Minerals Rights

Does anyone know the Alabama Mineral Rights Laws? My family members and I are heirs of our Great Grandfathers property in Conecuh County. The property has been in the family for well over a century why in the world would a landmen / women have to research ones land going back to the spanish Land grants to determine rather or not you own the minerals to your land. Doesn’t it seem strange that you can drill for water on your land without research but not oil, gold, marble etc;

The reason that a person must research the property back so far has a lot to do with state laws, as well as financial and legal liability. I am not familiar with Alabama, but I will explain Kansas as briefly as possible. In Kansas a good portion of the land was deeded by the federal government to the railroads. The railroads then developed and sold property adjacent to their rails. Sometimes the railroad kept mineral rights for things such as stone quarries, timber, coal, etc., but sold the surface property to individuals. Those records go back to the beginnings of Kansas 1850s-1880s. Sometimes the railroads kept minerals, sometimes they did not. A party interested in drilling your property should be looking all the way back to the beginning of title to ensure that no person reserved or deeded out the minerals separate from the surface estate. The legal and financial liability for not doing complete research is far greater than the cost of doing the research.

However, that may create the wrong impression that the leasehound always does research so far back. The fact is that they don't. It just depends on their instructions or on what they are up against at the time. One rule of thumb short of taking it back to a Spanish land grant, would be an estimation of when the earliest mineral reservation might be. Others simply take the last lease of record and go from there. It can vary greatly. The last sentence of the Kitchen reply is true, but definitely is not always the way that it is done.

I would have answered the original question in part by saying a landman can't really trust what a landowner tells them about their mineral ownership. They have to satisfy themselves by verifying it. If they see that only one family name has leased it for the last one-hundred years, that may be some indication that the minerals are still intact. If a different name or lessor pops up, that might be cause for concern or additional research. The title searcher will also know that women marry and take the husband's name. It is also very possible that bad leases were taken in the past, and that they were a red herring for the landman. He does a quick check and fast leasing. A Title Opinion is rendered and it is found that none of the leases are any good because of a 1930 mineral reservation that everyone missed, or misinterpreted to that point, or before the legal examination.

Dave is correct. In no way would I imply that a landman or anyone else doing the research ALWAYS goes back to the beginning. As Dave has mentioned, it just depends on how much time / knowledge a person or company has or wants to spend on title opinions as far as the quality of work they do. Different states have different laws, so in some states it is necessary to go as far back as is reasonable. In other states, mineral reservations may have expired and returned to the surface owner after a number of years, and that would not require a very far search of the records.

Well put. The knowledge part stands out.


The earliest mineral reservation that I have ever seen was in NW Alabama, not far from Hamilton. I want to say the severance was in the 1880's, even though the first oil production was in the 1920's. It was a massive reservation, like 200,000 acres.

Makes sense to me to take it back to patent to make sure, unless the client puts an arbitrary cutoff date, such as first transaction after 1900. I let the client make the call and put a disclaimer on the title report.

Worse description was also in NW Alabama. It was metes and bounds. Went something like this "...thence in a northerly direction to where the cow is standing right now, thence East..."

Buddy Cotten


You’ve got to love the old legal descriptions where you read it and easily assume that none of the landmarks they mention are likely to still be in existence today. And that’s why a title company will require a person to obtain a survey for an accurate legal description often times.