Before you can begin to adverse, you need to establish your chain of title. You do this by starting with the most recent vesting deed (you can find out who is the owner of the surface by checking with the auditor and/or treasurer). You then work backwards to determine how each grantor received interest. Traditionally, this has meant searching the grantee’s index to find the relevant deed. Sometimes the volume and page where the prior deed was recorded is mentioned in the subsequent deed. That information can certainly be helpful; but don’t just take their word for it. Verify that it is correct by using deed plotting software and comparing the described tract to the later description or to historical maps. Nowadays, many title searches are done online, but the same concept still applies. One additional thing to take into account when doing online searches is that oftentimes names can be misspelled and therefore they may not come up in your search. Try multiple spellings to make sure you cover all of your bases and find all of the necessary documents.
Once your chain of title has been established, it is time to begin adversing. Essentially, for each person/company that owned interest in the subject tract, you will search for conveyances from them, either in the grantor’s index or online, for the entire time period that they owned interest in the property. If they only convey a portion of their interest, you need to continue to “run them forward” until the entire interest is conveyed/devised (or until present day, whichever is later). Anyone that you find to have received an interest during your adversing will also need to be adversed themselves during the time period they owned an interest in the subject tract. That goes not only for surface and mineral interest owners, but anyone who received an interest, including leasehold interest owners and royalty interest owners.
So why does adversing really matter? When you establish your chain of title, you are really just finding out how each person received interest. While useful for your next step in the process, in and of itself, it doesn’t help in determining what exactly each interest owner owns in the parcel today. In order to determine what they received, when they received “all right, title, and interest”, from the grantor, for example, you need to know what that grantor actually owned. The process must then be repeated for each grantor until you get back to the patent (or however far back you have been asked to run the title). While tax records and deed references may help to point you in the right direction, by no means should you rely on them in lieu of adversing. In fact, adversing is really the main point of an abstractor’s job. What did each person do with their interest in the parcel during the time period that they owned an interest? To whom did they convey/devise it? What exactly did they convey/devise (a surface interest, mineral interest, leasehold interest, etc.)? In what percentages did they convey/devise it? These questions will help you figure out what each person/company owns in the parcel today and whether there are any potential issues to be aware of.