In an earlier post, I introduced you to the concept of identifying the past owners (chain of title) for a property originally granted through the 1832 Georgia land lottery (and gold lottery). In this post, I will show you the process for tracing the chain of title for such a property.
How to trace the chain of ownership
- Locate the deed “room” for the county where the property is located. This may be in the courthouse, or an annex or similar building nearby. And, although property records are usually maintained by the Clerk of Superior Court, it’s usually just easier to ask, “Where are the deeds?”
- With the current deed in hand, note who the grantor is (the first or “from” party). Then, find him in the most recent grantee index. This at first may seem confusing, but remember, you want to find the deed where the current grantor received the property earlier – or the deed where he is the grantee. Once found, verify that the entry is for the property you’re searching for (since the grantor may have more properties). This is either done from the description in the index or by locating the deed itself in the appropriate Deed Book and Page shown in the index. If the appropriate grantor/property is not in the index, search the next most recent grantee index book and so on until located.
- From the index or deed make a note of who the “new” grantor is – the next link in the chain. Repeat Step #2 for that grantor.
- Continue this process until the last grantor found in the chain cannot be found in the earliest grantee book. At this point you may have reached the original grantee of the land lot or just as far back as existing records will allow. Or, the property may not have changed owners since the current county was created. In this case, you would need to continue the process in the earlier county it was formed from.
- If you were not able to trace ownership back to the original owner, and the county has a numerical index, check it for any deed earlier than the earliest one you found it Step #4. It’s possible a deed was missed (by you or the clerk at the time) in the grantee index.
- If you were still not able to trace ownership back to the original owner, but you have the name of the original owner, reverse the process above. Search forward through time from the original owner instead of back through time from the current owner. This time you will try to locate the original owner in the earliest grantor index. If found, you then have the name of a “new” grantee who you will then try to locate in the grantor index and so forth. This works great until you find the land lot is divided or only part of it transferred. At this point, you would have to trace each “chain” forward every time the property is split – something most likely not a good use of your time!
Although this process has focused on the 1832 Georgia land lottery, it is very similar to tracing the chain of title in any area in Georgia that was distributed by a land lottery (1832 were the last ones). One difference is that the 1832 lotteries were the only ones whose legal descriptions contain a section. All of the others are described with land lots and districts within a county. Also, the land lots are not necessarily the same size in each lottery.
In a later post, I will describe how to find the name of the original “fortunate drawer” and/or owner of a land lot in the 1832 Georgia land lottery.