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Just lovely

They are truly gorgeous records.

WiscEvery last word so carefully formed, so very legible, so clear, so crisply written.

It makes you want to kiss the Clerk, whoever he was who so carefully recorded each and every one of the land transactions in the however-many first pages of Deed Book 1 of Outagamie County, Wisconsin.

And — it has to be added, with some regret — whenever it was that he so carefully recorded each and every one of those land transactions.

Because it’s a sure bet they weren’t recorded when they occurred.

Deed #1 is dated 1825, from Amiable Norman of Green Bay and Territory of Michigan to Daniel Curtis of the same place. It was witnessed by George and Phyllis Johnston, acknowledged before N. G. Bean, Justice of the Peace, and recorded by Robert Irwin Jr., Register of Probate.1

And every word, including the signatures, is written in the same careful and lovely handwriting.

Deed #2 is dated 1828, from Paul Ducharm of Brown County, Territory of Michigan, to James Duane Doty, for one third undivided part of certain lots on the east side of the Fox River. It was signed by borh Ducharm and Doty, witnessed by John Laws and Joseph Jourdon, with Laws being a judge of the County Court, and recorded by Robert Irwin Jr., Register.2

And every word, including the signatures, is written in the same careful and lovely handwriting.

The next deed is from Charles Hyatt and others to James Duane Doty, dated 1828, for a whole series of lots. It was signed by each of the grantors — six of them — in front of four witnesses — four of them — ackowledged in front of a Justice of the Peace and recorded by Robert Irwin, Jr., the Register.3

And every word, including the signatures, is written in the same careful and lovely handwriting.

The same is true of the deed from A. G. Ellis to S. C. Stambaugh, dated 11 July 1832, signed by Ellis, witnesses by Daniel Whitney, acknowledged before Alexander Irwin, who was both a Justice of the Peace and the register who recorded the deed on 15 September 1832.4

And the deed from Augustin and Nancy Grignon of the Grand Kakalin, County of Brown and Territory of Michigan, to Charles and Alexander Grignon, their sons, dated 31 January 1834, signed by the parents, and witnessed by Henry Baird and John Laws, acknowledged before Henry Baird as a notary public and recorded by Alexander Irwin on 1 February 1834.5

And so it goes, page after page.

They are lovely records. They are legible and clear.

But what they are not is original records.

They’re later copies, recorded after the fact, in some cases clearly years after the fact, and by a clerk or clerks unknown today.

There’s no doubt they’re good records, in the sense of legally binding.

They may well be the only surviving records of very early land transactions. In the absence of an original document tucked away in someone’s family files or a library somewhere deep in the Wisconsin woods, these deed records are the best evidence of what happened all those years ago.

But they are copies, not originals.

And good genealogists never make the mistake of believing that copies are always going to be exactly the same as the originals made at the time of the transaction.


  1. Outagamie County, Wisconsin, Deed Book 1: 1, Norman to Curtis (28 Sep 1825); digital images, “Wisconsin, Outagamie County Records, 1825-1980: Land and Property: Deed Records, 1825-1850, vol. 1,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 May 2015).
  2. Ibid., Deed Book 1: 2, Ducharm to Doty (18 Nov 1828).
  3. Ibid., Deed Book 1: 4, Hyatt et al. to Doty, 7 Nov 1828, recorded 28 Feb 1829.
  4. Ibid., Deed Book 1: 5, Ellis to Stambaugh, 11 July 1832, recorded 15 Sep 1832.
  5. Ibid., Deed Book 1: 6, Grignon to Grignon, 31 Jan 1834.
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