Title Deeds for Family Historians

Tim Wormleighton (The Family History Partnership, 2012) A5 booklet, 32 pp.

With about 30 years of service as an archivist and heritage manager the author is well acquainted with title deeds in their many forms and styles. These useful and valuable family and local history documents are sometimes overlooked, and are often perceived as difficult to read and interpret. In this book Tim Wormleighton explains clearly and precisely the different types of title deeds available, how they were used, how to recognise the phrases of legalistic jargon that give structure to the documents, and above all how the family historian can quickly get to the real nub of the matters outlined in them.

The book is set out in four principal sections:

  • what title deeds are
  • medieval deeds
  • post-medieval deeds
  • how to recognise the key sections of deeds

Within this framework the author discusses the origins and intentions of different types of title and their parts – freeholds, copyholds, lease and release, quitclaim, bargain and sale, charges, final concords, recoveries, feoffments, and others besides. In the recognition section the reader is shown how specific phrases are used to divide a deed into its main components – the introduction, names of parties, recitals, terms, duration and witnessing.

The book is well illustrated, and in both the text and reference sections a number of useful websites are given. Overall this small book is a very useful and readable digest and guide to the topic.

Tony Roberts

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