Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fine of Lands

Recently I stumbled onto another way people transferred land using an old English law that was not commonly used in the United States.  The process was called "Fine of Lands".

What makes this different than a normal land sale is that was initiated as a law suit where a person (plaintiff) files a case stating they are the true owner of the land and request the court to order the land returned to them from the current owner (called a deforcient).

There was never any real dispute when using this method, both parties were already in agreement on the sale, but used a court process to declare the asset belonged to the plaintiff.

The normal process when selling land does require confirmation of the seller's spouse, they would be traditionally interviewed away from the husband where it would be documented that she agrees to the sale free of duress or demands of her husband.  The Fine of Lands bypasses this step.  It also moves the land out of an estate as if the original owner never owned it at all.

The person who gains the most from this process is the original land owner (the deforciant).  The outcome of the case relieves them from all liabilities.  Why is this significant?  One reason may be that in the 1820's, many soldiers of the American Revolution were just receiving their benefits from their service, in the form of pensions and bounty land.  Between 1775 and 1855, the Government was issuing bounty-land warrants to encourage enlistment for the War of 1812, the Mexican War etc as well as to compensate those who served the Revolution.  Those given a promise of land or script sometimes sold it for quick cash, especially if they had already established a homestead.  The scripts sometimes were sold more than once, thus many complications could arise.  

Such a conveyance would also be difficult for heirs to contest because a legal ruling would already be on file which takes precedence.  Heirs would be hard pressed to make claim when a court has already determined you never owned it to begin with.

There may be additional reasons and benefits why someone would use the "Fine of Lands" to move property.  The process was banded in England by the mid 1830's.  However, you will find isolated cases where this was used in Cayuga County prior to the law being abolished.

The parties filing the case would quickly return to the court to advise that they settled, often on the same day the case was filed.  Then the court would draw up the paperwork based on their agreement.  It was settled before the court could take any action on it.  The plaintiff would then use the court papers as his legal deed to the property.

The law gave exceptional rights to the original owner or deforciant by allowing them to transfer the asset while at the same time remove them from all liabilities.  It is unclear what documentation was required by the court when the case was closed (levied).

This process was not used for convenience, as the case would have been presented before the Supreme Court.  Fine of Lands is a fascinating and rare application for conveyance of land.

1 comment:

debplugh said...

Fantastic...I am working on my Tyler/Curry ancestors and their presence in the area. Francis J. Curry came from 'Free Ireland" to the village of Cayuga where he married Deborah Jane Tyler (daughter of Lonson and Betsey Tyler). Check out my blog for more and please contact me if you want to share. www.notablecharacters.wordpress.com