06 November 2013

Concession Deeds and Thirteen Years to Prove

[note: Thanks to a reader comment, we've corrected a typo that slipped past us in the original posting of this blog post. That change is in red below.]

At first I thought there were no clues in this early 19th century land documents from Ontario, but upon closer inspection I realized there were some clues that warranted further research.

The first document in this post is a deed where Rufus D. Stephens transfers his ownership of the North half of Lot 2 in the 4th Concession in Yarmouth Township, Middlesex County, Ontario, to Alonzo J. Stephens.

The transfer is dated 1 January 1836 and is witnessed by Ed. Lawton and Mary Lawton. No relationship between the Lawtons is indicated and no relationship to the Lawtons and the Stephenses is indicated either.

In fact there's no specific statement that the Rufus D. Stephens and Alonzo Stephens are related to each other. The lack of stated relationships does not mean the individuals were not related.

Apparently Edward and Mary Lawton witness Rufus's deed. It is atypical, but not unheard of, for a woman to appear as a witness on a land record. Because the witnesses do have the same last name, there most likely is a relationship between them--probably that husband and wife, although they could be siblings, in-laws, etc. There is no phrasing in the document that that implies any specific relationship.

What is interesting is that the only witness [makes a statement regarding the fact that she witnessed the document]: Mary Lawton. What is also interesting is that the deed is acknowledged in April of 1849---thirteen years after the deed is signed by Rufus D. Stephens.

Why the delay?

I'm not certain. There are a variety of reasons deeds are not promptly recorded. It may be that Alonzo was selling the land in 1849 and it was realized that his deed of purchase had not been recorded. It may be that in 1849 Alonzo had to tend to other legal business and someone realized that the deed had not been recorded or acknowledged. Or it simply could have taken that long for Mary Lawton to appear in front of a Justice of the Peace. Mary did not travel to the county seat when court was in session to acknowledge the deed, she did so in front of a Yarmouth Township justice of the peace. So travel considerations and waiting for the term of court were not issues. A search of local land records would confirm when Alonzo sold the property and that date may or may not dovetail with the date of this acknowledgement.

Why does Mr. Lawton not acknowledge?

Mr. Lawton may not have acknowledged the deed in 1849 due to his death or other inability to appear before the justice of the peace. Given that he signs as a witness and does not appear on the acknowledgement, his demise seems a likely possibility--especially since 13 years have transpired between the deed's execution and it's acknowledgement.

The acknowledgement makes no statement about why Edward does not appear to acknowledge.

We are working on a complete transcription and analysis for an upcoming issue of Casefile Clues.
These documents appear in Family History Library microfilm 1405663, Province of Ontario, Township Papers, Yarmouth Township, pages 421 and 422.