Why use Deeds?
Deeds are a very valuable resource to have in your research toolbox. The primary use of Deeds is to tract the transfer of land from one person or persons to another. In addition, Deeds can be used to learn about familial relationships and to learn who one's neighbors might have been which can be helpful when tracing persons of the same name. Deeds can tell you who lived where and when.
How did North Carolinians Obtain Land and What is the difference between a Land Grant and a Deed?
In North Carolina, in order to obtain land, a person had to first obtain a Land Grant from either the Lords Proprietors of North Carolina (who worked for the King of England) or the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office. The Patent often contained a description of the land, what it was bounded by, ie, waterways, and the names of the people who owned adjacent land. Plat MAPS were drawn up and included in the files. After the patent was in hand, they could do what they wanted with the land - live on it, improve it, will it to their children, or sell it. When the land was sold, it was recorded in a Deed. The Deeds contained information about who was selling (the Grantor), who was buying (the Grantee), and anyone else involved. Such information would include where the Grantors and Grantees currently or previously lived, who had ties or claims to the land, ie, wives who may have a dower interest; and who the neighbors were.
Deeds can help you determine kinship. In 1788, Jonathan Godwin took out a land grant in Sampson County for 50 acres on the East Side of Black Mingo Creek. In 1801, Nathan Godwin sold 50 acres on the East Side of Black Mingo Creek to Elizabeth Bagley, the land previously patented to Jonathan Godwin in 1788. Since there are no deeds of sale from Jonathan Godwin to Nathan Godwin, it could be implied that Nathan had received this 50 acres of land via inheritance from Jonathan Godwin who died in 1791 leaving his widow Rachel in charge of his estate.
Terminology involved when a person applied for a Land Grant
- ENTRY: This is an application that a person filled out to apply for a PATENT to occupy and purchase vacant land
- WARRANT: This is issued once the ENTRY is approved, telling the county surveyor to measure the tract of land
- PLAT: This is drawn up by the surveyor describing the land in metes and bounds
- PATENT: This is the final document written by the Secretary of State conveying the surveyed land to the applicant. Also known as a GRANT
How do I Obtain Copies of Deeds and Land Grants?
The North Carolina State Archives has most recorded deeds on microfilm organized by county and date. These books do not contain the actual "original" deeds because those went home with the person who purchased the land. Some of you may have found some original deeds in your family's possessions. The Archives also has the original Land Grants that were issued by either the Crown or the Secretary of State which have been microfilmed as well. (Some books have not been microfilmed and are available for research).
If you live in North Carolina, you can visit the Archives and pay $0.25 a page to print out a microfilm copy of a deed, or you can order deeds via their online ordering system for $2.00 each and get copies of deeds mailed to your house. This assumes you have already consulted a microfilm copy of that county's deed index and know what book and page number you need, or you have identified the book and page number from an abstract book.
If you live outside of North Carolina, you can order copies of deeds at $20.00 each, which is a pretty steep price to pay.
The Archives has all of its Land Grants indexed in their online catalog system (MARS). I have written a post about how to find Land Grants using the MARS system here.
Alternatives to ordering deed records from the Archives include ordering the microfilm from your local Family History Library for a small fee of less than $10. The microfilm can then be viewed at your local Family History Library during the time you have the film on loan from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT. This process can take some time because you have to order the index first which is on a microfilm all by itself. Then you have to order a separate film for the book and page number containing the deed of interest.
The Register of Deeds Office - A Free Alternative - many North Carolina Register of Deeds Offices are digitizing their historical deeds and land grants and putting them online. Several North Carolina counties have already been digitized. Click this link for a list of counties that have already been digitized.
Additional Information: Check out these helpful posts
Reading land grants in North Carolina which uses Metes and Bounds
Finding Land Grants using the North Carolina State Archives' Online Catalog (MARS)
North Carolina Land and Property from the FamilySearch.org Wiki