Tom Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s father, lost their family home not once, but twice because of land title issues.
Abraham Lincoln was born in a small, one-room log cabin on the Big South Fork of Nolin’s Creek, Kentucky. It had a dirt floor, one window. It was not much for a family of five.
Tom Lincoln had paid $200 for the cabin and 300 acres of land. It wasn’t much, but it was home and the young Lincoln family worked hard to build a life. After four years of working this Kentucky land, Tom Lincoln and his family had to pack up and leave. There was a defect in the title to their property. Tom didn’t have the right sort of papers and somebody else had a better claim to the land.
With young Abe in tow, the Lincoln family moved eight miles away to Knob Creek. In less than four years, Tom had to go to court to prove his ownership rights to this second farm. Another claimant to the land sued him as a “trespasser”.
Tom Lincoln won the lawsuit, but he was haunted by the fear that he might someday lose another property. He had heard enough talk of land-titles, landowners, landlords, land-laws, land-lawyers, and land-sharks to make him unsure about his situation and land title.
Tom Lincoln decided to move his family to Indiana where there was rich soil and land, government land with clear title and the right kind of papers. So Abe's father and family lost their second home because of title issues.
Tom Lincoln's anxiety about title and loss of their property were kind of things that gave rise to today’s title insurance industry. The first land title insurance company was founded in Philadelphia in 1876. Title insurance was established to protect buyers against the hidden hazards of real estate ownership: forgeries, fraud, faulty surveys, hidden liens, conveyances by a minor or mentally incompetent person, and many other title defects.
Title insurance is even more important today. Title defects that cost the Lincoln family their home would have been revealed in a title search or covered by an owner’s title insurance policy.