A typical "title search" or abstract goes back anywhere from 20 to 60 years depending on the laws and practices in the particular jurisdiction and the complexity involved in a particular matter. A prudent title searcher would certainly go back as far as possible if there is some sort of ambiguity or question.
Most jurisdictions regulate the period that must be covered by a title examination that will be used to certify the title to property. A title examination in the southeast generally goes back 30 years. In Massachusetts the statutory period is 50 years, in Connecticut it is 40 years. Those periods are also stated in title standards promulgated by the real estate bar associations in most jurisdictions. If there is no deed at 30, 40 or 50 years back then the examiner must keep chaining back until an arm's length conveyance is found. A professional title examiner knows how to determine a good starting point then examines the title forward from that point.
The title examination is the key factor in determining whether you will own the land free and clear of all other claims.
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