You own property and you have been wondering whether you own the minerals under your property. You have options in this endeavor and you do not have to go through the process that I will outline below. The options you have to determine the ownership of your minerals include hiring a contract oil and gas landman services, oil and gas attorney, or a title company to run a full surface and mineral abstract; or, you can check the real property records for yourself. You may find that you are just as competent to determine this as any of those previously mentioned.
First, determine which county your property lies within. This may be determined based on the county from which you pay the property taxes. After determining which county your property is the situation within, you will determine where the county seat for that county is.
Once you determine where the real property records are kept for your county, then you will make several day trips to this location. It is a day trip because this process will likely take you several days to accomplish, but you will gain a wealth of knowledge on this expedition. You will first take a trip to the County Tax Assessor and obtain a printout of the tax information for your property. This will give you a “legal description” of your property that you will then use to make sure your search in the real property records remains on track.
Now, you will go to the clerk’s office where they house the deeds, leases and other recorded instruments. You will ask the clerk to give you a tour and let them know that you are going to research your mineral rights. These poor clerks have visitors every day that barge into the office demanding the clerks to tell them whether they own their mineral rights. The clerks cannot give legal advice and cannot search records for you, but they will all be happy to tell you where everything is located, how the books are distributed and where the search index will be located.
There are, in most courthouses across this great land, two sets of books – a Grantor (seller) book and a Grantee (buyer) book and each property transaction is listed in both. The deed will be indexed by date. When a sale takes place, or a lease for oil and gas, the deed (instrument) will be recorded in the courthouse in both indexes by the name of the Grantor who sells and in the Grantee under the buyer’s name.
You will begin by looking for your name in the index list. Recall when you purchased your property in the Grantee (buyer) index and then pull the book where that instrument is recorded. You can make a copy of this “public” record with a camera on your phone, etc., or you can ask the clerk how to make a copy of the instrument. (You will not need a “certified” copy for your records) You now have your starting point.
Note the seller’s name on your deed and then go back to the Grantee index and search back in the Grantee index to determine when and how the seller in your deed purchased the property. Continue following the “chain” of title back in time until you get back to about 1900. Nearly all reservations of minerals were after the year 1900.
It is important for you to now follow the line back forward to make sure that a seller did not sell the minerals in a separate transaction. By this, I mean that hypothetically speaking Mr. Brown bought your property in 1970 and sold to Mr. Jones in 1980. But, in 1974 Mr. Brown conveyed a mineral deed for all the minerals under the property to Mr. White. Now the minerals are severed from the surface and if you only look at the conveyances, you may miss the severance of the minerals. So, be sure to check with MAJR Resources by running the title back and then forward again to be sure your records are complete.