“I just gave it to him because I thought it would be interesting for him,” Dronberger said. “And lo and behold, it had some money. I knew it had paid dribbles throughout the years.”
Dronberger’s case is typical of people who inherit a mineral interest. Some mineral-interest owners have properties that might not have generated any lease or production payments for years, if ever.
Property ownership records kept at county clerk offices around the state are not automatically updated when people move from place to place or inherit mineral rights. If the owners don’t make sure the records are current, they may lose track of what they own.
That’s particularly true when ownership interests have been subdivided over several generations and when the owners hold the mineral rights only, and not the land, as is often the case. Some interests have passed down through four to five generations thanks to Oklahoma’s storied oil and gas drilling history.
When an energy company comes along and decides to lease a property that has no current oil or gas production, it will dispatch “land men” to check county records to determine who owns the mineral rights. For any given property, there might be dozens of mineral owners.
“It’s sort of like being a detective,” said Blake Thompson, of Norman, a former land man who now runs MineralOwnerMart.com, a website that allows mineral owners to advertise properties available for lease or purchase.
If the land men can’t locate one or more of the fractional owners because the information is out of date, the state will allow the oil company to go ahead and lease the land and drill a well under a “force pooling” arrangement. Land men typically check court records and search online to locate names and last-known addresses.