The bulk of local land records in the United States document land transfers between individuals or groups of individuals. Generally speaking, the only land documents that may be recorded after a landowner dies are deeds that never were recorded originally, quitclaim deeds to sell property or clean up title after their death, or court orders resulting from court action involving the property.
It’s possible however that there may be affidavits or other documents related to the title to property and its transfer that are recorded and yet are not actually deeds themselves and are not transferring any property. A 1940-era affidavit by a relative, filed with the local land records, documented the property ownership back to the 1870s–including owner’s names and transaction dates. In the affidavit parent-child relationships were stated–items not included on the deed.
The difficulty in finding these affidavits is in how they are indexed. The “grantor” is the person making out the affidavit. There usually is not a second party’s name to index. Finding these items in grantor indexes requires the name of the affiant–typically a later landowner or occasionally a descendant of an earlier landowner. If a local records office has a tract or parcel index (which indexes transactions geographically), the affidavit should appear in the index for whichever parcels of property are referenced in it.
That’s how the 1940-era document was found. I knew where the farm was at and that my uncle had owned it from the 1870s until his death around the turn of the 20th century. A search of the tract/parcel index located the affidavit from the 1940s.