Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 3, Number 14 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 August 18, 2011
In this article we discuss Land Records. Land Records can be difficult to use since districts, county lines, state lines, etc have changed over time. Many times you will have to rely on deeds, census, cemetery records and family records to help interpret the land records. Hopefully, you will be able to find another missing piece in your family history puzzle.
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James L. Douthat
Sometimes in our genealogical research, we come to the end of our rope. Turning to the land records of an area seems our last resort. To use the land records of a particular area can be very tricky since most areas have been derived from other areas that may not even be close. If you are on the eastern seaboard, the records will be somewhat simpler, but as you move inland, these records can become more confusing.
Recently I was researching in one of the oldest counties in the state dating back to the mid-1780s. The clerk in the court house informed me that their records only go back in history to 1950. I knew that was not so as I am standing in the vault with the older deed books and I can see books on the shelves going back to the beginning of 1800. I did need a newer deed from 1905. We found the deed in question and all that it said was that it was in the “9th district” of the county along “Brush Creek”. The assessor of property said he lived in the 9th district and Brush Creek ran through the area. Instead of a farm, the land is now covered by subdivisions and a golf course. Going to the major library in the county, there were no maps of the county going back that far. Going to another archives of the area, again no maps prior to 1915.
The deeds did give me a clue with those who adjoined the farm and to whom it was sold. This latter was little help as it sold to a land speculator with more than 100 deeds on file for him. The neighbors did help when I went to the 1900 census of the area. I found them all in a cluster and most are buried in one cemetery with the person in question. Now here is the problem. The District 9 today is on the southern border of the county, but all of these neighbors lived in the northern section of the county. Brush Creek runs almost all the way across the county and through the major town. I found Brush Creek all over the Sanborn Fire Map, so it was no help. In all likelihood, the Districts of the county were moved from time to time. The sad thing about this is that there is no record in the courthouse, the major library or the archives of the area of how and when these changes took place. This is what makes using land records difficult.
In this situation, I knew my family had property there when Mamma died and PawPaw sold out and went to Arkansas to be with his four sons. Mamma’s grave was the key to all of the problem. I really doubt that she was buried miles from her home in “District 9" if that District was where it is today, but it makes sense that she was buried closer to home with her neighbors in the “old District 9" if it existed.
When researching land records, you can start with the county in question and do a deed search there. Keep in mind that there are buyers and there are sellers of land. You have to look at both the “grantee and grantor” files of the county for the person in question. Your ancestor may have bought the land, but you find no record of it being sold. Most likely, it was passed on to one or more of their children without a formal sale. If you are looking for an old record, one at least prior to 1950, you may have to go to the area designation prior to the formation of each county. Many counties have been derived from older counties. You can look at Augusta County, Virginia for an example. When established, Augusta County, Virginia covered the lands between the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Mississippi River and up to the Canadian border. It covered more than seven states in 1738/9. The southern border was the latitude of the border between Virginia and North Carolina, except when it came to the border with Tennessee, which did not exist at the time. Virginia included all the lands on the north side of the Holston River, which runs south to Knoxville, Tennessee today. In reality Virginia claimed parts of Sullivan, Washington, Johnson and Hawkins Counties in Tennessee by the mid-1700s. The Deed Book 1 of Fincastle County, Virginia includes deeds for land in Sullivan County, Tennessee in particular. Many deeds along the northern border of Tennessee were registered in Kentucky courthouses.
As I have said many times, know your history of the area in question. Have a clear idea of the dates, times and places you are researching. Land records are not a source of last results, but instead a way to know how, when, and where a family might have moved in their history.
Good luck with your search!
Land Grants in Fincastle County, Virginia 1772-1776
70 Pages, Full Name Index, VA-0713, $15.00
Fincastle County, in western Virginia, was in existence for only four years and at the time of the creation it contained all of the lands west of the Shenandoah Valley to the Mississippi River and contained all of the States of West Virginia and Kentucky and part of the southwestern portion of Virginia and at the same time a portion of upper east Tennessee. The information is found in the court house in Christiansburg, Montgomery County, VA today in Plott Book A. The contents are primarily land grants through the Loyal Company who were given 800,000 acres west of the Shenandoah Valley. In addition there are Royal land grants given for service in the French and Indian Wars. The county seat of Fincastle Co. was Lead Mines. These are the first granting of the land in this area of the state for the most part.
1830 Private Land Claims in Florida
178 Pages, Full Name Index, FL-0001, $30.00
Report No. 25 to the 21st Congress of the United States. This report from the Secretary of the the time of the claim. A real gold mine for those earliest settlers along the east Florida coast.
Fannin County, Texas Land Titles 1831-1878
54 Pages, Full Name Index, FI-0027, $16.50
Land records are of great importance in all areas of the country. Texas is no exception. These land records give the abstract number, original grantee, certificate number, patentee, quantity, class, date of patent, patent number, volume, survey number and old abstract number. Each item, if known, is given and this helps to establish ownership of a certain tract of land, even on the frontier of Texas in their early days.
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