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30 Wash. L. Rev. & St. B. J. 224 (1955)
Evolution of Legislation on Proof of Title to Land

handle is hein.journals/washlr30 and id is 226 raw text is: EVOLUTION OF LEGISLATION ON PROOF OF
Apparently the earliest method of proving title to land was by actual
occupancy-not necessarily a complete or exclusive occupancy but
nevertheless that form which precluded other use of the land. This was
the basis, and the extent, of land ownership by the American Indians,
both as tribes and as families. It has been the criterion among all
nomadic people. It has a preferential status in the establishment of
private ownership when the nomads changed their way of life and
effected permanent settlements.
Some of the earliest legislation of the United States provided for the
survey and sale of its public lands, and restricted the private acquisi-
tion of land from the government in other than the surveyed rectangular
sub-divisions of the survey.' However it was necessary to recognize
the possessory titles of pioneers who had settled on public land in
advance of the making of the surveys. This was done by the enactment
of numerous townsite acts which provided a legal procedure for proof
of rights thus acquired and the issuance of patents to the respective
settlers.2 Thus their possessory titles were changed to documentary
or legal titles.
Possessory titles are recognized by the courts when they protect a
first trespassing squatter against acts of a subsequent trespasser.'
They are given priority over the claims of the conventional title holder
when the latter has lost his right to judicial assistance by reason of
acts which raise an estoppel' or for failure to act within a period of
time which the courts or the legislature have fixed as a limitation of
action.' In these cases the holder of the possessory title may by court
action secure a documentary title in the form of a judgment which con-
firms a title acquired by estoppel or by adverse possession.
In early English jurisprudence, possession, seizin and title were so
nearly synonimous that for several centuries the standard, and almost
exclusive, method of an inter vivos transfer of title was by a ceremony
* Joint author: AMERICAN LAW OF PROPERTY (Little, Brown & Co., 1952) ; PATTON
ON TITLES (West Pub. Co., 1938). Referee, Land Title Calendar, District Court,
Minneapolis, Minnesota.
13 AM L. OF PROP. (1952) 399, n. 1; Id. 401, § 12.100.
2 PATTON, TITLEs (1938), § 164.
2 3 Am. L. OF PROP. (1952), 760, n. 2.
4Id., 839, § 15.17.
5 Id., 755-764.

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