Home Page


Mountain Press Homepage

Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials

New Books



Mountain Press Homepage

Genealogy Gazette

Volume 7, Number 20
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
November 4, 2015
Publisher's Notes
In this article we discuss land records. You can find such great tidbits of information in the land records. Many times we wait to look for the land records and then realize that they could have saved us some effort if we had only researched it up earlier.

As always, we enjoy hearing your comments after each article!

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press

In our genealogical research, the search of land records is an adventure that we undertake only after a lot of other research has been exhausted. In the meantime, we overlook so many points in that research that a day spent with land records would clear up quickly. Often in other records we are misled as to the location of our ancestors. This is especially true when we have a very common name. Even when we have a regional name, it can be misleading as well. Since we tend to research by the name and sometimes the name only, we find that we are easily led in the wrong direction.
Land records are determined by the present condition of the area. I have often used the illustration of Fincastle County, Virginia. If our ancestor was in the area in the mid-1770s then we might assume they are in Virginia, when in reality they could have been in Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana or even into Michigan or Wisconsin. That covers a wide area of the country. A quick search of the Fincastle notes, you find your ancestor on the Falls of the Ohio or Holston River, then you can safely look into Kentucky or Tennessee or some of the western Virginia counties. Fincastle only lasted about four years, but a great deal of the early records of many areas came out of this region. It was created as a time of great expansion of the country.
The next mistake made by many is the misunderstanding of the terms within a land record. The term “patent” was the term used for a tract of land when it was sold the first time. After this many different terms are given. Another of those names misused is “warrant”. Many think of this as a gift. There are a number of different types of warrants issued, but most of them indicate that the tract of land is purchased, either with goods or service. A Military Warrant for example is one granted for service during a particular conflict. The Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and even as late as the Mexican War, the soldiers were paid for service with grants of land. These Military Warrants were often used like money and were sold, traded and even bargained with, so that the receiver might never see the land itself. In some cases, the warrant lands were passed down as an inheritance like any other real estate.
Now that we have discussed some of the difficulties with the land records, let’s look at some of the advantages. If your research name appears in a Deed Book in a courthouse, be sure and get a copy of the official record. You must remember that without a deed, the person does not own the land, and therefore, when a courthouse burns, the first thing the clerk tries to do is to reconstitute the deeds to establish ownership and also legalize taxes, etc. The deeds are one of the most important items in the courthouse records. They are the most carefully kept of all records. In many cases, there are numerous records for one name. Be sure and collect all that you can. It is important to know when your ancestor acquired the land and when they either sold or gave the land away to some relative. You might run into a situation where the father gives his daughters the land, but it is recorded in the name of their husbands. This would have been at a time in history when it was felt that women were not capable of owning property.
To pair the deed records with the tax records will sometimes rule out a “like named person” in the county. By knowing the District of the land, it is helpful to understand where each of those of like name lived. In your further research, you know from a letter written by Grandmaw that they lived on the “South Ridge Creek”. Where in the county is South Ridge Creek? One little tidbit of information sometimes clears up years of research. If you know that one John Smith has land on South Ridge Creek and another was on North Fork River, you know which is your John Smith.
Another side bar on property and land records is the connection system. In the early days, property was exchanged between relatives. You may find that your ancestor received land from Joseph Brown, and in the deed he might say something about his daughter who married John Smith. Now you have the last name of Polly - - - which has baffled you for years.
Also, don’t forget to check on the Survey Records for the “chain carriers”. These were young boys, and sometimes girls, living in the area of the survey engaged by the surveyor to carry the sixteen and half-foot chain to mark distances in the surveyor. After all, these young people had little or no opportunity to early a little cash money. They might earn $0.25 - $0.50 per day and this was very important for them as a source of income. Their presence gives us another name or so to add to our listing of ancestors within a certain area.
The land records give a great deal of information that is not found anywhere else. In one of my books on the Ocoee Land Records, I found many entries labeled “OE”. I finally discovered that this indicated that the person purchasing the land was on an “occupant entry” status. These were Indian lands in southeast Tennessee that were sold following the Removal of the Cherokee. The occupant was white and allowed to stay and purchase their lands officially from the government. Some of the entries were also entered as “mill quarter” meaning that the owner had a mill or the purchaser could have a mill on the property. There are so many things of interest in the land records and I hope you don't wait too long to look into this valuable area for your research.
Happy Hunting!




Land Records



Ocoee Land District Maps

Land Grants in Fincastle County, VA 1772-1776

Fifth Survey District of Tennessee: Grants 1-800 (1807-1812) Volume "A"

Fifth Survey District of Tennessee: Grants 1601-1823 (1816-1823) Volume "C"

Campbell County, TN - Register's Book D 1820-1826

Fannin County, Texas Land Titles 1831-1878

Armstrong County, TX Land Titles: 1831-1877

Atascosa County, TX Land Titles: 1831-1877



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