I have had a lot of inquiries in the last few months from owners, or ancestors of owners, of property originally distributed by Georgia in the 1832 land lottery. Current owners may be interested in who the past owners have been and who originally drew the land in the lottery. Ancestors of owners may want to know how long the property was in the family or who the ancestor obtained it from, or later who he sold or gave it to.
In this and later posts I will be describing how to discover the owners and location of property distributed through the 1832 land lottery. Actually, there were two lotteries in 1832 – the land lottery where lots were 160 acres, and the gold lottery consisting of districts thought to possibly contain gold, with lots that were 40 acres.
“Chain of Title” of Property in the 1832 Land Lottery
Whatever the interest in the ownership of a land lot in North Georgia is, the process of finding past owners will involve tracing the chain of title (or ownership). A chain of title is a listing of each owner, or link in the chain, of all the owners of a piece of property from the current owner all the way back to the original person who was granted it from the State of Georgia. Each link in the chain will be a property deed which shows who the property was granted to (the grantee), and from whom they were granted it (the grantor). It is interesting to note that the legal property descriptions of most current deeds will still contain the original land lot, district, and section as originally granted as a result of the 1832 lotteries – even if only a part of that land lot. For example, the legal description of a current deed might state something like this:
“…being part of land lot 177 of the 12th district, 1st section of Whitfield County, Georgia; and being lot 42 of the Cherokee Valley Subdivision.” (for example only – not a valid legal description, so don’t try to find it!)
County Deed Records
Property deeds were recorded and maintained by the county where the property was located, usually at the county courthouse or other building nearby. The method for maintaining the deeds may vary by county, but the general method is to record and file each deed in sequential pages as recorded there in books also numbered (or in some early deeds by letter) sequentially. It should be noted that deeds are filed as recorded, not necessarily by the date the deed was executed (the actual date on the deed). This means a deed executed in one year might not be recorded until the next year, although most of the time the execution date and recording date are within a few days or weeks. Although many counties have digitized their deed records, very few have been published online. This necessitates a physical visit to the county seat, which may present a problem to the family historian living in another area. Also, county boundaries have changed over time, so property that was originally in one county might now be in another. It may be necessary to visit a neighboring county that originally contained the property. Click here for an interactive map for county formation history. We at DeepRootsInTheSouth can research deeds in all the counties containing land originally distributed from the 1832 land and gold lotteries.
Unfortunately, over the years, courthouse disasters from fires, floods, tornadoes, and even that devil Sherman have destroyed many early deed records. So practically speaking, it is sometimes very hard to document a complete chain of title from the original drawer in the lottery to the current owner. Other records such as property tax digests and censuses may help to fill in the missing gaps in the chain.
Due to the enormous quantity of deeds in a county (Some larger ones have thousands of books!) tracing a chain of title would be impossible without indexes. Fortunately, all counties have good indexes, at least for the past 100 years or so, and many have them on computer for ease of searching. There are actually two indexes – the grantor index and grantee index – sometimes referred to as the direct (grantor) and reverse (grantee) indexes. Most counties also have a numerical index (or land lot index) which will show all deeds that refer to a particular land lot. The process for tracing a chain of title is fairly straight forward and will be detailed in a later post.