Sheriff’s deed books contain sheriff’s deeds, commonly called deed polls. These deeds record the sale by the sheriff at a public auction of real estate that the sheriff had seized by court order. This court order was issued after the property-owner had failed (after a grace period) to pay judgments against him or her awarded in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. The public sale generally marked the last stage in this legal process, which began with the plaintiff, or creditor, bringing suit against a defendant for his alleged failure to pay a debt.
The type of property is noted in the index, the most important distinction being whether the property was simply a “tract,” “lot,” “piece,” or “parcel,” without a residence or included a “messuage” (dwelling-house) with the land. “Lots” generally were properties that had been subdivided for sale out of a larger tract, implying a more planned development than a property owner simply selling a section of his or her land. The term “plantation” indicates a farm or country estate, usually with outbuildings, although whether or not to use the term was at the discretion of the recorder of the deed. This index/database notes the number of acres, but does not include fractions of acres or perches, unless the size of the property was less than 1 acre. An acre was made up of 160 perches.
The additional information usually found in the deeds are the boundaries of the properties, price of purchase, and the names of the creditors whose suits culminated in the sheriff’s sale.