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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill  10/26/2004

The Quick Quitclaim

Two seemingly simple 1889 deeds to my ancestor started one of the longer research trails I have followed. My follow-up on the two quitclaim deeds to Jann Habben resulted in more genealogical information than I expected.

Did your ancestor ever sign a quitclaim deed? Ever wonder what the quitclaim deed was for and why the relative signed it? This week we take a look at two quitclaim deeds I discovered and discuss what they mean to my genealogy research. Most genealogists whose ancestors owned any real estate will encounter a quitclaim deed at some point in their research.

Before we go any further, it is paramount to review two general land record terms: grantor and grantee.

The grantor is the person who is either selling or transferring a piece or property or an interest in a piece of property.

The grantee is the person who is receiving the piece of property or an interest in a piece of property.

When using land records, it is paramount that these terms be understood or hours can be wasted and confusion can be the result. There are several types of deed records, this week our discussion is on the quitclaim deed. These records, like virtually all local-land records, are typically found at the county courthouse

What is a Quitclaim Deed?
A quitclaim deed is a deed where the grantor or seller relinquishes their claim in a piece of real estate to the grantee or buyer. The keyword here is claim. The grantor on a quitclaim deed is not guaranteeing that they actually have title to the property in question (a warrantee deed guarantees title--we'll discuss that next week). Legally all the grantor on a quitclaim deed is doing is giving up their claim to the property referenced on the deed. The grantor is not guaranteeing their claim. In most cases, though, their ownership (or claim) is not in doubt.

Our discussion will start with the two quit-claim deeds signed in 1889 that quickly lead to more questions and other records.

The deeds were:

Hancock County, Illinois, Recorder's Office, Deed Book 121, page 594:

Harm and Martha S. Fecht of Cheyenne County, Nebraska, a quit claim deed to Jann Habben, 160 acres in Prairie Township. Consideration $50 and deed dated 4 November 1889.

Hancock County, Illinois, Recorder's Office, Deed Book 121, page 595:

Mattie Huls, grandchild of Mimke L. Habben, deceased, quit claim to Jann Habben the same 160 acres as in the deed on page 594. Consideration $50 and deed dated 21 November 1889.

Both deeds were recorded on 21 Nov 1889.

Just What Is Going on Here?
It can be hard to tell just based upon these two records. One or two transactions rarely tell the entire story. These deeds are but two records in a series of documents on the property in question. Viewing only these records may cause the family historian to make incorrect interpretations and draw the wrong conclusions. There were two questions I asked when I located these deeds:

Why would the Fechts and Mattie Huls claim to have an interest in this property? And why would Jann Habben buy their claim?

Who Really Owned the Property?
The key question revolves around who really owned the property. An 1874 platbook of Hancock County indicated Mimke Habben owned the property referenced on the two quitclaim deeds. He was the father of the buyer Jann Habben. Mimke Habben died on 11 February 1877 in Prairie Township, Hancock County, Illinois. His death was the beginning in a chain of events that included the quitclaim deeds.

Two of the three grantors on the quitclaim deeds were related to Mimke. Mimke was the former father-in-law of Harm Fecht and was the maternal grandfather of Mattie Huls (the two grantors). Mimke was also the father of Jann Habben, the grantee who purchased the property under the quitclaim deeds.

So What If the Dead Guy Owned It?
The death of Mimke Habben is crucial here as it caused the property to be owned by his heirs. Mimke left the 160 acres to his wife and then to his children Antje, Jann, and George after wife Antje's demise.

The Former Son-in-Law
Daughter Antje married Harm Fecht in 1883 and then died in 1888, leaving Harm Fecht as her only survivor. Within a year, Harm Fecht moved to Nebraska and married Martha German. This is the Harm and Martha Fecht on the first quit claim deed to Jann Habben.

Antje Habben Fecht inherited an interest in the farm upon her father's death. Harm was Antje's only heir at her death. Does Harm have any legal title to the farm based upon him having survived his first wife, Antje? I'm not certain, but the point became moot the moment Harm and wife Martha signed the quitclaim deed. Jann Habben was buying out any potential interest they had in the farm.

The Granddaughter
Mattie Huls might not have had any real claim to the farm either, for it was not bequeathed to her mother, Trientje (who had pre-deceased Mimke and was not mentioned in her grandfather's will). However she would have had an interest in the Mimke L. Habben estate through her deceased mother, and she would have eventually had an interest in the estate of her grandmother Antje J. Habben as well. Mattie's signing the quitclaim deed in 1889 to Jann Habben would prevent her from making any claim to the farm upon her grandmother's death.

What Was Jann Doing
Jann Habben was buying out the interest in his father's farm from two relatives in the quitclaim deeds from 1889. Next week we will see the likely reason.

Quit Claim Summary
To recap, the grantor on a quitclaim deed is transferring whatever claim they have to a piece of property. Most quitclaim deeds involve inheritances, but documents of this type might have been drawn up in a divorce as well. Quit claim deeds also appear in the very early days of settlement in an area when the titles to property have not been clearly established.

What Was Helpful in This Case?
Reviewing land record terminology and learning about quitclaim deeds was valuable in recognizing these documents for what they were.

Researching more than just land records was also helpful. The estate records of Mimke Habben and the county atlas were just two additional sources that were utilized.

Creating a chronology helped organize the details. The timeline should list documents as they were executed, not as they were recorded. The recording might not have taken place in strict chronological order.

Need to Review Land Records?
Take a look at a previous column where we discussed a variety of land record articles.

More information can also be found in E. Wade Hone's, Land and Property Research in the United States. (Ancestry, 1997)

There's More. . .
There is more to this story than these two quitclaim deeds. Next week we will continue our look at the records on the farm of Mimke Habben and see what happened when his wife, Antje, died in 1900.

Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical

Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at or visit his website at, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2004,


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