Names on mineral rights deed(s)? Leasing to some, but not all owners?

I am new to this whole process and was hoping somebody might be able to answer a few questions and provide some advice.

1. Names on mineral rights deed(s)?

My great-grandfather owned two quarter-sections in Billings County, ND. At some point, he sold the surface rights but retained the mineral rights. After he died, I presume his ten then-living childrens' families inherited the mineral rights, including my grandfather. It is my understanding that eight of the ten siblings have also now died, including my grandfather, but that they all have families.

I thought it would be logical that there would be mineral rights deeds available at the Billings County Recorder's office. However, they did some searching based on the location and names I gave them, and they were unable to find anything. They suggested that I have a company do a mineral rights search and create an "abstract".

Is there any way to determine the current owners of the mineral rights on the land in question? Should there be deeds recorded? If so, should the names on the deeds be updated to reflect the current heirs?

2. Leasing to some, but not all owners?

It is my understanding that Chesapeake Oil has signed a lease with and paid a bonus to one or more of the ten siblings or their families, although not my grandfather's family. Is it really OK for them to start exploring the land for oil with leases with only a small fraction of the owners? Can the other owners insist that they sign leases with them, as well?

Steven, Chesapeake can lease one person, several, or all the mineral owners under a given tract. They're not required to lease any specific number. Though by law they need to attempt to identify and locate all the owners prior to drilling. Based on what you wrote (ie... inheritances that may not have been done by deed) it may not be easily apparent just who all of the owners are. If Chesapeake leased some relatives then at least some of it was recorded but perhaps not your portion. So I'd call Chesapeake to inform them of your interest under lands they've partially leased. If they're still interested, they should begin the process of confirming your interest and leasing you too. In which case they will do much of what I've outlined below.

Next, "determining the current owners" of the mineral rights, or creating the "abstract" mentioned, is just sorting out the "chain of title" from the beginning (USA Patent) to the present. You would follow the minerals into Great GrandDad's possession, and then carefully note any subsequent sale/conveyance out of his (or your other direct ancestor's) possession.

If Great GrandDad homesteaded those two quarter sections he will be the grantee of that US Patent. Then find the deed where he sold the land (and hopefully "reserved" all or part of the minerals). Then check the county's "Grantor Book" (books) from after this sale up to the present to see if he (or your GrandDad, or Mom/Dad) sold any of the minerals at a later date.

Then did he leave a will? If so get a copy from the county where he died to see how he conveyed his minerals. Same process with your grandDad's, and/or Mom & Dad's wills. You want to see if the minerals were mentioned and bequeathed to anyone in particular. If they are not mentioned you may still own a portion of them as they may have passed down to you through the state's laws of inheritance.

Yet, with ND law's "ABANDONED MINERALS" statute you are at real risk the surface owner may have taken possession of them. So I wouldn't put this off. Start right away to see if the minerals were ever yours, and if so if they're still yours. If this is all foreign to you then call the Billings CO courthouse back and ask for a phone number for the abstract company in Medora to hire them to search the county records to learn if they're still yours. You'll need to provide the legal description and your ancestors names. Good Luck.

So what happened with me even though my names were on a probate and such is I was hard to contact because I moved so many times. They leased my sister's and they gave them my address, but I always ignored them because I didn't want to sell my minerals...stupid me they were going to drill, but i didn't know the difference. Anyway, they supposably had to use detective work to track down my sister as her address changed a few times as well. I think sometimes they can't find you...or at least seems to be the case.