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Deed Books Are Not Just For Deeds


I can only speak for the Franklin County, Virginia “Deed Books” but I recently discovered that at least the first fourteen books contain records of the county court, not limited to deeds.  At this time I have re-indexed only the first fourteen books and they cover from the beginning of the county, 1786, through about 1835. 


The original Deed Book Index does only list Grantor and Grantee but the Grantor will not always be the person that owned the property.


Many, many times after a property owner died and either his executor, if he left a will or his administrator if he did not leave a will, handled the sale of the property.  The name of the executor/administrator will appear on the deed as the Grantor, not the name of the deceased that actually owned the property. The name of the deceased will appear on the copy of the deed but it will not appear in the Index Books.


In other instances a power-of-attorney was granted if the property owner lived out of the area,  this will be the name that appears in the Index Book, not the property owner.


And before I go farther, yes, contrary to common belief, women did inherit, own, buy and sell property, even in those days.  If a married man sold his property he had to bring his wife to court where she could be taken aside from him and asked if she agreed to relinquish her dower rights.  In many cases the property was sold and the wife brought before the court at a later time and a separate document will show that she agreed to relinquish her dower.


All the court proceedings were ordered to be recorded as the cases appeared in the court.  There were no separate books for deeds or other court business.  If a slave was bought, sold, transported out of the county a court record had to be made because slaves were property.  Inquests were also brought before the court and ordered to be recorded and these are included in the “Deed Books” as well as other miscellaneous records such as bonds and appointments of county officials such as Sheriff, Deputies, etc., but not the Deed Book Index.


One unexpected “find” was the first divorce in Franklin County where a woman had removed herself from his “bed and board”.


A deed will indicate where the grantor/grantee was residing at the time of the sale as well as family relationships.   


The new index contains the names of all the persons named on the deed.  Names are not listed by grantor/grantee because not all documents fall into those categories.  In general a woman will be shown on a deed as “his wife” but if those words are not there her name will be listed separately.


On the actual deed almost any name can be found with at least three different spellings.  The names of the parties will appear at the top of the page.  The name of the grantor and rarely the grantee, will appear at the bottom as a signature.  At some point in time one of the Clerks wrote the names of the parties on the top, left side of the document.  The problem with this is many times the spelling was “modernized”.


Spelling was not important in those early days and the Clerk wrote down what he heard, leaving us with a lot to work with.  For example, Prupecker eventually became Brubaker.  Not to mention deciphering some of the old hand-writing is a real challenge at times.


The new index will contain a list of names and the many ways any given name can be spelled.  This is where the phrase “dot your I’s and cross your T’s” came from.  S and L are other letters that present a real challenge, not to mention often an E or an S was added to the end of the surname.


For more information or assistance feel free to contact me at

Beverly Merritt


Bond Books

Deed Book Indexes

FRANKLIN COUNTY DEED BOOK INDEXES 1786 - 1896 A thru K Copyright April 9, 2015

The following is an alphabetical index of the Deed Index Books, Grantor and Grantee, found in the office of the Franklin County Clerk of Circuit Court in the Court House in Rocky Mount, Virginia. This list is a combination of the original Grantor/Grantee books. Although the Grantor/Grantee books were meant to be cross-referenced that was not always the case. Most, but not all Deed Books contain an index. Many of the indexes themselves are not in alphabetical order and a couple will be found in the back of the book. This is an ongoing project and will be updated as the work is completed. 


There are two sets of index books for the deeds - Grantor {the person who sold the property} and Grantee {the person who purchased or inherited the property}. Unfortunately, the entries were not always made in both books as originally intended. Another problem is that often a property owner was deceased and the administrator or executor of the estate or a commissioner appointed by the court would sell the property. Many times this person will be named in the index as Grantor instead of the person who had actually owned the property. The owner's name would appear on the deed but not necessarily in the index. The names that appear in the original index books were supposed to be sorted by the first two letters of the surname and there is a chart in the front of the books to show the page numbers for those various surnames. Unfortunately, the entries were not always made on the "proper" page and when a page was filled entries were made on pages in the back of the book on pages with red numbers. The "red number" pages are not in any order whatsoever, other than the first letter of the surname. Sometimes when a "black number" page was filled a notation at the bottom of the page would show what page to go to in the back of the book. Deeds may provide several different bits of important information for researchers such as, but not limited to, complete names rather than just initials, locations for people that moved away from the area, family relationships and lists of heirs. Homestead deeds should provide a list of assets. One of the first obstacles will be trying to read the handwriting of the different clerks. Some entries are clear and others nearly impossible to decipher. Numbers present a problem all their own. The most difficult numbers I found were: 2 or 7 - 7 has a long tail 3 or 8 3 or 5 5 or 8 4 or 6 - 6 is more closed than a 4 Most people have heard the phrase: "dot your i and cross your t". Early writers did not do either. One problem set of letters easily confused is "L" and "T", as in Slone and Stone. There are a few more that are less common. One pair of names that give a lot of problems is "Waid" and "Ward". 1. The following names can, and at times will be, confused due to poor handwriting: Daniel or David Benj. or Berry Ferd or Fred - Ferdinand or Frederick Hay or Hoy as a surname Jerre or Jesse as a first name Jas. {James} or Jos. {Joseph, Josiah or Josias} Shelton or Skelton as a surname and occasionally a first name Trent or Trout Waid or Ward - especially when they are on the same page, the small "I" and "R" can be a problem. Names with the initial "K" or "R"; "H" and "N" can be easily confused and the small letter can be just as difficult. 2. Other names have multiple spellings: Wright, Rite and Wright, Right and Wright, Wright are all probably the names for the same person. Titles were commonly used as first names; Doctor and Citizen are actual first names. Tubal is not a misspelling of Jubal, it is a Biblical name. Be sure to check for names that are only initials and Jr. & Sr. as well as first names. Churches are a particular problem because the actual name was not always given or abbreviated, such as "Baptist", "Missionary Baptist", "Prim. Baptist.", "Ger. Bapt."etc. There is a separate section for church names and homesteads. One deed book contains a list of Civil War soldiers, Book #125. This list was compiled by Miss Essie Wade Smith, Librarian and brought to the Clerk of Court. The Clerk did not know what to do with it and entered it in a deed book.

Please click the links below to view the Deed Book Indexes.