For many families, the solution to
genealogical mysteries lies in a thorough study of land records. According to
William Dollarhide in his article “Retracing the Trails of Your Ancestors
Using Deed Records” published in the Genealogy
Bulletin (Issue No. 25, Jan-Feb 1995), land records serve as a county-wide
surname index to virtually every land owner in America since the early
1600s. Dollarhide goes on to state that since census records started in 1790, we
have in the United States almost 200 years more information in land records.
Besides that, we have a 90% chance of locating your ancestor in land records
because nine out of ten families owned land before 1850. In England, land
records go back to, for example, the “Domesday Books” which are property tax
lists gathered by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Some
Scandinavian land records go back as far as 950 A.D.
records are likely to be accurate and the record type most often recorded. No
one wants to risk losing their land because of a faulty deed. Even if the
courthouse in your area burned, you may find owners of land bringing in their
deeds to be re-recorded so that a proper chain of title will exist.
clues to names of wives and relatives, prior residences, and military service
abound in land records. They can be used to separate men with the same name.
Pinpointing the residence of your ancestor may help you find likely cemeteries,
churches, schools, courthouses, etc. If your ancestor was an immigrant, he or
she would have to be a naturalized citizen before they could own land in the
United States. Land Entry Case Files held by the National Archives often have
information on immigration and naturalization that can not be found any place
else. This is a rich and rewarding file to request.
this country, land may be obtained from a governmental authority, or transferred
via a deed from person to person. Each type requires different research
technique. Transferring ownership from a government to an individual creates
many kinds of records. Among them are warrants, surveys, entries, patents, tract
books, military bounty land requests, and homesteads. At the individual level,
there are deeds and tax records associated with property.
Me! Check the Bureau of Land Management for
purchases my ancestor made from the government.
Me! Compile a list of deeds from
grantee/grantor indexes for my ancestor.
Me! Obtain copies of land records for my
Me! Transcribe or abstract this land
Me! Find the definition of a term used in a
Me! Find the address for a county recorder
Me! Determine which county holds the land
records for a particular time.
Me! Locate a town or landmark mentioned in
a land record.
To ask these or
similar questions, click on Help Me!, fill
out the form that comes up, and submit your questions.