Reference Centre, Dictionnaires

Dictionary of terms found in Land Records

Advowson

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The right of and individual to select and present a clergyman to a vacant church, benefice or other living. Advowsons were considered to a right of property and therefor, could be sold or bequeathed by Will and Testament.


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Appurtenances

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Things belonging to another thing, as hamlets to a manor and common of pasture, etc.; liberties and services, outhouses, yards, orchards and gardens are appurtenances to a messuage, but lands cannot properly be said to be appurtenant to a messuage. Secondary meaning is equivalent to "usually occupied with...". A right of common appurtenance must be the subject of a grant, express or implied by prescription; appendant is a right by common law incident to certain grants made before the Statute Quia Empotores 1290. The right to compensation upon extinguishment of manorial incidents is a right appertaining to a manor (Law of Property Act, 1925, s.52).


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Arpent

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A measure of land roughly equal to one modern acre


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Assart

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To turn woodlands into pasture or crop land.


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Bailiff

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A Bailiff has many functions in different arenas. In relation to land, a Bailiff was employed by the lord of a manor or the owner of another large holding or estate, to administer some of the farms and lands of the holding. The Steward was responsible for the overall administration of the estate holdings. The Bailiff collected rents and directed the work of employees, as well as performed other day-to-day functions for the lord or estate owner.


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Bargain & Sale

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An early form of legal agreement that set forth the terms for the trade and sale of property whether real or personal, tangible or intangible.


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Burgess

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A free man who holds of land or a house within a borough.


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Complainant

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A person who brought a court action for the recovery of his or her title to a specific piece of land. This person was also known as a conusee.


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Conusee

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The Complainant in an action for recovery of land. See 'Complainant', above.


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Conusor

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The Defendant or Deforciant in an action for the recovery of real property. See 'Deforciant', below.


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Conveyances to Uses

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A device in common usage in England whereby a freeholder of property transferred the ownership of that property to a "trustee" or "feofees" on the understanding that the trustee or feofee would deed back to the freeholder and his heirs the use of the property. In essence, the transfer of ownership to the trustee or feofee is a fictitious transaction. However, the trustee or feofee, at law, becomes the new owner of the freehold of that land. The original freeholder was not without recourse, however, should the trustee or feofee decide to keep the profits issuing out of the land or otherwise treat the property as truly his own. If such a situation arose, the freeholder was able to sue the trustee or feofee in Chancery Court as that body recognized interests of an individual that laid outside of the common law. The device of Conveyance to Uses was often used to sidestep paying the relief that was due to the Lord of a manor that would otherwise have been payable at the time of the death of the freeholder. Conveyances to Uses was also used to avoid other unpleasant financial consequences such as distraint by a third party for a debt owed by the freeholder.


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Curtesy

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A right that a widower, in some Canadian provinces, has to a life estate in all of his deceased wife's real estate provided she gave birth to one live child during their marriage. A wife can extinguish this right by selling her land under her own signature or by willing the land away from her husband in her Will.


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Curtilage

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This is an Anglo-French word meaning or signifying a courtyard. As such, it includes the area of land occupied by a dwelling house, its' yard and outbuildings and physically enclosed or considered to be enclosed by the presence of watercourses or other natural phenomena.


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Deed to Uses

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A written or printed document sealed and signed containing a contract between certain persons regarding a specified use of a piece of real property for a specific length of time. Quite often used in England to break an entail on an estate. The Deed to Uses would be granted on one day with the formal Deed to the property to the new owner being dated the next day following.


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Deforciant

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A person against whom a court action was brought for the recovery of his or her title to a specific piece of land. This individual was also known as a conusor.


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Desmense

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Pronounced "domain", it is a house and land belonging to an individual and used by him or her.


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Dower

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The right a widow enjoys in some places throughout the world to a life estate in a portion of her deceased husband's fully owned real property. The portion that the widow is entitled to receive varies from place to place. In Ontario it is a one-third interest in all of her husband's property. She is entitled to occupy a portion of the premises and to receive a portion of any income the property generates. Consequently, the wife of a seller or mortgagor of land also must sign the document in order to fully release her dower rights under the law.


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Eminent Domain

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The right of the government or ruling entity of a country, county, State or province, to take private property away from it's owner for public use. The owner of the property must be paid for the land taken.


