Generally speaking an abstract is a documented history of the title, but not a complete declaration relating the ownership of any real estate. It only refers to a plot of the landed property as it has been listed in a land registration or land deed office. An abstract endeavors to offer only the gist of the subject matter and focuses on conciseness. Abstracts basically refer to the abstract pages that comprise a compact chronicle or account of the ownership of separate plots of land as well as a summary of all listed mechanisms having an effect on the ownership of the plots of land, including the deeds or transfer of land ownership, execution of all mortgages, encumbrances or impediments, easement or legal rights and limiting contracts. It may be noted here that over the years, the abstract pages have gone through several changes in their arrangement, data included in them and also the procedure of listing in specific regional authorities making use of the registry structure.

Abstract book

An abstract book, also known as abstract indexes, is the essential source of reference in a record or chronicling structure. Going by history, abstract books were meant to maintain record of pieces of property with exclusive ownership rights. Originally, these records were maintained in a numeric arrangement with the names of the properties and acknowledgement (lot and concession). Later, the records included several other things such as the properties' sub-divisions and even apartments. Details of individual ownership of property were listed as abstract pages in an assortment of abstract books. With the advent of computers, the registry offices have done away with the bulky abstract books and related physical listing procedures to record the property ownership details during the last one decade or so.

It may be mentioned here that the listings of ownership or interests in real estate differs from one province to another. Contrary to the term 'parcel register' that is usually found in land titles, the expressions 'abstract' and 'abstract book' are extensively related with the recording procedure. Presently, Ontario as well as the Maritime Provinces uses the registry as well as land ownership/ deed methods. However, the registry system has become obsolete in provinces such as Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. In Manitoba, authorities have still hanged on to few chosen registry listings that are associated basically with the railroad assets.

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