Thursday, March 8, 2012

Collection Highlight : Land Records Date Back to Earliest History - Part 2

In part 1 we discussed the importance of incorporating ancestral land history into your family history research plan.  Unlike the more commonly used records such as vitals and census, there aren't a lot of land records available for research on the internet which leaves us seeking alternatives.

The goal of the Local History Collection of the Van Buren District Library is to amass family and local history resources for the Southwest Michigan region, allowing researchers to access materials in one place for "one-stop shopping," if you will.  Items concerning land holdings is a strong part of that focus in the following categories:
  1. Plat books & atlases (see Local History Collection inventory)
  2. County deeds & mortgages
  3. Tract Books, a.k.a. land patents
  4. Maps
  5. Tax & Assessment Rolls
  6. Abstracts of Title
  7. Centennial & sesquicentennial farms
The Van Buren County land records on microfilm collection was rounded out this week with the acquisition of the last of the 54 reels of  deeds & indexes, 1836-1887.  These films, as well as county & local tax records, mortgages, and select real estate listings, represent all that are currently available on microfilm.  Similar holdings are available for Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties, with more being added regularly.

Abstracts of Title are discontinued documents that give the complete history of a particular parcel of property from its first purchase from the government.  These abstracts may span as far as 150 years.  A note should be made here that these wonderful land histories are disappearing in the face of the computer age.  Abstract offices usually will request that they be turned in to them for destruction, but that isn't required by law.  Many people have opted to keep the abstracts even if they no longer own the property, simply for their historic value.  The Local History department has acquired some of these, created indexes to them, and added them to the manuscript collection for permanent retention.  If you have an abstract of title representing a Southwest Michigan land parcel, consider making a donation of it for the collection.

Learning how to effectively research land-related records takes more time and attention to detail, but is well worth the effort.  To familiarize yourself with the types & locations of them, consult Land & Property Research in the United States, by E. Wade Hone.  The author also created a one-hour multimedia seminar on CD entitled Land Records...So What : I Just Want to Know Who the Father Was!  We used this as a program for our local genealogical group and it was very well received. 

Simply entering the search terms "land records" and "genealogy" into Google or Mocavo will steer you toward countless online instructional aids such as conference syllabi, handouts, and even some things on YouTube.   A few added terms such as a county and or a state may lead you to more in-depth information or indexes.

And, land records is another type of resource that you may find at all levels of government, i.e., local, county, state & federal, something to keep in mind in your goal to "leave no stone unturned."

For more information regarding the Southwest Michigan land-related records housed at the Van Buren District Library, contact us.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown man
Photographer - Northup, Bangor
M0209

Can you identify the man in this cabinet card?  Are you familiar with the photographer?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.