Locating Your Roots : Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records, by Patricia Law Hatcher. Land records research is rather complex compared to other types of records, a source that many historians often overlook or avoid. Betterway Books, the publisher of this and several other family history titles, uses a format that is appealing...a non-academic, non-textbook style that allows you to breeze through and yet the content is very useful.
Rather than write a review of this book, I thought it would be more helpful if I listed some things that I learned or reinforced that may be of use to others:
- Tip - Identify wives' given names through the sale of property [Although the wife did not need to be identified on the purchase of property, the dower right laws dictated that she must be identified on the sale, accompanied by a Release of Dower rights that she signed with no coercion from her husband - this might be the only way to determine the first name of "Mrs. John Smith."]
- Creating a timeline is an effective brick wall research tool
- If your ancestor was a frequent purchaser/seller of property, create a land chart [described on page 16] to assist in creating a checklist of all documents relating to that property
- List of ways that land can be acquired or disposed of [page 17]; have you ever heard of Silent Inheritance, for example?
- Five different ways to record information from a land record index, page 66 [I actually created a #6, inspired by this list]
- King Philip's War (1675-1676) was the first American campaign whereby land was used to reward military service, a practice that ended in 1855, before the Civil War
- Michigan was once a bounty land state, but soon was withdrawn as the land was considered undesirable
- The Ordinance of 1785 defined the federal land system, including that four of 16 townships in a section were to be reserved for the federal government and that Section 16 was reserved for schools
- Only 40 percent of homestead applicants actually completed the process [This might explain why parts of your family were found in the west for a few years and then came back to Michigan]
- 362 Land Offices were created [see pps. 159-183 for lists by state]
- The recording of a deed, if recorded at all, could have been done decades after the fact
- In the Public Land States [including Michigan], tax lists are usually organized by township & range, therefore you can learn where your ancestor and his neighbors resided, even if they didn't own land
- In addition to documents recording the purchase, sale or mortgage of property, seek out those records of ownership such as tax records and plat maps
- For an in-depth study of the Public Land system read The Public Lands : Studies in the History of the Public Domain, by Vernon Carstensen [VBDL doesn't have this title yet, but will be seeking it out]
- Don't discount the importance of reading state-specific books and articles relating to land records, to best learn what is available and how to access them
- "Calls" is a general term for metes-and-bounds descriptions in a deed or survey [page 142 has a nice example of a "calls" abstraction form]
Locating Your Roots can be checked out from the Local History Collection with a valid VBDL card, or request a copy by inter-library loan through your local library. This was definitely a useful learning experience for me. Maybe later this winter I'll get brave enough to read about naturalization records...
Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown family group
Photographer - H. E. Bradley, Buchanan
Can you identify the family members in this carte-de-visite? Do you have knowledge of the photographer? Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog. Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.