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I had intended to start writing about the Camino this week but as I went back to my papers from the walk, I came across notes about deed transfers for my grandparents. That sounds boring as I type it, but when I started to check the history on the county recorder website, it gave me pause.

I prepare and file a lot of deeds and affidavits: quitclaim deeds to transfer houses into trusts, transfer on death designations to avoid probate, and affidavits to transfer property after someone dies. Today I do not draft warranty deeds because this is usually done through title companies, but in the 80s I did prepare some, especially as the public found out about entireties deeds and joint and survivor deeds.

When I came across the notes, I looked up my mother’s parents on the county recorder website to see about their home on West 126th street in Cleveland. I am not sure what I expected but was surprised by the number and types of transfers and more importantly how it impacted me personally and emotionally. My grandparents, who I do not remember well, bought a house on West 126th street in 1924. Then my grandfather quitclaimed his one-half interest to my grandmother in 1930. In 1949 she quitclaimed one-half interest back to him, but then in 1955 he quitclaimed his interest back to her “with love and affection”. This last deed was witnessed by neighbors on the street where I was living in Brooklyn and soon after, in the same year, the property was sold.

Deeds are filed for practical, business reasons: they show who owns what real estate and as mentioned above, can be used to avoid probate. They reflect what is called the “chain of title” and are important to ensure that everyone has marketable title.

But they also reflect people’s lives. My grandparents did not have a lot of money, so my guess is that the house purchased in 1924 was important to them. The 1930 quitclaim may have been a result of the depression and a concern about preserving the home in case anything happened to my grandfather’s finances. I know he was without work for a time and there may have been debts, which were probably in his name. I understand that my grandparents lived with my parents when I was young – too young to remember – and that my grandfather died in our house while they were caring for him. Perhaps this was the reason for the 1955 transfer to my grandmother, witnessed by our neighbors, with the house being sold later that year.

My mother has been gone a long time so all I can do is try to fill in the gaps from my memories and those of my sisters. What I do know is that deeds are more than just pieces of paper filed with the recorder's office. They tell a story. A story of hope and resilience and, as the one deed says, a story of love.

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