Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Among a box of old law books recently given to the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds is a 1913 edition of Notes on Common Forms by Uriel H. Crocker. The book was first published in 1883 and the 1913 edition is the fifth. While some of the language is archaic and the concepts outdated, there is much in the book that is helpful to putting many of today's rules into context. For that reason, over the next few weeks I will occasionally summarize some of the contents of Crocker's here on our blog. Today, it's deeds. In 1640, a statute of the Massachusetts Colony provided that a conveyance of real estate in which the grantor remained in possession was valid only as against the grantor and his heirs unless it was acknowledged and recorded. In 1652, to curtail "the common evil of transferring real estate without deed", another statute provided that no conveyance would be valid unless "by deed under hand and seal" along with either delivery to the grantee or by acknowledgement and recording of the deed. In 1697, a statute clarified the existing practice that a recorded deed was sufficient to convey title to real estate "without any act or ceremony." That same statute also provided that "unless acknowledged and recorded, a deed should not be good except as against the grantor and his heirs." Those seem to be the major enactments in Massachusetts real estate law in the 17th century. It is amazing that the concepts enacted so long ago remain largely in force and effect today.