Trace your Roots through Deeds to Discover your Family Genealogy
land records such as property tax lists, deeds and deed indexes go back further
in time that any other type of genealogical research record. Deeds can help you
discover your heritage. Deeds can often provide evidence of family history relationships,
names of neighbors, how long an ancestor was living in an area, given name of the
female spouse, approximate dates of death and many other useful clues. The Homestead
Act of 1862 enabled approximately 800,000 citizens or intended citizen to become
landowners. Many states had their own lotteries starting in the 1700's to bring
people to new territory and help establish communities.
Why Family Land Records?
Tracing males is easier than females. This is due in large part to many extra
available records for males, such as railroad, military, voters, tax, and deed records.
It is estimated that 90% of the adult white male population owned plots
Family history Land records such as property tax lists, deeds, and real
estate transactions go back further in time than any other source used for family
genealogical research. Certain Scandinavian property records date back to 950 A.D.
In this country, land ownership has always been important. If a courthouse was destroyed,
the deed records were reconstructed by local authorities soon after. This has helped
uncover many genealogy findings.
Prior to 1850,the
census only listed head of household. If you find a land record, before
1850, it might have more than one family member listed, which can help in filling
out missing family information. If you can find any type of land record for your
ancestors, it will provide evidence of where an ancestor lived and for how long.
A Warrant -Is the first document in the land grant process. Warrants were
issued to soldiers for service in various wars, including the Revolutionary War
and the War of 1812. The warrant could be assigned or sold to someone other than
the person granted the warrant before the plot was surveyed.
A Survey - Defines the exact location and boundaries of the grant authorized
in the warrant. The ground had to be marked before the grant could be possessed.
The survey might include the names of the surveyor’s assistants, who were
often chosen because they lived next door to the property being surveyed, giving
insight to tracing your genealogy.
A Patent - Is the title certificate issued by the governmental agency that
originally owned the property.
Subsequent Exchanges of Property
After a patent had been issued to a landowner, he had the right to sell it to
someone else in the form of a deed, but the recording of such sales became a local
responsibility. Unlike the warrant, surveys, or patents, which were recorded at
the state or federal level, exchanges of land subsequent to the grant process are
recorded at the county level making it easier to trace your family genealogy. This
is true for all states except three New England States, where the deeds are recorded
at the town level (Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont), and Alaska, the only
state with no counties and where exchanges are recorded at the Judicial District
level. In Louisiana, deeds are recorded at the parish level, which is the same as
a county in other states.
Some definitions related to estate exchanges at the county or town level are as
Deed... the private document which records that the ownership of a parcel
of property was transferred from one party to another. A copy of a deed is recorded
in the county or town the land is located, even though the sale of the plot may
have taken place somewhere else. Family history traced by the certificate then acts
as the title to property in the possession of the buyer. There are several types
of deeds, such as Warranty, Trust, or Quit Claim Deeds, all of which may be used
to transfer or relinquish a claim to property.
Grantor... the party selling or relinquishing land.
Grantee... the party buying or being granted land.
Grantor/Grantee Index...the index to private land exchanges. In some counties
it may be called the Direct (Grantor) Index and the Indirect (Grantee) Index. Or,
it may be called the Index to Real Estate Conveyances. This index can be found in
all US counties kept by the county recorder or register of deeds.
Property was surveyed and divided into sections from the point of the base (which
runs east and west) and meridian (running north and south). A survey will sometimes
tell you a lot more than just about the physical description of the plot. The surveyor
might include additional details about the neighbors and your relatives. A land
description will have the following information:
Township – Is identified by its relationship to a base line and a
principal meridian. For example, “township 5 South, Range 11 West, 5th Principal
Meridian” identifies a township that is 5 tiers south from the base line of
the 5th Principal Meridian.
Range –Is used in conjunction with the township data field identifies
a row or tier of townships lying east or west of the principal meridian and numbered
successively to the east or west from the principal meridian. In the above example,
the number 12 represents the Range Number that is used to identify the township
that is 12 tiers to the west of the principal meridian.
Section – This number identifies a tract of land, usually 1 mile
square, within a township. Most townships contain 36 sections. Standard sections
contain 640 acres. A section number identifies each section within a township. A
half section contains 320 acres. A quarter section contains 160 acres. Half a quarter
contains 80 acres. A quarter of a quarter contains 40 acres.
Aliquot Parts - were used to represent the exact subdivision of the section
of land. Halves of a Section (or subdivision thereof) are represented as N, S, E,
and W (such as "the north half of section 5"). Quarters of a Section (or subdivision
thereof) are represented as NW, SW, NE, and SE (such as "the northwest quarter of
section 5"). Sometimes, several Aliquot Parts are required to accurately describe
a parcel of land. For example, "ESW" denotes the east half of the southwest quarter
containing 80 acres and "SWNENE" denotes the southwest quarter of the northeast
quarter of the northeast quarter containing 10 acres.
Tips for Finding Deeds
To discover your family genealogy, you need to know the county to look in. If
you have a time frame and approximate county, go to the county formations map to look at the surrounding
counties to narrow down your search. The transformation of county boundaries progressed
slowly over time. In some cases there was a lapse of a few years between the creation
date and the organization date of counties. Knowing when a county was formed or
changed, can make a difference in finding the right family genealogy information
or none at all.
If you are successful with finding a deed, check the neighbors deeds, they could
be related or offer further clues. You might use a map to find the closest cemetery
to see if you have relatives buried in the county they were living in. Other county
documents like taxation lists or wills might help you with tracing your family genealogy.
Where to Trace Deeds
Look through the Indexes, to get deed book and page information. The indexes usually
span several decades, making it easy to locate possible family history.
Research at the courthouse. You can try to locate a local genealogical
society to see if someone would do the genealogy research for you.
Research by mail. A county’s register of deed records may look in
a deed index for you if your request is concise. Ask for someone to check the Grantor/Grantee
Index for evidence of your ancestor’s name during a period of about twenty
years should help with tracing your family genealogy. The index will indicate the
book and page number for a deed transcript. You can then ask for copies of the deeds
Research by microfilm. Go online and look up the Library Catalog through
Family Search to see what they have on microfilm for deed
and property taxes. Note the film information and film number, and then visit your
local Family History Center to order the correct film and start your genealogy search.
Research the BLM records.Bureau of Land Management has
many online records for tracing family genealogy Information on land patents and
land surveys for Public Land States
Research the local historical society. The local historical society that
is in the county your ancestor lived in might be able to help locate old maps or