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Genealogy Gazette

 
Volume 7, Number 5
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
March 11, 2015
 
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Publisher's Notes
In this article we discuss land records. Land records can be difficult to find if you don't know the history of the area and where the records are located. However, land records are very valuable in knowing the residence of your ancestor and finding more about them.
 
Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press
 
 
LAND RECORDS
The land records of an area are very important to establish residence of our ancestors. Even if some of the notations are a little obscure in the land records, they are important. I have run across the term “The Irish Settlement” in a number of resources for southwest Virginia. My assumption was this was Dublin, Virginia which seemed to be in the area where I was working. I have finally found the correct location and it is called Trigg, Virginia today. It took a while to find the right answer, but it solved several problems. I first ran into this term in a diary of a Methodist minister traveling in this area. I have also encountered it in the new book “Giles County, Virginia Register of Births” where a number of the children were born in “The Irish Settlement”.
 
The first mistake we often make is to just look in the county of interest for the land records. In the older states and commonwealths, their land records covered vast territories and they all made grants in these areas. Let’s look at Virginia as an example. When the first county west of the mountains was formed as Augusta County in 1738 it covered the territory from the Shenandoah Valley with Staunton as the county seat to the Mississippi River and north to the Canadian border and then back to the valley. In this territory in present day are parts of eight states. These are Kentucky, West Virginia, parts of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan as well as the western portion of Virginia and a small part of Tennessee. Most researchers in Kentucky know the connection to Virginia as they are still a Commonwealth and not a state, but in Wisconsin?
 
Many of the land transcriptions I have made for Fincastle County, Virginia include grants along the Ohio River, especially near the Falls of the Ohio. Few would ever think to look there for their records as Fincastle County only lasted for four years. These four years were a crucial time for the westward movement for people in Virginia. The land grants given here were for service in the American Revolution and earlier wars. Some of the grants were for five thousand acres and more. However, many of them were never proven due to the lack of surveyors to establish the boundaries and file the claims. These records are found in the Virginia records and not always held in the counties. I must add that many of the later grants to this territory were located in Montgomery County, Virginia which took over a large portion of the Fincastle territory as also Washington County, Virginia.
 
In Tennessee, you will find many of the early deeds for land registered in Staunton, Virginia since Virginia claimed the area “north of the Holston River” as theirs. This included some of Sullivan and parts of Hawkins Counties. Would you think to look in Staunton, Virginia for records of a Tennessee land?
 
To complicate the matter even more, there are a number of “black holes” in genealogical research. This is my technical term for them. These occur where the state lines were not established as early as settlers moved into the area. For one example, the northeast corner of Tennessee, the southwestern part of Virginia and the northwestern part of North Carolina came together in the mountains. Peter Jefferson, father of Thomas, was the surveyor for the line between Virginia and North Carolina. He proceeded as far west as White Top Mountain in present day Tennessee and said that no one would ever move farther west than that. This left almost one hundred miles just to get to the end of Virginia on current maps and created a “never-never” land in this area.
 
To show how the problem was complicated, take Joshua Anderson of Castle’s Woods in present day Russell County, Virginia. He had commissions from three different governors each who thought he was in their state. Patrick Henry of Virginia, Spraight of North Carolina and Sevier of Tennessee all assumed he belonged in their state. For one he was a commissioner, for another a sheriff and the latter a tax commissioner. Poor old Joshua just acted as he saw fit in all cases and pretty much was totally independent of all three. Land records are found in all three states mentioned above for much the same area.
 
When Tennessee was cut off from North Carolina, the land offices were closed in the mid-1780s and were not reopened in Tennessee until much later in the 1800s. As a result they had to resurvey all lands in the state to establish land ownership for those now living in Tennessee. Various land districts were established to accomplish this feat.
 
You may need to search far and wide to find the very early land records, but I guarantee that the time and effort will be worth the energy spent in the search to establish residence of our ancestors.
 
On top of the county records, there are state records and also Federal records pretty much for many of the lands in the eastern portion of the country. When the Federal Government granted lands to those veterans of the American Revolution, the territories were taken from land thought to be unoccupied at the time. In Tennessee, Warren County has hundreds of these grants and then in West Tennessee in counties like Lincoln, you will find many as well.
 
Happy Hunting!
 
 
 

 

 
Land Records
 
 

Tennessee: 

Fourth Survey District of Tennessee
 
Fifth Survey District of Tennessee - Volume A
 
Fifth Survey District of Tennessee - Volume C
 
Hiwassee Land District
 
Bledsoe County, TN Deed Book A
 
Bledsoe County, TN Deed Book B
 
Bledsoe County, TN Deed Book C
 
Ocoee Land District Maps
 
 

Texas: 

Bastrop County, TX Land Titles
 
Bell County, TX Land Titles
 
 

Virginia: 

Land Grants in Fincastle County, VA
 
Montgomery County, VA Plott Book A and B
 
Montgomery County, VA Plott Book C
 

 

 


If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.