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Understanding Common Record Types: Abstracts of title

Guide to understanding common types of archive documents: abstracts of title, accounts, annual reports, charters & letters patent, constitutions, diaries, household books, land deeds, letters, manorial records, maps & plans, minutes, photographs, & wills.

“They questioned why a settled society should behave any differently, why one man should toil in the service of another merely because the stronger had staked out something that had never belonged to him in the first place”

Nega Mezlekia, The God Who Begat a Jackal: A Novel 

Introduction to abstracts of title

Administrative documents which accompany a transfer of ownership or holding of a piece of land, a building, or an estate.

Why they were created

Created to document transference of land or property to date, in order to demonstrate entitlement of current owner/holder to said land or property. Drawn up ahead of a sale or transfer of ownership/holding.

Who might have created them

Created by solicitors, sometimes acting as longstanding land agents for a particular landed family.

Where you might find them

Usually found amongst bundles of deeds relating to a particular sale or transfer of ownership. Commonly found in the following collections:

  • Landed families
  • Estates
  • Land agents
  • Solicitors


Period from which they most commonly survive

Most commonly created during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Key features

Physical features

  • Written on paper, multi-leaf
  • Single sheets fixed together with a split pin, sewn together with cotton, or tied together with linen tape or ribbon
  • Manuscript writing in ink

Informational content

  • Summaries of individual deeds associated with ownership/holding of a piece of land, building, or estate
  • Summaries listed in chronological order, according to the date that individual deeds were signed/sealed
  • Each summary extracts key information from existing deeds, naming parties involved, outlining the land/building/estate in question, stating the consideration money (i.e. how much was paid), and noting any special terms

U DDCA/4/46

Abstract of Title of Richard Wilson to several closes of ground (namely Lilly Pastures, Mountain Pighill, Netherlands and Busky Ing) in Carlton, 1627-1737

U DDBA/4/7

Abstract of Title of Thomas Harrison to the manor of South Cave East Hall, 1662-1748

U DDCB/4/180

Abstract of Title of the devisees of Mr William Witty deceased to an estate at Cherry Burton, 1743-1809

U DDCV/29/34

Abstract of Title of John Terry to an allotment in The Groves, 1776-1837 

Note on critical analysis

Things to consider:

  • Abstracts of title are compiled summaries of much longer and more detailed individual legal documents
  • The purpose in compiling an abstract is to demonstrate legal ownership of a piece of land or property by an individual, it is not a legal document in it's own right and can be challenged or subject to error

Potential research uses

Abstracts of title can be useful when undertaking research into the following areas:

  • Landownership
  • Inheritance
  • Local history

Specialist skills and knowledge

Further reading in the following areas will help researchers when using these sources:

  • Common legal terminology as it applies to historical land law
  • Abbreviation conventions, along with some commonly abbreviated 18th-19th century words and terms

Resources at Hull History Centre

Search for further examples of abstracts of title using our online catalogue. Try using search terms such as abstract of title, title deed, etc.

Alternatively, if you prefer to browse, the file below contains a list of abstracts of title held at Hull History Centre. Please note that this list is not comprehensive, but represents key examples of the document type.