Land Records

Federal Surveys and Land Records – Using the General Land Office Site

Editor’s Note: In a recently revived two-part post on Homesteading by the late Carolyn Barkley, she discusses the importance of land records to genealogical research. In Part II of those posts there is brief mention of the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM website has a huge amount of original source information. Ms. Barkley wrote another post on utilizing the BLM site as an information goldmine. We have updated and edited her post as the search functions she describes have changed. However, the information is still incredibly relevant and meaty, so we are presenting it in two parts. Part I gave an introduction to the types of records you can find in the BLM’s General Land Office and an example of Federal Land Patents, one type of those records. Part II, below, continues the discussion with the two other types of records that are most useful for genealogical research, Federal Survey Plats and Field Notes and Federal Land Status Records. It is recommended that you read Parts I and II in respective order. 

Federal Survey Plats and Field Notes – Surveys

Federal Survey Plats and Field Note records, listed on the side navigation bar as Surveys, represent the “official survey documentation used when land title was transferred (via a land patent) from the Federal government to individuals. For each survey, the plat illustrates the acreage used in the legal description of a tract of public land. Since the time of this original post, the survey search has been simplified and become much easier to use. It used to require that you have a legal land description. While it may be helpful to know this information, you can now start by just selecting a state and entering as much as you know for the following fields: county, meridian, and surveyor. You don’t have to fill in everything, and the search will pull records that match the fields you have completed. Note that you can utilize the information from a patent you found through the federal land patent search (described in Part I) to refine your search.

While you will probably want to search across “all types of surveys,” you may also choose a specific type of survey such as small holding claims, mineral surveys, homestead entry surveys, township surveys, etc. A successful search will allow you to view plat details, an image of the actual plat(s), and the applicable field notes (if available). If field notes are available for your survey, they may include names of settlers living in the area surveyed as well as descriptions of land details found at the time of the survey. Field note reports may be downloaded.

When I searched for surveys for the David Barkley and the James B. Yellowly patents, I was able to locate plat images for original surveys and for subsequent surveys conducted at later dates. A plat image was not available for the Charles Barclay patent.

I also looked for all surveys available for Virginia and from the resulting list, I looked at two dependent resurveys which are defined as “the retracement and reestablishment of the lines of the original survey to their true original positions according to the best available evidence to the positions of the original corners.” One survey dealt with a wetlands boundary at the Malvern Hill Unit of the Richmond National Battlefield Park in Henrico County; the second with a Dulles International Airport access road bordering the Wolf Trap Farm Park in Fairfax County.

Using the patent search and the survey search in combination with one another will provide you with the opportunity to find a specific patent document as well as the survey information and plats pertaining to the piece of property described in the patent.

Federal Land Status Records

Master title plats for Colorado, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota are recent additions to the BLM site. These plats are large scale “graphic illustrations of current Federal ownership, agency jurisdiction and rights reserved to the Federal government on private land within a township.” These files are quite large and unless you have a very specific research need, will be of less interest than the patent and survey search portions of the site.

A fourth documents search area has been added since this post appeared several years ago. The Control Document Index (CDI) cards section contains:

documents that affect or have affected the status of public lands, including those documents that control, limit, or restrict the availability of right or title to, or use of public lands. These documents include:

  • United States patents and deeds which convey title to public lands from the United States
  • Other conveyance documents such as deeds which convey title to public lands to the United States, including warranty deeds, quit claim deeds, acquired easements, and condemnation judgments
  • Recordable Disclaimers
  • State Selections
  • Indemnity Lists
  • Act of Congress or Public Law that concerns specific interest in public lands
  • Executive Orders
  • Presidential Proclamations
  • Public Land Orders
  • General Land Office, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, or other Bureau within the Department of the Interior Order
  • Notices (such as Federal Register Notices) that have a segregative (restrictive) affect on public lands.

A new effort is underway to scan the CDI microfilm to electronic images and whenever possible to link the images to document data extracted from BLM’s LR2000 database. The CDI document images and data will appear on [the BLM GLO]  website on a state-by-state basis as individual states’ microfilm is scanned and linked.

You may also wish to refer to Land and Property Research in the United States by E. Wade Hone (Ancestry 1997) and Dividing the Land: Early American Beginnings of Our Private Property Mosaic by Edward T. Price (University of Chicago, 1995). In addition, Clifford Neal Smith’s four-volume Federal Land Series contains a “calendar of archival materials on the land patents issued by the United States Government, with subject, tract, and name indexes.”

