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Overheard on the Message Boards: Question About Deed Records
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

July 25, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I have started doing some research with deed records. On the Index of Deeds I see the abbreviations"&al" and "&ux". Does anyone know what these mean? I am sure a lot of the transfers have to do with the settlement of estates as they are within the family, sometimes up to twenty years after the person died. Sometimes on the Grantor side it will just have "ux." I thought "&al" might mean "and all" but it just names one of the children. Would this mean, that child and all the other siblings are included? It seems that although there were five siblings, only the son and one of the daughters are mentioned. -- Nancy

A: Land records are one of the most oft overlooked records at the disposal of genealogists. They are one of the records that the Family History Library makes a point to microfilm when given permission to microfilm in a county courthouse and they are one of the records that many genealogists toss off as useless.

Land records may hold many clues to the family relationships. There are many times when father's sell to sons or sons-in-law and these relationships are listed in the records. In other cases a land record is the result of an estate being settled.

Don't dismiss land records.

Indexes

There are usually two different indexes for land records. The Grantor Index is the index to those individuals selling the property in question. The Grantee Index is the index to those purchasing property. Both should be consulted whenever working in deeds.

Most indexes are compiled at a later date, especially if they are found in a separate volume. Sometimes you will find that they have been typed, a clear sign that the index was not recorded at the time the deeds were originally entered in the deed books. You will also note that the spaces available for recording names in these index books are not usually generous. Abbreviations are used frequently including the two you mentioned.

Et al is the Latin abbreviation for and all as you suspected. Et ux stands for and wife. You will find them used in both the grantor and the grantee columns.

Of course, the index is but the tip of the record here. The index makes it easier to locate a specific entry, but it often requires that you use the index to look up more than a specific name.

From Index to Deed

While it is easy to be overwhelmed by the entries for a family or individual in the deed indexes, it is important to look at the deeds themselves. Very often the narrowness of the columns in the index have forced some limitations to the information included, especially where the land description is concerned.

As was mentioned, it is possible that there are two indexes, one for the sellers, which you have already looked at, and one for buyers. Each offers insight in the movement of a family in and out of the area, or reaching the age of maturity. So both should be consulted and all the deeds from each should be read and abstracted at the very least. I try to abstract as well as photocopy. This allows me to read the best version on the microfilm to abstract the pertinent details, but then also to have the photocopy should I need to verify the information I wrote down.

While it is true that deeds contain land descriptions, sometimes they also include relationships and dates of death or information about a deceased individual. This is why the deeds should always be checked. It is also a good idea to keep track of the total acreage that is bought and sold. Many times small parcels of land are held in the family for years after the death of the owner. Knowing that you still have twenty or fifty acres unaccounted for in your total acres sold or dispersed alerts you to the fact that you need to return to the indexes and see who else might have dispersed the land.

Relationships

As was mentioned, sometimes relationships are described in the land records. A father sells land to his son or son-in-law and mentions the fact. Other times relationships can be inferred based on the money collected by the grantor. Family transactions were often for a dollar or some other small amount.

Other times the wording of the land description may hold the clue. For instance, if your ancestor is listed as a grantee and has an "undivided interest" in a parcel of land, this is often a clue that the land has been dispersed to the heirs of the now deceased owner of that land. Usually you will find that all the children sold the land together, a case of John Smith et al in the grantor index. Other times, though, a person may purchase land from each individual, resulting in six or more land records.

Such a land record led me to five siblings for my third great-grandfather and also supplied proof as to who their father was since he was listed in five of the six original land records. Naturally the father's name was not listed in my ancestor's land record, a result of the fact that the deed book had been recreated at a later date — it was typed.

In Conclusion

Land records may hold more than just a land description. The only way to know, though, is to read through each land record for an ancestor. While it is sometimes a tedious job, the rewards often make it all worthwhile.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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