How to Abstract a Property Title

By Jennifer Holik

A property title or deed is a legal document proving the ownership of a piece of property. Property titles are public records held at the local courthouse or at the office of the Recorder of Deeds. Property titles come in two forms, the full written deed and an abstract of the deed. The full deed contains all the legal language, property descriptions and details proving ownership. The abstract of deed contains only the crucial details outlining property details and ownership. Abstracting a property title requires removing noncrucial language to show only the most important information. Family and house historians often abstract property titles to have the most important information right in front of them without having to wade through the full deed.

Obtain a property title or deed from the courthouse or the Recorder of Deeds. Ensure that you have all of the pages of the full title. Make a copy of the deed. Read the deed to understand its contents.

Write your name, the date and where you are making the abstract on a new sheet of paper. The location could be your home, the county courthouse or the Recorder's Office. Note the record source, which could be the book and page number or microfilm number, and include the repository so you can return to the source if needed. This information is the introduction for your abstract.

Highlight the most important pieces of information on the copy of the deed. This includes the names of the grantor and grantee, witnesses, the date of the transaction, the price of the transaction, any clauses regarding the transfer and the legal description of the property. Also include sentences that describe the relationship between the grantor and grantee such as "cousin" or "brother." By highlighting the important information, you are "removing" the legal jargon that is required for the full deed but does not provide any real clues for researchers.

Write the abstract under the introductory information that you recorded earlier. The abstract will be the highlighted sentences or parts of sentences from the deed copy. When you are finished, you will gave recorded who, what, how much and where in a concise paragraph or paragraphs.

About the Author

Jennifer Holik, a professional genealogist, has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes for Chicago-area genealogy society publications. Holik has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

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