I highly recommend the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office Records website as a favorite for your browser.  Be sure to check out the “Resource Links” section that provides links to individual state genweb projects, Bureau of Land Management state offices, state libraries and archives, historical societies, and state land offices. Users are invited to submit sites for various categories including the thirteen original colonies and the District of Columbia.

Image credit: Table lands, northeast from the Colorado Divide. Colorado. William Henry Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Massachusetts Genealogy, "Endicott cutting the cross out of the English flag", illustration depicting an event that occurred in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.

Genealogy at a Glance: Massachusetts Genealogy

Like Virginia, many who trace their family history in the United States will at one time or another find Massachusetts genealogy tied into their research.

Here on this blog we have discussed several types of specific research related to Massachusetts genealogy, from Resources to Mayflower Research to Lighthouse and Life-Saving Service Records. Massachusetts genealogy even comes into play when researching your saintly ancestors, as we discussed in our post, Noble Ancestry Leads to the Saint in Your Family.

But what if you’re just getting started, or you aren’t sure yet how to tackle the Massachusetts ties you are sure you’ll encounter?

Author Denise Larson answers this question with Genealogy at a Glance: Massachusetts Genealogy Research. In this quick and handy research aid Ms. Larson begins with an excellent summary of Massachusetts history from its Puritan and Pilgrim beginnings through the mid-19th century. Next comes a discussion of local records, for, as with other New England states, Massachusetts’ records are organized by town, not by county. The author then identifies the major statewide, regional, and ethnic repositories with genealogical and historical collections. The guide concludes with a listing of the major websites for Massachusetts research as well as the principal published sources for early Massachusetts genealogy.

If you aren’t familiar with Ms. Larson’s work, she is the acclaimed author of Companions of Champlain, which provides a concise historical overview of the founding of Quebec and French-Canadian culture. We have featured her informative and incredibly reader-friendly work on our blog in recent posts including Genealogy Isn’t Just Finding Dead People, and Maine Genealogy Resources Part I and Part II.

Digging into your family history can be a labor of love. Ms. Larson’s contribution of Genealogy at a Glance: Massachusetts Genealogy Research makes tackling your Massachusetts genealogy considerably easier.

Image Credit: “Endicott cutting the cross out of the English flag”, illustration depicting an event that occurred in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634. By Howard Pyle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

historic german newspapers online

Historic German Newspapers Online

When researching your German heritage, utilizing historic german newspapers is just as useful as using an English language counterpart. There can be additional challenges should your research need to be conducted with some German language familiarity (though there are resources to make that easier too! See our post But I can’t speak German! The challenge of German Genealogy for more information), so we like any tools that will make research easier. Author Ernest Thode’s new guide, Historic German Newspapers Online can serve as an invaluable key to a mother lode of information found in German-language papers. As the author explains below:

“Few historic German newspapers have been digitized until the past few years, though most current German newspapers have published electronic editions for more than a decade. As I began collecting information, [on papers with a history of at least 50 years] I was astounded to learn how many German papers are digitally online. They are truly worldwide, from Tanunda, Australia; Morogoro, Tanzania; Zhelezhnodororozhny, Russia; Tsientsin, China; and El Reno, Oklahoma, USA. Mostly they are accessible, put online by national libraries, universities, and museums, even international consortia such as Europeana. Some sites have more than 100 titles, such as Compact Memory and ANNO (hosted by the Austrian National Library), with titles from the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire. I have found 2,000 digitized titles online at numerous public, private, and commercial sites . . . .”

What sorts of genealogical information can you find in these newspapers? To quote the author, “You can sometimes find baptisms and weddings from churches, especially in capital city papers; births, marriages, and deaths from civil registrations; intentions to emigrate, especially in governmental papers; auctions; wanted criminals, police gazettes; general advertisements; trade news in trade journals; lists of church donors; lists of compensation paid to fire and storm victims, in governmental papers; lists of spa visitors (in papers in spa cities); lists of appointments to office, promotions, transfers, retirements, and deaths; estate sales; lists of hotel guests; lists of pupils (and their parents) in annual school reports; and a multitude of everyday notices. There are also unexpected finds pertaining to the USA, such as a list of Waldeck soldiers in North America found in a Waldeck government paper; the engagement in Newark, New Jersey, of a couple from Kesmark, Slovakia; and a description of emigrants headed for Cincinnati in an emigration paper. These are gems you cannot afford to miss. You need to look for the regional paper for your ancestor’s German county seat, the government paper (Bavaria, Baden, Hessen, a Prussian province, etc.), and the daily paper of the closest large city for your ancestor.”

