I'm researching a Black man in Franklin County, North Carolina, who at his death in 1899 owned a farm, according to court records that settled his estate a couple of years later. However, the farm was not formally deeded to him during his lifetime. In 1900, his heirs received the deed to the property, upon paying several hundred dollars. I am guessing that this was a final installment payment on a contract that the man had negotiated with the sellers some years earlier. I have searched the earlier grantor-grantee indexes and cannot find a recorded deed of trust, which would indicated a conventional mortgage (where you get the title conditionally on maintaining your scheduled payments). Could it have been, rather, a private contract that was not recorded in deed books? a contract between the Black farmer and the sellers that was essentially a rent-to-own contract, or a lease contract? We know this type of contract was common (and subject to abuse) in the mid-twentieth century, but I've not seen any mention of it in the late nineteenth.
Thanks for any help!
Chapel Hill, North Carolina