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Enclosure

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A process throughout Britain by which open fields, common meadows, commons, heaths, greens and/or forests were enclosed with walls, fences or otherwise and the lands reallocated to different uses. Until the period 1760 to 1860, when a Parliamentary Enclosure Act was passed and instituted, most enclosures were unlawful but were frequently carried out by property owners to demonstrate a vested interest in a particular piece of land. The enclosures of 1760 through 1860 are generally accompanied by detailed maps showing details of owners and tenants and are filed in the County Record Offices.


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Entailed Estate

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To entail an estate meant to limit the inheritance of real property to a specific individual for his or her life and for a period of 21 years thereafter. An entail could only be placed upon freehold property and could be designed so as to limit inheritance of the property by either the male or female line. The individual who was entitled to receive the property pursuant to the entail was a Tenant in Tail and also obliged, at his or her death, to pass the property along to another family member in accordance with the requiements of the original entail. The Tenant in Tail was however, able by Common Recovery, to bar the entail absolutely and gain possession of the property as owner in Fee Simple allowing him or her to hold, bequeath or sell the property as seen fit. Common Recoveries were abolished by the 1833 Fines and Recoveries Act and a Disentailing Assurance was substituted to effect the barring of the ential. Theoretically, the ential system was created to ensure that the holder of a title of nobility also had the opportunity to hold the land that had been long associated with the title.


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Escheat

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A term used to signify that property has been reverted to or confiscated by the State or ruling entity, including a lord of a manor, in the instance where an individual had died without known heirs and had left no Will.


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Escrow

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A process by which a deed, bond or other agreement is placed into the hands of a third party until certain conditions of the agreement are fulfilled e.g. placing purchase money in escrow until all conditions concerning a piece of property have been met by the vendor or purchaser, as the case may be, and the transfer of title to the property to the purchaser may proceed unhindered.


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Fee Simple

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To hold in 'Fee' means to own a piece of real property. The type of ownership is then described further by the addition of the word 'simple' indicating that the owner holds the highest form of property ownership virtually amounting to full ownership of the land. Technically, however, no real property owner has outright control over his or her real property. The ultimate ownership of land rests, historically, with the State or Crown, which entities hold the power of eminent domain. The State or Crown is capable of expropriating the property by operation of that eminent domain, taking an escheat upon the death of an owner and under certain other circumstances, and through the passing of various laws and by-laws that limit the owner's use of his or her property.


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Fee Tail

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To hold in 'Fee' means to own a piece of real property. The type of ownership is then described further by the addition of the word 'Tail', indicating that the current owner of the property holds the land pursuant to the provisions of an entail. See 'Entailed Estates', above.


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Feet of Fines

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This is a British reference to the transverse (running sideways along the length of an article) section of an agreement relating to land. The term 'Fine' refers to the agreement proper. Although the practice of producing Feet of Fines continued until about 1834 it is most often associated with the medieval period. The Fine was written out, in its' entirety, 3 times on one very large piece of skin in the upper, lower and transverse areas of the skin. The Fine was regarded as a means to put an end to any controversy concerning the ownership of a piece of property. The skin was then divided into the same 3 sections by wavy cuts so that each party to the agreement had a full record of the transaction. The transverse section was termed the 'Foot' and was filed among the rolls of the Court of Common Pleas. Due to the wavy cuts and the addition of the written word 'Cyrographum' (Chirograph: any formal or written document, executed and written in duplicate on a single sheet) along the line to be cut, forgery of the document was almost impossible. Except for the period 1652-1660 these records were written in Latin until the 18th century. See also 'Fines'.


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Feoffment

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The act of investing a person - generally one who is to act as a trustee - with a fief (feoff) or fee in land, which, in turn, is the act of putting an individual into possession of certain real property. Pursuant to the operation of the laws in Britain, the feoff was actually deemed to be the rightful owner of the property notwithstanding that the original owner's intention was only to vest a trusteeship in his feoff. Consequently, often a Deed to Uses for the use of the land was subsequently given by the feoff to the intended owner followed immediately by a full Deed for the title to the property. In many instances, though, the feoff often took unfair advantage of the situation claiming the property for himself. In those instances, it was necessary for the intended owner to bring a Fine before the Court to settle the matter.


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Fiat

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An authoritative order, command or decree often used in Ontario to invest a person with possession of Crown land or land otherwise had by way of settlement thereon.


