By Shannon Combs Bennett, Student
Why should you use land records? It’s a great question. Do you have an answer? In my intro post to the US Land Records course, I talked about why I like land records, but those are not the only reasons. So, what makes them so special?
I was very excited when our instructor, Kyle J. Betit, covered this topic in the first module. His points were valid and if you are still not sure that you want to take a course about boring old land records hang on. Simply, once you determine if your ancestor could have owned land your research will take off. As with all government agencies there is a paper trail that follows land records.
Let me share a few things you could uncover in those papers:
- Discover unknown family relationships
- Information on immigration and naturalization
- Social status in the community
- Migration pattern across the US
That is an abbreviated list but I am sure you can see how this information can aid your research. Particularly in places where vital records are non-existent and any information you discover is amazing. However, you need to understand the process, the documents which were created, as well as what is still extant today.
But what about the paper trail, what records are created around land records? I am sure you can think of the first few. There were grants, bounties and homesteads. Then you could also find land conveyances, estate records, rental agreements and detailed deeds.
To get started our instructor also goes through a few strategies. One that I had not thought about before was naming patterns for land tracts by immigrant ancestors. Some families would name the land they purchased after places they were from or familiar with in their country of origin. Those names could help you jump back to the country of origin easily. If your ancestor bought a piece of land with a name you can also trace that tract through the deeds and records fairly easily. That may be a good idea if your ancestor bought the land from another family member.
Of course, as with all research, the key is to be thorough and at times think outside the box. I will now be able to think about all the different paper bits I should try and track down. There is more information out there than the bounty record after all.
Well on to the next modules. See you online!