A deed is a document that transfers and records ownership of a piece of real estate. The deed contains the names of the seller and buyer, a legal description of the property, and the signature of the former owner. It is not required to be in your physical possession to show ownership. The old westerns you may have watched are not the current state of the law. Deeds are recorded by book and page number and can be accessed by the public by going to the recorders office or using on online service like Iowa land records.