What is an abstract?

A land abstract can be thought of as a complete historical "book" related to an individual piece of land based on its legal description. It shows the entire chain of ownership transfers from the time the property title was first recognized by the government up to the present. This set of documents will also include any court items filed in the court clerk's office that pertain to either the property or the property's owner(s). Therefore, the abstract can be used to establish a "clear title" to a piece of property.

Why is it called abstracting?

In the old days - before photo copiers - an abstractor read each document pertaining to a piece of property, made "takeoff" notes, then summarized them on a sheet of paper. This page would list all the pertinent information related to an item, such as a deed, by including the grantor, grantee, date of the deed, filing date, legal description, signature block, and notary information. The abstractor's page was then added to the "book" and called an abstract, because the information from the original deed was "abstracted", thus the name. The ability to pick through numerous pages of information and abstract the important details was considered an art form.

Today, when the abstract has been brought up to date, an abstractor will place a "certificate page" at the very end of the abstract. This page certifies the legal description of the abstract, Ad Valorum tax status, personal property tax status, and any other court items that fell within the time period covered by the certificate from the last certificate page to the present.

Click the link below to see the steps involved in updating an abstract (PDF - 62K).

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