Survey of Land Records at the Decatur County, Georgia Courthouse

by Gail Rich Nestor, Smyrna, GA on May 13, 2006


The Superior Court of Decatur County, Georgia, located in the town of Bainbridge, is the subject of this survey.  The room where the most of the land and tax documents are held is large and rectangular.  This room is divided into two sections.  The larger section contains two long cylindrical tables for viewing records while standing.  The books containing these records are stored along the walls and on the shelves beneath the tables.  On the left wall, there are index books for all land records.  On the back wall a county map dated 1875 shows each district, each land lot, and all the general highways, waterways, and railroads in the county.  The smaller section in the back of the room houses the older land record books and all the plat maps.  Every deed book for Decatur County, from 1823 to present, is stored within these two rooms.


Land transactions for Decatur County started being recorded in 1823, when the county was split off from the lower half of Early County.  Decatur County was fortunate to have had no major damage over the years, unlike one of its northern neighbors, Baker County.  Therefore, the record collection here is quite complete.


The collection of land records consists only of the recorded copies filed by the clerk and bound into books.  No original land deeds have been retained and none of the records are yet on microfilm.  The books and individual records are all completely open to the public and the staff is willing to assist with record location.  A copier is nearby, but is difficult to use with the old, bulky books.  Digital cameras are allowed and are much more effective for capturing images of the older deeds.


Grantor and Grantee indexes are available for all time periods and are known collectively as The General Index to Realty Deeds and Mortgages.  The first six books cover the entire period from 1823-1917.  Three of these early indexes are “Grantor” books, and three are “Grantee” books.  The books are divided alphabetically by last name (A-G, H-Q, and R-Z).  Each of the later index books covers a smaller number of years.


       All types of instruments are listed together in the same index.  They are sorted first by surname, and then are listed roughly in order by the date the instrument was recorded.  Common instrument types include deeds, warranty deeds, security deeds, quitclaim deeds, sheriff sales, bonds, and mortgages. The fields available in the grantor index books include grantor last name, grantor given name, grantee name, date of instrument, date of record, location of property or other description, type of instrument, book, and page number.  Similar fields are shown in the grantee books.


The earliest deed on file is a warranty deed, reflecting a purchase in the newly formed Decatur County by newcomers to the area.  The instrument was dated 24 January 1824, and was between Dorothy B. Cartier of Dooly County and Auley McAuley of Appling County.[1]  The deed shows a sale of 250 acres of land known as lot 258 in District 19 (formerly of Early County).  The purchase price was $200.00.  The deed also references the original grant of land on 16 December 1823.  The deed was signed by Dorothy B. Cartier and was witnessed by P. C. Higgenson and Jas Bean, J. P.  A note at the top of the page mentions that this record was recorded 14 July 1824 and transcribed 25 January 1828 from “original book A.”  Note that this “book A” starts on page 49.  No pages appear to be missing from the book, but this is clearly a second recording of this deed.


       A land lot map of Decatur County is available for purchase in the nearby tax office for $5.00.  This map is very useful for tracking early land holdings and transactions.  It was created in February 1985 by aerial photography, and shows the division of each legal district and lot for the entire county.  It also shows the Georgia Militia Districts and the county roads, waterways, railroad tracks, churches, and cemeteries.

[1] Dorothy B. Cartier to Auley McAuley, deed, Decatur County Deed Book A, page 49, County Courthouse, Bainbridge, Georgia.