The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Introduction: US Land Records

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series US Land Records
fsa 8c51450 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c51450Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

Homesteaders working in garden. Austin Homesteads, Minnesota. fsa 8c51450 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c51450Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

You have heard me say this about all sort of things, but bear with me. Land records are awesome and full of hidden information! There, now that I have said that let’s talk about why I am excited to take the course US Land Records.

Yes, if you couldn’t tell, I have looked at and poked through land records in the past. I admit that I don’t know everything about them which is why I am looking forward to this course. Hopefully it will fill in any holes in my knowledge base and then I will wring more information out of them in the future.

As usual the syllabus is very extensive. I like that the first week looks like it will be all history, definitions, strategies for searching, and essentially a base to build  from. From there the course takes us through colonial land records, grants, homesteading, deeds, and it ends with a state-by-state resources section. A lot of information, but information a good researcher needs to know.

For me land records come in handy because  my ancestors hail from various burned counties. When a researcher deals with courthouses that had a disaster occur (natural or man-made) you become a pro at locating alternative record sets to investigate. Land records for me have been a go-to record set when I try to reconstruct a family or area.

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Why US Land Records ?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series US Land Records
Land office, Oklahoma. (digital file from original neg.) ggbain 02285 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.02285Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

Land office, Oklahoma. (digital file from original neg.) ggbain 02285 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.02285Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

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
  • Occupations

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.

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Homestead Records

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series US Land Records
VIEW EAST SHOWING DETAIL OF WEST ELEVATION AND SURVEYORS IN FOREGROUND (enlargement of 4' x 5' negative) - Gary Land Company Building, Gateway Park, Fourth Avenue & Penn Street (moved from Broadway), Gary, Lake County, IN. Digital ID: (None) hhh in0285.photos.064906p http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.in0285/photos.064906p.Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

VIEW EAST SHOWING DETAIL OF WEST ELEVATION AND SURVEYORS IN FOREGROUND (enlargement of 4′ x 5′ negative) – Gary Land Company Building, Gateway Park, Fourth Avenue & Penn Street (moved from Broadway), Gary, Lake County, IN. Digital ID: (None) hhh in0285.photos.064906p http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.in0285/photos.064906p.Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

By Shannon Combs Bennett, Student

Well we finally got the subject I really wanted to learn more about.  Yep, homestead records!  They are one of those little known record sets that make people want to *face palm* after they realize they should have looked there years ago.

Thankfully for those of us who don’t know a lot about these records, our instructor spends a few pages on the history of homesteading.  I did not know that the pre-cursor to the Homestead Act of 1862 was the 1841 Preemption Act.  This act allowed people who were squatting on land prior to it being surveyed by the federal government  to purchase it from the government before it went up for public sale.  The act gave settlers the peace of mind that if they were on a piece of land before surveying was done they could eventually own the title to it.

Alternatively, the Homestead Act allowed people to receive a piece of public land for free as long as they met certain criteria.  They had to:

  • Be over 21 years of age, the head of the household, or a widow / deserted wife
  • Own less than 160 acres of land
  • Either a citizen of the U.S or have an official declaration filed to become a citizen
  • Never fought again the U.S. or aided their enemies
  • To keep the land they had to cultivate and improve it for 5 years

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Maps and Deeds: The Perfect Combination

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series US Land Records
Photocopy of plat (from Portland Registry of Deeds, Book 148, Page 385) delineator and date unknown 'COPY OF PLAN OF PARK STREET PROPRIETARY' - Park Street Block, Park, Spring & Gray Streets, Portland, Cumberland County, ME. Digital ID: (None) hhh me0025.photos.087875p http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.me0025/photos.087875p. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

Photocopy of plat (from Portland Registry of Deeds, Book 148, Page 385) delineator and date unknown ‘COPY OF PLAN OF PARK STREET PROPRIETARY’ – Park Street Block, Park, Spring & Gray Streets, Portland, Cumberland County, ME. Digital ID: (None) hhh me0025.photos.087875p http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.me0025/photos.087875p. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

By Shannon Combs Bennett, Student

I like maps.  No, I love maps.  It really is a bit of an odd thing, but through my research I discovered that maps can tell you a lot.  Then when you combine one with a record like a deed the results are beyond amazing.  Module 5 of the US Land Records course covers deeds and maps, and just how important alternative sources are to your research.

Deeds are found in a wide range of places.  Estate records, mortgages, sales and leases are a few place you might find a deed.  But what is it?  Well primarily (because there are near a dozen different types of deeds) it is a document that shows who owns a piece of property.  This can be done through a bill of sale which records the transfer of ownership of property to a person.  Or a quitclaim where someone relinquishes their property to another but doesn’t guarantee that someone else doesn’t own a portion of it.  Or perhaps you could find a warranty deed which assures the purchaser that they are the sole owners.

Okay, so deeds are cool right?  Bet you are now asking what they have to do with maps.  Well, deeds contain information on the land.  Its description, size, anything unique about it, even geological information.  Put the two together and you now have a whole new perspective on your family.

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Finishing Up US Land Records

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series US Land Records
•Repository: Scenic view from the Seward highway in the Chugach National Forest, Alaska. Digital ID: (original digital file) highsm 04377 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.04377. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

• Repository: Scenic view from the Seward highway in the Chugach National Forest, Alaska. Digital ID: (original digital file) highsm 04377 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.04377. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

By Shannon Combs Bennett, Student

Believe it or not I was surprised by what I learned in the US Land Records course.  Yes, I knew it was a record set that I was not extremely familiar with, but the amount I didn’t know was surprising to me.  It seems just looking at maps and going to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) website is not enough to learn this information!

Through my posts I just touched on the information taught in  the course.  It was really just the tip of the iceberg.  The ideas for further research on my own family using these land records are swirling around my head.  Now, I just need to find the time.

I am very curious to see if I can find homesteaders anywhere in my family tree simply for the potentially large genealogical payout.  Yes, I am still hoping, with fingers and toes crossed, for those mysterious origins for some of my family members.  You know, the ones who just seemed to spring off the page fully formed with no origin.

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