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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill  11/3/2004

The Quick Quitclaim: Part II

Last week's column discussed the genealogical significance of quitclaim deeds. Two quitclaim deeds from the 1800s raised several questions about the ownership of the property and the relationship among the individuals involved. This week we look at how the original owner obtained the property and how it was finally transferred after the death of his wife.

From our research standpoint, the original owner of the property under study was Mimke Habben. His 1876 will disposed of the 160 acres, but the fact that he owned the property begs one question: How did he obtain it?

Determine When He Bought It
Mimke purchased the 160 acres on 24 March 1873 from William Patterson. The warrantee deed includes a consideration of $6,500. Like our deeds from last week, this document is recorded in the Hancock County, Illinois, Recorder's Office (Hancock County Deed Book 92, page 395).

Discriminating readers will notice that this land record is a warrantee deed and that the land records discussed last week involving several of Mimke's heirs were quitclaim deeds. Is there a difference? Yes.

Quitclaim Deeds Versus Warrantee Deeds
The quitclaim deeds mentioned last week are legal documents where a claim (not necessarily valid) to a piece of property is being sold by the grantor (seller) to the grantee (buyer).

A warrantee deed differs from a quitclaim deed in that the grantor on a warrantee deed is guaranteeing they have title to the real estate described on the deed. The creation of a warrantee deed may have required the seller to have an abstract of title done or otherwise proved their ownership. This might have involved additional expense on the part of the seller. If it turns out that the grantor on a warrantee deed does not have clear title to the real estate described on the deed, then the grantee (buyer) can sue the grantor.

Why Aren't All Deeds Warrantee Deeds?
So why weren't the deeds discussed last week warrantee deeds? Wouldn't everyone want a warrantee deed?

Not necessarily. In last week's article, it was debatable if all the grantors had an actual interest in the land. Grantor Harm Fecht was a former son-in-law of Mimke Habben. Harm signed a quitclaim deed to Jann Habben after Mimke Habben and Harm Fecht's wife, Antje Habben Fecht, died. Harm may or may not have had an actual claim to the property. If Harm had signed a warrantee deed to the 160 acres, he would have been guaranteeing he had title to the property. Had Harm signed a warrantee deed to Jann and Harm had not had a valid claim to the 160 acres, Harm could have been sued by Jann.

Could Harm have signed a warrantee deed? Probably not. As there were other heirs and Harm did not have complete title, his deed alone would not guarantee the buyer that they owned the property completely.

Most of the land records at the county courthouse are warrantee deeds. As mentioned last week, quitclaim deeds tend to be drawn up between relatives or when an estate is being settled. In these cases the parties involved may not have any doubts as to the title of the property. Typically when non-related individuals are involved in a transaction, a warrantee deed is drawn up to make certain the title is not in doubt. But there are always exceptions.

One More Quitclaim
There was one more quitclaim deed to the 160 acres. This deed from 1900 also involved Jann Habben.

This quitclaim deed dated 7 July 1900 was from Henry Fecht, widower; Johann Habben (and Caroline, his wife); and Metha Fecht, widow, to Jann Habben for the same 160 acres discussed in the records last week. While the deed makes no mention of it, two things about this record make me think someone has died.

The first is that all the parties on this deed are relatives. (Although this deed, like many, does not specify those relationships; I already knew what the family connections were. In an upcoming column, we'll discuss ways to map out and visualize tangled relationships like the ones in this family.) The second is that there are multiple grantors and that the spouse (or marital status) of each grantor is listed. These two factors lead me to believe that this deed has been drawn up in response to someone's death.

And sure enough, a review of my records indicated Antje Habben, widow of Mimke Habben, and mother of all his children, died in June of 1900. This deed was executed within a month of her death, most likely to settle her estate. Quitclaim deeds, like the one in the Habben case are frequently executed after the death of the surviving parent. Most deeds of this type will not blatantly indicate that someone has died. When records of death are readily available, the dates can easily be compared to see if a death took place shortly before the quitclaim deed among the heirs was drawn up. In earlier time periods, it may be necessary to speculate whose death resulted in the quitclaim deed. However in these cases such speculation must clearly be labeled as such.

When Researching Deeds
Extract all relevant information, including:
- Date of document
- Names and residences of all grantors and grantees
- Consideration
- Legal description of the property being transferred
- Names of witnesses
- Names and locations of any notary statements on document
- Date the document was recorded
- Type of record: warrantee, quitclaim, mortgage, etc.
- Book and page
- Name of office that holds the record
- And anything else that might be relevant (just to cover all my bases).

Make certain when trying to determine the type of document that, in some cases, the type of document might appear in small type on the very top or bottom of the page. The deed records that most genealogists use are handwritten copies of the original. Sometimes these handwritten copies were written into formbooks that had the type of record printed on each page. It is not always possible to make photocopies of land records when searching in original records because of the condition of the original.

Digital pictures may be a good substitute, but remember to learn how to use your camera before you visit the courthouse. I personally prefer to read the document (or at least visually scan it) instead of just making photocopies blindly or quickly snapping pictures. If I wait to read the record until I return home, I may overlook a very important clue that I wish I had followed up when I was at the actual records facility.

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).

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.

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