta in Boyd Crumrine's Virgnia Courts in Pennsylvania Ohio County at Wheeling, West Virginia Yohogania County in Deed Book C, Washington County Monongalia County records before 1781 were destroyed by fire in 1796. There maybe some deeds at Greensburg, Westmoreland County. A special type of land warrant was made by Pennsylvania to persons who thought they were living in Virginia. Virginia granted them certificates 1779-80. These could be exchanged for Pennsylvania warrants. The important fact is that the certificates gave the date of settlement. A Pennsylvania warrant listed back due rent. A man, who got his warrant in 1765, may have had to pay back rent from 1751. Both these types of warrants are important, because they tell when settlements were first made. Of course, the warrantee may not have given correct information.
This article was transcribed by Chris Purple of Bolingbrook, IL in February 1998.
|Raymond M. Bell Anthology   Genealogy in Washington Co., PA|
Published with permission of Raymond M. Bell.