Terminology differs in the various jurisdictions. In Illinois, what Northern Piper calls “registry” is called “recording.” In Illinois, written instruments are recorded in the Recorder’s Office of the county. Defects, of course, such as forgery, fraud, dower, homestead, etc. could arise. Attorneys would examine the chain of title as shown in the land tracts and issue an opinion. The official chain of title is, however, the grantor-grantee index, but that is an unworkable option. In the Recorder’s Office, each parcel of land is kept in its own place, making it much easier to search. As parcels get subdivided, additional tracts are added.
In Illinois, the “registry” is the Torrens system, which was fairly new. The Act allowing for the Torrens system was repealed about a decade ago. Possible defects could appear in this sytem, as well. The funds accrued through the filing in the Torrens system is the insurance for that.
The problem with attorney’s opinions are the net worth of the attorney and the ability to recuperate any losses. Title companies came along. Chicago Title&Trust began in the 19th century. They would defend any claim against the title, so that it was not merely a matter of paying off a loss, but defending the title itself. CT&T Co would make, for internal use, a “tract opinion,” which would cover a lot of land that had the same chain of title. When a large tract was subdivided, and different chains of title arose, it was not necessary to go back to the original “patent” from the US government. CT&T could begin its search from the last tract opinion before it became subdivided. (Many parcels in Illinois began with the patent from the federal government to those who fought in the Revolution. Those lands which were not patented were ceded to the State of Illinois when it was incorporated as a state, and the state issued grants or deeds.) CT & T Co went one step further in its internal workings. A tract opinion ususally covered property described by metes and bounds. When part of that tract became subdivided into a subdivision, it would create an opinion as to the entire subdivision. There was no such thing as going back only a certain number of years, as far as CT&T was concerned. However, when Pioneer attempted to compete with CT&T, that was its only option, as going back to the orginal patent would be too cumbersome. CT&T Co also kept its own “tract books” so it did not have to use the county recorder’s books. As deeds are recorded, employees of CT&T would, make presses of the documents and bound them in a letter-press book, kept in its office (in the third sub-basement in Cook County). Later, “minutes” of the instruments, which was an abbreviated typed summary of the instruments were used, until in more recent times, more modern methods have been used to maintain the entire records.
Counties outside of Cook would have abstract companies (as did Cook County initially), which would make their own letter press books, from which they would make abstracts available to the customer (one wishing to purchase the land). The buyer would then get an attorney to examine the abstract and issue an attorney’s opinion. Or the attorney would order the abstract himself.
But that did not completely cover problems in the land. There’s a certain matter of taxes. Taxes are not only a lien, but a first lien. Hence, the records in the county assessor’s office must be examined. CT&T made its own tax searches by its employees in the assessor’s office. I’ve heard that one fledging title company overlooked that small detail.
Then there’s the matter of liens affecting the land that do not have to be recorded. Federal liens and mechanics’ liens, primarily. Recording is constructive notice. Construction on any property also is notice that possible mechanics’, sub-contractors’, etc. liens may exist. Those do not have to be recorded. Title policies specifically exclude those matters, unless the customer wants them covered. Mortgagees usually require coverage of those in construction loans. So the title company has to examine all the waivers required by the contractors and sub-contractors on a regular basis as the work progresses.
Much of the land in central Illinois was deeded from the French government initially. Hence, there arose a dispute between those who claimed under the French government and those who claimed through the US government. The French claims were not ignored, and those claims had to be settled.
In some states, the Recorder’s Office is called the Registrar’s Office, but the instruments are not registered. They are recorded. When an instrument is recorded, the instrument is returned to the customer. The Recorder’s Office would make a letter press of the instrument first(photos were a later method). When an instrument is registered, such as in the Torrens system, the instrument is kept by the county. After the great Chicago fire, many of the records in the Cook County Recorder’s Office were burned, but CT&T Co had its own letter presses of the instruments and was able to restore the county’s records.