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Fines

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A Fine was a fictitious judicial proceeding which was commenced up to the time of its' abolishment pursuant to the Fines and Recoveries Act, 1833. The proceeding was brought most commonly in order to convey the Fee Simple ownership of land to an individual who otherwise would not have been entitled to that type of ownership of the property and to put an end to all adverse claims to the land after a certain period. Technically, the Fine indicated that the suit had been settled by mutual compromise amongst the parties to the action with leave of the Court. The compromise, or agreement, was reduced into writing and enrolled amongst the records of the Court, so that it had the effect of a Court order. If the person who had acquired the land was not in possession of it, a writ was taken out and delivered to the Sheriff calling for the delivery of the property to the then rightful owner. A Fine consisted of five steps or parts: 1) the writ to commence the action; 2) the licence to agree termed 'licencia concordandi'; 3) the actual agreement or concord settling the dispute; 4) the note of the proceedings drawn up by the Court clerk; and 5) the 'Foot' or chirograph (see Feet of Fines, above) of the fine, which recited the entire proceedings. This Chirograph was delivered to the parites and was the legal evidence of the fine. The document was retained by the purchaser as on of the title deeds to his or her property.


A Fine was to be read in court during four successive terms. A common instance of a Fine being brought with the Court's proclamation of the suit was if a person had acquired a contentious fee simple to a piece of land pursuant to a feoffment and wished to bar the owner of the reversion to the property from ever holding the property in his own hands. Any person with a claim to that property had to bring a proceeding before the Court within five years for the recovery of the property. Fines were also used to bar entails (see Entailed Estates, above) and to allowing a married woman to join with her husband to effect a sale of her lands.


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Gazetteer

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A dictionary of geographical names including names of places, seas, mountains, et cetera, arranged alphabetically. Place descriptions in gazetteers can include the various parliamentary and judicial areas to which a place belonged, e.g. Atworth, or Atford, a chapelry in Bradford parish, Wiltshire...3 miles west-north-west of Melksham...diocese of Salisbury (Wilson, J.M.. Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, vol 1., p. 80. London: A. Fullarton & Co., 1870.)


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Grantee

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A person or entity that receives a grant - usually used to describe the purchaser or buyer of real property.


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Grantor

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A person or entity that conveys a grant to another party - usually used to describe the vendor or seller of real property


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Heir & Devisee Commission

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Two successive, but independant, commissions in early Ontario established to investigate the claims of an individual to the right, title and interest in a particular piece of land that was left vacant by the death of an individual dying intestate.


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Hereditaments

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Every kind of property that can be inherited including property which a person had by inheritance from his or her ancestors and property which a person obtained by purchase. Corporeal or tangible hereditaments referred to land, houses and anything that had a physical presence. Incorporeal hereditaments referred to property that had no physical presence, such as rents or profits issuing from a piece of land, investments or trusts. Hereditaments also included reversions, remainders and other executory interests in land as well as benefits attached to land, such as advowsons, tithes, easements, services, annuities, offices, dignities, franchises, et cetera.


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Hide

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A measurement of land used primarily for the assessment of taxes. Although one hide could vary from 60 acres to up 240 acres, it was generally accepted to contain 120 acres. It is, by custom, the area of land that could be cultivated by one 8-team oxen in one year.


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Homestead

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An area of real property given to an individual pursuant to statute whereby that individual may obtain ownership of the property after the full performance of certain conditions e.g. to live on the land for 5 years, clear a certain percentage of the woodland and brush,build a house, contribute funds to the building of a church or mill, et cetera.


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Hundred

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The Anglo-Saxon geographical subdivision of an English county theoretically into areas equal to 100 hides. The inhabitants within a hundred had their own courts which met monthly to deal with civil and criminal cases. The 'wapentake' is a Danish term signifying essentially the same division of a county. Another similar area of measurement is the 'rape' used in Sussex, England.


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Inquisitions post mortem

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A legal investigation in Britain into the possessions, services due and rightful heirs of an individual who held land from the Crown upon that individual's death. Inquisitions post mortem cover much of the period of feudal tenures or some 400 years ending in 1660 when those tenures were abolished. The inquisitions are useful not only because they contain genealogical information of a property owner but also because of the information contained in the proceedings concerning the witnesses who were called to give evidence. The witnesses were often the ordinary inhabitants of the town, village or hamlet where the property owner resided.


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Joint Tenants

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A form of land ownership of two or more persons whereby on the death of one, the remaining owners automatically become the owners of the deceased's right, title and interest in the property in equal shares. Furthermore, the interest of one owner in the land cannot be alienated away from the remaining owners without the permission of all owners.


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Land Commission

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Legal bodies formed throughout the U.S.A. to deal with the distribution and settling of State lands by way of homesteading, purchase or otherwise.


