All Hunterdon County deeds are located in the office of the County Clerk in the Hall of Records, 71 Main Street in Flemington. Deed room personnel are helpful in answering questions, but they are not there to do the work for you. They offer a useful booklet called House Plans for $1.50. It provides a glossary of terms used in deeds that is especially helpful with old deeds. The bulk of them date from around 1800, but there also are several from the 1700s. The Clerk’s office is open weekdays from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Be prepared for your search. Take several pencils – and NO pens – and a legal pad for recording information.
To begin, you must know the name of the current owner and the block and lot of the property to be searched. These can be obtained either on the tax bill or at the Assessors’ office in the municipality where the property is located. Assessors also have tax maps and it would be good to have a copy of the lot in question in order to verify that the correct deed is being searched.
Deed book indices are in two forms. The earliest is called “Colonial” and ended in 1955. It is organized alphabetical by surname (last name). Select the first letter of the surname, open the book, across the top of the page is an alphabetical list of the Christian (first) names, select the first letter of the Christian name. Underneath is all the information needed. The second form, called the “Russel” system, dates from 1955 to the present. Instructions for its use are printed in the front of each index book.
Two terms one needs to know are “grantor” (seller) and “grantee” (buyer). Remember, the first person mentioned is the grantor (seller) and the second person is the grantee (buyer). There are indices for both grantors and grantees.
Once you find the initial deed, record the book and page number, complete date, names of the parties involved, consideration (cost of the property) and property description (metes and bounds). Note the signatures; before c.1916 a married woman was interviewed apart from her spouse to determine that she was not forced to agree to the sale. During the 1930s-40s properties were listed as costing $1. Check the stamps at the bottom of the deed to determine the true cost. The recital is most important as it tells the reasons for the sale as well as gives a referral to the book and page of the previous sale of the property – which takes your search further back in time. Record anything unusual in the recital, such as what is included or excluded in the sale.