Delaware Land Records

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This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG, in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Delaware Family History Research series.
History of Delaware
Delaware Vital Records
Census Records for Delaware
Background Sources for Delaware
Delaware Maps
Delaware Land Records
Delaware Probate Records
Delaware Court Records
Delaware Tax Records
Delaware Cemetery Records
Delaware Church Records
Delaware Military Records
Delaware Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Delaware Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Delaware Immigration
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Ethnic Groups of Delaware
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Map of Delaware

Delaware is a State-Land State.

From 1680 the original deed and mortgage volumes, microfilms of them, or both, are at the Delaware Public Archives, with corresponding indexes. Kent County holdings at the archives extend to 1970, New Castle to 1962, and Sussex to 1968. The archives also has a card index of original land patents, warrants, and surveys, arranged by county, as well as a list of some of the Maryland grants now located in Delaware. Information on related Maryland land should also be sought in the published Archives of Maryland. Warrants and surveys made during the proprietorship of the Penn family (1682–1776) are at the archives; those for 1759 to 1761 are included in Warrants and Surveys of the Province of Pennsylvania including the Three Lower Counties 1759 (see Pennsylvania Land Records). Some land purchases are chronicled in the Pennsylvania Archives, 2d series, vols. 7 and 19. Other published land records are Original Land Titles in Delaware Commonly Known as The Duke of York Records … 1646–1679 (1899; reprint, Westminster, Md.: Family Line Publications, 1989) and A. R. Dunlap, “Dutch and Swedish Land Records Relating to Delaware: Some New Documents and a Checklist,” Delaware History 6 (1954): 25-52. The archives has microfilm of official grants of land in present-day Delaware from New York and Pennsylvania sources, which are listed in Edward E. Heite, Delaware’s Fugitive Records (Dover, Del.: Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, 1980).

In addition to county taxes, colonial Delaware landowners had to pay annual quitrents to the proprietor. The quitrents between 1665 and 1671 (the period Delaware was controlled by New York) were published in B. Fernow, ed., Documents Relative to the History of Dutch and Swedish Settlements on the Delaware River, vol. 12 of Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York (Albany, N.Y.: Argus Co., 1877), 490-92. This volume contains other lists of Delaware residents during the 1670s. Some quitrent information is also found in private proprietors’ records such as the Logan Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

In each of Delaware’s three counties, the recorder of deeds has the primary land records, with deeds and mortgages kept separately. Only the most recent deeds are in the counties, however. Most have been transferred to the Delaware Public Archives. Ten volumes of Kent County, Delaware, Land Records have been published covering 1680–1775, the first eight by Mary Marshall Brewer, the last two by Irma Harper. New Castle County, Delaware, Land Records for 1673–1765, with some gaps, was compiled in seven volumes by Carol Bryant and Carol J. Garrett. Nine volumes cover Land Records of Sussex County, Delaware, for the period from 1681 to 1805, with some gaps, compiled by F. Edward Wright, Elaine Hastings Mason, Judith K. Ardine, Mary Marshall Brewer, and Johnita P. Malone. All were published between 1990 and 2002 by Heritage Books, Inc., Family Line Publications, Delmarva Roots, and Willow Bend Books.