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Leet

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The term used for a subdivision of land in Kent equivalent to an hundred.


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Life Estate

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See also 'Remainder' and 'Reversion', below. The holder of a life estate holds real property for the duration of his or her life only but is at liberty to sell or otherwise dispose of as much of an interest as he or she has in the property. This means that upon the death of the life tenant, the purchaser of that tenant's interest in the property must give up possession of the property to the remainderman or reversioner. a life tenant is not at liberty to conduct or permit waste of the property or its' value e.g. they cannot remove buildings or cut more timber than is required for their own use for heating or repairs. A life tenant is also obliged to conserve or preserve heirlooms that go with the property such as furniture, china, paintings, portraits of ancestors and so forth.


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Messuage

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A term that refers to a dwelling house, all of the outbuildings, curtilages, orchards, gardens or other adjacent lands belonging to it or used in connection with the dwelling house. A "capital messuage" is the chief mansion house of an estate.


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Mortgage

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A document that conveys some right, title and interest in property away from a property owner to another party in return for that party lending money to the owner. The claim conferred by the mortgage is security to the lender should the money not be repaid when due.


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Mortgagee

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A person or entity that lends money to a property owner upon specific repayment terms.


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Mortgagor

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A person or entity that borrows money from a lender upon specific terms for repayment of the money.


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Patent

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A document used during early Ontario's history to convey Crown lands to an individual. The patent records only the person's name and the property description and, therefor, is of little value in a strictly genealogical search.


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Perch

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A measure of length, area or volume. In regards to land, a perch was equal to one square rod or 30 and 1/4 square yards.


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Petition

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A document whereby an individual or entity made known to the State or Crown their desire to receive ownership of State or Crown lands. The petition was often the first document filed in the land granting process and frequently recorded a petitioner's place of origin or their last place of residence, the length of time in the area and sometimes brief genealogical data.


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Plat Book

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An American expression referring to the register book that contains detailed maps or diagrams of properties within a town or a specific tract of land.


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Quitclaim

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A release and renouncement of all rights or claims to property which is not in the possession of an individual.


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Remainder

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A term used to denote a specific event concerning land that was subject to a life estate. A life estate was often created to avoid paying two or more sets of death duties on one piece of property. Upon the death of a current owner or holder of property, his or her interest in the property would be assigned to a trustee for the benefit of a spouse or other relative for the duration of that other person's life, or for the duration of some other specified action e.g. so long as a woman remained the widow of her husband. The Will or agreement would further deed the property to yet a third owner who was to take possession upon the termination of the life estate vested in the original beneficiary of the property. This third owner had thus received the fee simple ownership, or remainder, in the property subject to the provisions of a previously defined life estate.


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Reversion

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Similar to the 'Remainder' (see above), the reversion of a property occurs upon the death of a life tenant when that tenant has received a deed to the property, their ownership being valid only until thir death. Upon the tenant's death the property reverts back to the original grantor of the property to be disposed of in accordance with that original owner's wishes.


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Rod

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A measure of land roughly 5and 1/2 yards or 16 and 1/2 feet


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Sulong

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A land measurement in Kent, England equal to 2 hides.


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Surveyor's Certificate

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A formal document prepared by a land surveyor that sets down the legal description of a piece of property and often accompanied by a map or drawing of the land with its' dimensions engrossed thereon and the notation of certain physical and natural formations running across the land, such as easements, railways, rivers, et cetera.


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Tenants in Common

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Two or more owners of one piece of property whereby each owner holds a portion of the undivided whole, outright. One owner, therefor, is free to devise his portion of the property by his Will or he can sell it or otherwise dispose of his share during his lifetime. Upon an owner's death, the remaining owners do not automatically obtain the deceased owner's share in the property, as is the case in a Joint Tenancy.


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Township Papers

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A collection of documents and correspondence relating to land in Ontario where mention is made of the lot and concession number of a piece of property. These documents are filed numerically first by concession and then by lot number within the concession, in the applicable Land Registry Office. All of these documents, however, have been microfilmed and are available through a variety of avenues. This collection can be useful as often the first document deeding property to a settler is included and that document may describe the settler's place of origin and/or manner of entitlement to the property. See also 'Petition', above.


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Virgate

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A British term representing measurement of land approximately equal to 1/4 of a hide.


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Warrant

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A document used in the early granting of land in Ontario issued by the Crown whereby a purchaser was guaranteed the security of his or her title to a particular piece of land.


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Waste

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The term generally given to uncultivated or unusable land in a holding. Waste land was not taxed.


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