The Oldest Recorded Deed

As you walk into a deed room, it can feel a little scary.


First, you realize you’re in a vault in the depths of your local court house. Second, the thick steel doors that protect the deed room from fire and flood are similar to something from a 1930’s bank heist. You’re sure Bonnie and Clyde are looming somewhere close. And since you are on the bottom floor, it is often not well-ventilated and therefore musty.


Don’t let those things deter you because deed rooms are usually nice places, filled with great people, and tons of information to sift through on properties you’re interested in.


So what’s in the deed room?


Books… Lots of them.


These books are filled with different kinds of deeds and other paperwork that tell the story of the property you’re researching. Deeds tell you who bought the property from whom, if the buyer was married or single, approximately how much they bought it for, if they paid cash or financed, if they’ve refinanced, and if there are any liens on the property. Deeds also give you a description of the land ,and the surrounding tracts, plus a lot more information if you are willing to delve into it.


Trying to digest all of this when you’re just starting to look at deeds can feel overwhelming. But you’ve probably been reading books with deeds in them since you were a kid.


Don’t believe me?  Flip your Scriptures open to Genius Chapter 23.


Here we see one of the oldest deeds ever recorded. Abraham had just lost Sarah. Far from home and family, he finds himself in need of a burial plot. So he goes to the Children of Heth and offers to buy a field and a cave from a fellow named Ephron. Ephron agrees to sell to Abraham for 400 pieces of silver.


“And Aḇraham listened to Ephron, and Aḇraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Ḥĕth, four hundred sheqels of silver, currency of the merchants. Thus the field of Ephron which was in Maḵpĕlah, which was before Mamrĕ, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Aḇraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Ḥĕth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. And after this Aḇraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Maḵpĕlah, before Mamrĕ, that is Ḥeḇron, in the land of Kenaʽan. Thus the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Aḇraham by the sons of Ḥĕth as property for a burial site.” (Gen. 23.16-20)


If you’re familiar with the Bible, you understand the story that just unfolded with the purchase of this property. The deeds we read in the deed room give us the same information today.


For instance, we find in Gen. 23 that Abraham was widowed. We see he paid for the property in cash. We understand that the legal boundaries of the property are the field, as well as the cave at the end of the field. We know the state, city and county the property is located in.


These days, we call this a legal description.


The passage also states that Ephron conveyed lumber rights to Abraham in this purchase. (Since they may have used the trees to secure their tents, maybe this would’ve been more of an appurtenance or fixture than a lumber right).


While exploring the deed room, try to visualize the story being told to you as you unearth the records. If you do, you will see the history of your prospective property unfold before your eyes.


Joe and Ashley English invest in real estate in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to

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