The Importance of Deed Records in Research
Michael L. Cook, CG
Originally published in the Tri-State Packet, September 1977
The importance of land records is sometimes overlooked and misunderstood by inexperienced genealogists, and the purpose of this article is to emphasize the help that they can provide. Deed books reveal far more than just the transfer of title to land.
A perfect example of this can be found in Union County, Kentucky, in reference to a Samuel Lewis. Samuel Lewis was b. November 11, 1780 and d. in November 1842, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, but acquired land in Kentucky from his father, George, and it is in the Kentucky deed records that his story can be found. . . .
Deed Book A, p. 387, September 23, 1817, Samuel Lewis of Union Co., Kentucky, from George Lewis, 2666 acres on Casey Creek for $1833 1/3 dollars; being land conveyed from Gabriel Lewis to George Lewis on December 19, 1810 in Henderson County Court, being ½ undivided of that tract containing 2000 acres by survey December 15, 1784 in the district set apart for officers and soldiers of the Virginia Continental Line. Also ½ of that tract of 1666 2/3 acres surveyed December 17, 1784 and set apart for officers and soldiers of the Virginia Continental Line.
Deed Book A, p. 524, May 30, 1819, Samuel Lewis, sworn agreement before James Townsend, Justice of the Peace, that slaves brought from Virginia to Kentucky were for own benefit and not for speculation, being by name Austin, Connor, Booka, Nat, Molly, Clairy and Daniel.
Deed Book D, p. 17, September 1, 1827, Samuel Lewis in a four-page agreement transferred to Charles Buck, trustee, land and personal property pertaining to the fact that “some unhappy differences having arisen between the said Samuel Lewis and the said Maria T. Lewis, his wife . . . agreed to separate . . . live apart.” Children mentioned were Jane Gibson and William Lewis.
Deed Book E, p. 412, November 4, 1835, Maria Lewis of Union County leased to Burgess B. Long, land at Sulphur Springs, land that had been conveyed to Samuel Lewis, now of Virginia. Rent was to be $25.00 annually paid in advance. Witnessed by George Lewis and Henry D. Lewis.
Deed Book F, p. 361, June 25, 1839, Samuel Lewis and Daingerfield LewisLewis gave power-of-attorney to James C. Finnie, regarding estate of George Lewis, late of King George County, who by his last Will, March 19, 1819 did will to Samuel Lewis, Dangerfield Lewis, and Mary W. Willis, children and heirs of George Lewis each 1/3 of all his western lands. Daingerfield Lewis was made the executor when Samuel Lewis refused.
Deed Book F, p. 565, January 25, 1840. Samuel Lewis, Daingerfield Lewis and Byrd Willis (residents of Virginia, and Florida) conveyed by power-of-attorney, 100 acres in Union County, Kentucky, to G. W. Riddle.
Deed Book G, p. 317, October 8, 1841, Samuel Lewis of Westmoreland County, Virginia, by James Finnie, attorney-in-fact, conveyed 200 acres on Casey Creek to George Johnson.
Deed Book G, p. 261, August 3, 1841, Maria Lewis of Rives, Missouri gave power-of-attorney to Thomas J. Clark to sell and dispose of her property.
Deed RecordsIn reviewing these deeds, we are told that Samuel Lewis purchased land of George Lewis, and that George Lewis had been an officer or soldier in the Virginia Continental Line, in the Revolutionary War. We find that Samuel Lewis brought slaves with him to Kentucky, and that by naming seven slaves, this indicates the degree of his wealth. Then we find that he and his wife separated, and that in the separation she gained control of land that had been conveyed to her husband. In 1839 we are told that Samuel’s father was deceased, that he had lived in King George County, Virginia, and a brother and sister of Samuel Lewis are named. In 1840 we find that Samuel Lewis is now a resident of Virginia, and that his sister’s husband is now a resident of Florida. In the 1841 deed, the place of residence of Samuel Lewis is identified as Westmoreland County, Virginia. And in the last deed listed, we find that the ex-wife of Samuel Lewis is now living in Rives, Missouri.
Thus we have considerable detail about the life of Samuel Lewis over the 24-year period when land in Union County, Kentucky was involved, all from the deed records.