Thursday, July 31, 2008

Using Land Records, Part I

Why use land records?

Land records for early American research is a must. Every genealogist, especially those working before 1850, should take time to learn how to use these records.

An American pedigree should be built in land records. The story of America is land, but the reality is that land records have become the step children of genealogy for research because we don't understand them. We don't now how to use them & as a result they are not used at all to solve genealogical problems. In early America almost every free male can be found in land records. People came to America for the dream of getting land. They treasured that land. They are one of the few records that have remained uninterrupted.

Here are a few reasons to use land records in your research:

1. When the courthouse burns the only records which survive are the original land grant for the virgin land by the government, which may be The State, The Proprietors, or The Federal Government Also after a fire the first thing a county will do is to ask land owners to come in and re-record their deeds.

2. Deeds are the best kept and the best indexed in the county. Land title searches go on everyday in the courthouses and lawyers need them -- all the way back.

3. When a woman releases her dower this may be the only place you can find even her first name.

4. A deed of gift is a sure sign of relationship and the surest proof of heirship.

5. Deeds may indicate occupation, social status, & education, even former residence. If nothing else, it places a person in a certain place at a certain time.

6. The last grantor deed in any area may show where that person had relocated.

7. When the right to a specific piece of property might be questioned, genealogical data may be included in the text of the deed & may include all descendants of a particular person. It may show names of offspring's, spouses, grandchildren, minor children, the name of the deceased's spouse & even dates.

8. Illegitimacies & adoptions may be shown in land records where no other record of the same can be found.

9. Bounty-land records can help prove military service.

10. Last but not least is the emotional experience of being able to walk the lands your ancestors walked. Just as the surveyors put a blaze on a tree, I want you to put a blaze on your brain.


This is part one of a five part series on using land records in genealogy contributed by Alex Baird, Genealogy Assistant.

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