Unpacking Real Estate Abstracts

As more and more newspapers are being digitized and made broadly available, it’s worthwhile to pay attention to some of their more mundane sections. Take, for example, real estate notices: brief abstracts of public real estate transactions, including transfers or conveyances and mortgages. These abstracts often name the grantee(s) and grantor(s), locate the land, and include the dollar amount of the transaction.

Since these abstracts are common (but not universal) from the late-19th century onward, they can serve as excellent substitute indexes to deeds of the period, when the actual indexes have not yet been digitized. In some cases, they can serve as substitute indexes to other records as well . . . if we know how to read them.

Take a look at the abstract below from two 1903 Brooklyn papers. What can you derive from it?

Humboldt St, w s (the rear end of lot being 86.3 e Diamond st at point 440.6 n Driggs Ave), runs e 86.3 to Humboldt st x s 25 x w 82.8 x n to beg h&l, Edward Magee & Rose, wife Adolph Cooney, children & heirs Luke Magee, to Rosee, wife Joseph Kellner & Sallie, wife Bernard Siegel . . . . nom[1]

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