If it were in Florida, later in the life of that canoe were the latest claimant/owner you would have issues registering it. In Florida if you decide to add a trolling motor it must be registered, and to do so the person registering it must present paper work. The first thing the want is "Statement of Origin" which is issued by the manufacturer, if you have that its clear registration and paddling. The next best thing is the title (issued by the state when its registered the first time) and a bill of sale.
If not one of these 2 documents its a real PITA, a bill of sale is not good enough, perhaps some affidavit from the police department giving you ownership may work but good luck.
Been there, done that trying to register a canoe purchased from an original owner who used it in a private lake for years before selling. The previous owner never registered the canoe, as its not required on his private lake, and did not have the statement of origin.
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