18 March 2012

The Release of Dower

A fan of Genealogy Tip of the Day indicated they had never seen a dower release on a deed, so I thought it an opportune subject for the blog.

This is part of a deed from Harford County, Maryland, that was discussed in a recent issue of Casefile Clues (click on image above for a larger picture). The portion underlined in red is where Sarah Rampley, wife of grantor James Rampley, releases her dower in the property. The dower right is an interest Sarah had in the property as James' wife. Dower has a long history, which we will not to into here, but the end result is that James could not sell his real property without his wife's consent. Whether Sarah could have realistically denied the sale is another matter entirely. Dower releases tell us the name of the wife at the time of the sale, confirming marital status and perhaps establishing the existence of more than one wife.

Dower is that portion of a husband's estate that a wife is entitled to the use of for her lifetime, after his death. Typically it was 1/3 of the real estate. The amount of dower, and whether a wife is entitled to it or not, is set by state statute.

Source of document:
Harford County, Maryland, Deed Liber JLG, Volume N: 95-96, James Rampley to Jesse Kent; FHL microfilm 14096.