Although I had never seen a true abstract, they have been explained to me and I have done extensive research on abstracting laws in several states. A part of the problem with the laws I have read is that they don't account for changes in the industry and many do not relate very well to title searching.
The reason I had never seen one of these before is that it was common for lenders to hold the copies of the abstracts while the loans were outstanding. By the mid-1970's the lenders around here had started requiring title insurance policies and they decided the abstracts were no longer needed. They sent letters to their borrowers offering to return their abstracts, but the ones that were not picked up were destroyed. There are few still in existence today.
Real estate sales contracts used to require either a title insurance policy or a continued abstract. By the early-1980's title insurance was so prevalent that they dropped the option for a continued abstract. At least around here, abstracting was completely replaced by title searching.
The abstract Doug provided is for his property (click here to view a PDF copy). It is only through July 14, 1953, 7:00am, but it is a whopping 103 pages! One of the first things I noticed is that only 6 of those pages are copies - the rest are typed abstracts of the various documents affecting title.
The detail and completeness of the abstract is amazing. It starts with Section 1, describing the property. Section 2 contains the starting point of the search - Federal Acts dating back to June 1st 1796 creating the United States Military Lands, filed in Vol. 1, page 490.
Section 4 is the Patent Deed from President John Adams to John Dunlap, signed and sealed May 14, 1800, for 4,000 acres.
In pursuance of the Act of Congress passed on the first day of June 1796, entitled "An Act regulating the grants of land appropriated for Military Service and for the society of the United Brethren for propagating Gospel among the Heathen"... there is granted unto the Reverend John Dunlap a certain tract of land estimated to contain 4000 acres being the third quarter of the second township in the eighteenth range of the tract appropriated...
I'm no history major, but I'm assuming that these lands might have been given to the reverend to help him in his mission to convert the native Americans to Christianity. You wouldn't see this in a title search today!
Sections 5 and 6 are deeds. Notice that they both indicate that the deeds contain "two witnesses." Ohio required both two witnesses and an acknowledgment before a notary public until February 2002 when the legislature eliminated the witness requirement to better protect lenders and title companies. This is something we do not note on our title searches today (others might, however); instead, we only note a defect if witnesses (on pre-2002 documents) or the acknowledgment is deficient.
The abstract also indicates the consideration; $4,000 in 1802 and $5,000 in 1803 for 4,000 acres. Remember the days when real estate used to appreciate... hopefully we will see that again soon.
The deeds also mention the wives - "Wife separately examined and still satisfied," presumably in recognition of dower. Ohio is currently one of only a handful of states that still has dower rights for spouses.
These, and the various deeds that follow, also make specific mention of the grant language to indicate the warranties, if any, that are conveyed. Today, we only identify the type of deed that was used, e.g. Warranty Deed, Quit Claim Deed, etc. Of course, we do point out defects... such as when a Warranty Deed form is used but the warranty clause is marked out (yes... it does happen and it is important to note).
Section 16 references the first mortgage on the property in 1803 for $150. It also notes that the record was burned and one of the subsequent sections also mentions "and never re-recorded."
Another mortgage at Section 27 indicates that it was "not satisfied of record." Today, these are the only mortgages we would show on a title search. And this one would have been omitted because it would be considered "out by time." In Ohio, mortgages are only good for 21 years plus the life of the loan. If no due date is indicated, it is only good for 21 years from its filing. At the time this abstract was prepared this mortgage was 147 years old and it was still shown!
Sections 28 through 37 reference probate records. The various orders of the probate court are set out in great detail. This case was more than 140 back in the chain of title when the abstract was prepared! How far back do you pull probate cases today?
Sections 36 and 37 mention that no probate records were found for Eliza Wiley, deceased. But, "to aid the examiner," the abstractor lists the heirs of Jedediah Lewis "as they appear from recitals in the various deeds from said heirs."
In section 47, the abstractor pointed out a discrepancy between the signature and the typed names in the document. The deed was signed by William B. Bickett, but "appears as 'William W. Bickett' throughout deed and acknowledgment. This is the kind of thing that we would note today, but probably not when it appears 82 years back in the chain of title.
An affidavit from 1924 was abstracted to explain that Mr. Bickett was unmarried on October 23, 1871 when he quit-claimed the property. I like to see that people actually used to fix title problems, even when they were 53 years old. Today, I'm sure this would have been ignored - even much more recent problems are simply insured over and uncorrected. That is a shame.
Sections 58 through 64 are for mortgages and the abstractor noted in detail how and when they were released; "the conditions of the within mortgage have been complied with, we hereby cancel and release the same..." As I mentioned, released mortgages, generally, are not included in a modern title search.
To see how foreclosure cases used to be abstracted, take a look at sections 66 through 72. These sections set out in great detail the claims and cross-claims, service, and judgment entries of the court.
The property was eventually sold to a corporation, as evidenced by section 74. Sections 76 through 78 set forth the articles of incorporation, certificate of subscription and certificate of payment of common capital stock of High-Gay Realty Company.
Sections 84 and 85 are for a partial release of mortgage. The majority of the language from the document has been painstakingly abstracted so that the examiner can make a determination as to its legal effect.
Sections 90 through 92 abstract recorded restrictions. Again, it isn't just a copy and note to "see attached." The abstractor abstracted the pertinent parts of the document for the examiner.
Section 93, is an easement for electric lines. Again, all pertinent parts have been abstracted.
In section 94 the abstractor included a deed for 0.682 acres deeded to the Village of Worthington, "for reference only."
Section 96 is an ordinance dedicating land "to the public use as a street." This is the land mentioned "for reference only" in a deed to the village.
A divorce action was abstracted in sections 104 through 110. The abstractor included sections for the petition, service, a military affidavit stating that the "defendant is not in the military service," the decree and the separation agreement.
Sections 124 through 133 contain what appear to be standard disclaimers or exceptions. For example, there are "no unsatisfied mechanic's liens, unexpired leases, uncancelled notices of federal, state or personal tax liens of record," "no unsatisfied foreign executions," "no examination made in any U.S. court, nor U.S. marshal's office," etc. Also included is the tax information with the amount due ($1.81 per half) and the payments made.
At the very end of the abstract is the certification:
I hereby certify that the forgoing Abstract of Title, consisting of 133 sections was collated by me from the records of Franklin County, Ohio, and I believe the same contains every instrument of record in said County, in any way affecting said premises, as shown by the respective indexes of said records.
/s/ Bruce A. Lowman, Attorney at Law
Dated July 14, 1953: 7:00AM
I find the certification particularly interesting. In some of the states that still have abstracting laws on the books, they require some form of certification by the abstractor. A "certified abstract" is admissible in a court of law as evidence of title. Title searches, today, do not generally contain a certification like this. It seems more common to include a disclaimer of liability, rather than an affirmative statement like this one.
I find this abstract very impressive. It is incredibly detailed, and remember that it only includes 6 copies out of 103 pages! The remainder was abstracted from the documents by the abstractor.
I can only imagine how many pages this abstract would be if had been continued to present day. How many times might the property have sold and been refinanced since 1953? How many judgments, divorces, foreclosures, estates, leases, and easements might have been included? With the refinance boom of the 1990's it would take an incredible amount of time to produce something of this character and it would go back 214 years!
I hope this gives everyone a greater appreciation for abstracting. It has certainly been enlightening for me to read through. This example, although only complete through 1953, contains a good sample of many title issues. There are deeds, mortgages, easements, corporate documents, foreclosures, estates, restrictions, corrective affidavits, etc. It contains a little bit of everything to see how abstracting was done in "the old days."
Robert A. Franco
SOURCE OF TITLE