Part of a 1796 deed in Harford County, Maryland, from James Rampley to Jesse Kent states:
“…Bargain and Sell unto the said Jesse Kent his Heirs and assigns all that part of a Tract of Land originally Granted to the said James Ramply by the State of Maryland on the first day of December seventeen hundred and ninety five as by said Patent may appear…”
I admittedly read the deed too fast and focused on the “all that” portion of the text. Later when analyzing it, I relied a little too much on memory as well which did not help alleviate the confusion. The patent was for 32 acres and the deed referenced above was for 10 acres. Selling the whole patent by this 1796 deed should mean that the deed discussed 32 acres. The discrepancy in the acreages was too much to write off to an approximation error.
Even after seeing the word “part” I was not immediately convinced that there wasn’t a problem with the 1796 deed. I was stuck on the “all that…Tract of Land granted” part of the document.
Later the deed states “…as contained in the following Courses…[followed by the metes and bounds description]…”
It actually took a little while for it all to sink in.
Extracting key phrases from the deed it’s really saying:
“…all that part..contained in the following Courses…”
When I focused on those words the meaning was a little more clear. The deed did not intend to transfer the whole of the patented property. The only intent was to transfer the part described in the metes and bounds description. Of course, I knew that. The legal description of the property is always what is intended to be transferred, but metes and bounds descriptions are not easy to visualize and simply reading one doesn’t immediately lead one to conclude whether it is 10 or 32 acres.
My misinterpretation may seem a little silly and it may seem like I’m admitting that I’m not as “on the ball” as I should be. Personally I think it is good to admit that we all occasionally make errors in interpretation–especially if we read things quickly and accidentally focus on the wrong part of a document. Every researcher is guilty of occasionally of making a hasty conclusion that is incorrect. However, in my case, I knew I had to be overlooking something and I was.
Usually if I think something in a document is “wrong,” I ask myself:
- am i certain what the terms mean?
- have I left out a word or part of the document?
- have I assumed something that is not true?
- do I need to transcribe the whole document?
There are other questions, but these are an excellent start. All of us occasionally make a snap interpretation that is incorrect. The reason why we cite sources, get to the “original,” re-analyze and re-interpret is to reduce the number of these mistakes that we spread with others.
There’s no shame in catching your own errors of interpretation. Critiquing and proofreading your own writing is an excellent way to catch these errors.
And we learn best when we’ve caught our own mistakes.
The image below is part of the deed discussed in this blog post.