abstract of title, in law, brief history of the title to a piece of land. An account is given of recorded documents, court proceedings, wills, mortgages, taxes, previous sales, easements, and all other factors that at any time affected the ownership or use of the land. The old rule in England required that an abstract of title should cover the 60 years before the proposed sale. In 1874 this was changed to 40 years. In some U.S. states the title is traced back to the original grant from the government, but in others it is traced only so far back as is necessary to show a present clear title.