What’s in a deed?
Deeds do not follow a pro forma so the information contained in them really does vary. To help you understand the type of information available in property deeds, we have listed our most frequent deed types and how they can assist your genealogy or house history research. Please note that deeds will not always contain everything we have described, nor are they limited to our descriptions.
Abstract of Title
Abstracts of Title include the ‘best bits’ of deeds. Although Abstracts do not contain original signatures or seals, they do skip the legal waffle and cut to the chase.
Abstracts of Title are useful when researching house history as they list the deeds and documents which make the root of title, including Probates and Wills. They usually contain a property description and/or schedule, a plan and list the covenants and restrictions upon the property.
For family history research, Abstracts of Title can provide names, correspondence addresses, occupations, marriage dates, death dates and summaries of letters of administration.
An Agreement is a contract at the time a property was being bought or sold. These can sometimes relate to the sale of whole streets of houses rather than a single dwelling.
Agreements often contain a property description, schedule or plan. They summarise related deeds, such as Mortgages, and refer to the covenants and restrictions upon the property. Agreements can also list the purchase price, what it includes, such as fixtures and fittings, and the date of completion.
For family historians, Agreements often contain names, addresses, occupations, signatures and seals.
Assignments transfer a leasehold property subject to the remaining lease term. Assignments were usually produced when registering a property with the Land Registry.
Assignments can assist with house history research as they usually contain a property description, price paid, schedule and/or plan. They can also refer to related deeds, including Wills and Probates and also detail the covenants and restrictions upon the property.
Genealogists can gather names, addresses, occupations and signatures. If a property is being transferred because of a death, there may be extracts from the deceased’s Will within the Assignment.
Conveyances also transfer the ownership of a property.
Conveyances offer information about a house’s history, including a property description, schedule and a plan which can name the owners of neighbouring land. Related deeds can be summarised in conveyances, and the covenants and restrictions upon the property will also be described. Conveyances usually contain the sale price and ground rent per annum.
Party names, correspondence addresses, occupations, roles, relationships, signatures and seals are all commonly found in conveyances, as are witness names, their addresses, occupations and signatures.
Deed of Grant
A Deed of Grant also transfers the ownership of a property.
Property descriptions and plans are often found in deeds of grant, as well as a summary of related deeds, covenants and restrictions. These may include insurance clauses where the lessee must insure the property with an insurer the lessor approves of.
Deeds of Grant contain the usual party names, correspondence addresses, occupations, signatures and seals as well as witness names, addresses, occupations and signatures.
Lease (including Underlease and Demise)
A Lease, Underlease or Demise transfers a property for a specified amount of time.
For house historians, Leases are valuable documents. Not only do they usually contain a property description, schedule and plan, they can also contain information regarding the purchase price, lease term and ground rent per annum, and specify the dates by which the rent is to be paid. Leases also refer to related deeds, and the covenants and restrictions, such as the lessee shall not trade in butchery from the property.
Again, Leases are valuable documents for family historians too. They often contain party names, correspondence addresses, occupations, document roles, relationship information, signatures and seals. Leases were usually witnessed, so there may also be witness names, addresses, occupations and signatures.
Mortgage (including Charge, Further Charge and Equitable Charge)
This is a legal document providing a loan against property.
Mortgages and charges provide slightly different information about a house’s history compared to other deeds. As well as the usual property description, plan, covenants and restrictions, mortgage deeds will note the loan amount, interest rates and payment dates. There may also be a memorandum handwritten in at a later date, confirming the balance has been paid.
Mortgages provide the usual information for family history research, including names, addresses, occupations, signatures and witness details.
Wills are very useful when researching family and house history as they contain so much detail. Wills are often referred to in Abstracts of Title or in any deed where property is being transferred by the Executors of an estate.
Wills include the name, address and occupation of the deceased, and the names, correspondence addresses and occupations of the Executors. There are often descriptions of the deceased’s possessions, estate and legacies, and insights into family bonds and friendships. Wills can also indicate the values and beliefs of the individual, particularly if they leave a charitable donation. Wills also include signatures of the executors and/or witnesses, and possibly their seals.
Hopefully our guide will show you how property deeds can benefit your research. They can contain information you won’t find anywhere else, and can lead you to more documents about your ancestors or home. If you’d like to see some of these document types for free, head over to the ‘Exploring Our Collection’ tab on our website, and click any link relating to our ‘Focus On’ series.