Ernest Thode’s Historic German Newspapers Online indicates newspaper title, place of publication, date range, and website; you’ll be amazed at the range of information available to you online in German-language newspapers. Even better, these newspapers not only contain clues relating to the whereabouts of your forebears but also provide context for the life and times of your ancestors.

Image Credit: By German newspaper, 1834. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. The cartoon reads: “Is it the wagon that is too big or the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe that is too small? German cartoon from 1834 pocking fun at the number of micro states and customs barriers before the adoption of a German custom union (Zoolverein).”

Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Genealogy

Northern Ireland Genealogy Part III – Resources for Research

Editor’s Note: The following post is Part III of our discussion on Northern Ireland genealogy research. Below are resources to help you with your research, including those that assist with genealogical research in Ireland more broadly. Please visit Part I and Part II for additional information. 

Resources for Northern Ireland Genealogy

The following two resources will add to your understanding of Irish records and enhance your research into Northern Ireland families.

  • Brian Mitchell’s The Surnames of North West Ireland provides “concise histories of the major surnames of Gaelic and planter origin.” North West Ireland encompasses the counties of Derry, Donegal and Tyrone. This region is of great importance in tracing Irish ancestral origins as not only was it the last Gaelic stronghold, but it was also the location to which many settlers from England and Scotland came during the “planting” of Ulster in the seventeenth century. A significant number of these settlers later emigrated to the United States and Canada, as well as to Australia. Mitchell’s work includes 324 single-page histories of surnames (including variant spellings) that were either native to North West Ireland or became prominent there as settlers arrived. In content, it is similar to Black’s Surnames of Scotland, and researchers into Scottish families will find many familiar names throughout the book. For example, Graham is a name quite prominent in Scottish history. The Surnames of North West Ireland notes that it is “among the twenty most numerous names in Ulster, and in Counties Down and Fermanagh, it is among the ten most common names.” The Graham entry continues with information about its ultimate derivation from Grantham in Linconlnshire, and various and important personages and historical events associated with the surname. Another entry, for the surname Hamill, notes that this name is most common in Ulster, particularly in Counties Antrim and Armagh, and traces its lineage back to Eogan, son of the fifth century High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages. If you are unsure where your ancestor came from in Ireland, this book may prove useful in highlighting counties in which the surname is most prominent, thus providing some direction for a preliminary search.
  • Defenders of the Plantation of Ulster, 1641-1691, also by Brian Mitchell, helps mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of Ulster. (The Province of Ulster includes the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone in Northern Ireland, and the counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland.) This book includes the names of about 2,500 planters who participated in the defense and security of the Plantation of Ulster during the 1641 rebellion and the William of Orange/James II war of 1688-1691. It includes the“Muster Roll of the Garrison of Londonderry during the Rebellion of 1642-1643” and “Defenders of Ireland during the Williamite War of 1689-1691.”

The first list identifies 905 men in nine companies of foot who defended the walls of Derry. These combatants, who were drawn from the estates throughout County Londonderry and its neighboring counties, provides surname, given name, rank, and foot company. For example, James Nixon, soldier, served in Sir Thomas Staples’ Foot Company; John More was a drummer in John Kilner’s Foot Company. Such information offers an opportunity to continue research in military records when extant.

The second list provides the names of Ulstermen who defended Londonderry against the Jacobite opposition to William of Orange. The list identifies major planter families in the province of Ulster and identifies their connection to the original planters from England, Wales, and Scotland. The roster also denotes an ID number taken from William R. Young’s Fighters of Derry – Their Deeds and Descendants, 1688-1691 (a major source  for Mitchell’s work), surname, first name, residence and remarks. These remarks may contain information about planter origins in England, Wales or Scotland, as well as references to next-of-kin, military campaigns, and emigration. For example, John Blackwood of Bangor, County Down, was the son of John Blackwood; married Ursula, daughter of Robert Hamilton of Killyleagh Castle; and his descendants were the Viscounts of Clandeboye and the Earls and Marquesses of Dufferin and Ava. Rev. Thomas Boyd was the Presbyterian minister of Aghadowey. George Buchanan of Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, was the first of the family in Ireland, settling at Omagh in 1674. He descended from the Buchanans of Carbeth, Scotland. Researchers who use  the Young ID numbers provided for each entry may find more in Fighters of Derry.

Recommended titles for Irish research

Genealogy at a Glance: Irish Genealogy Research by Brian Mitchell (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2010)

Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research by Margaret Dickson Falley, 2 vols. (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1998).

Irish Gravestone Inscriptions: A Guide to Sources in Ulster, edited by William O’Kane & Eoin Kerr (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008).

Irish Records: Sources for Family & Local History by James G. Ryan (Ancestry, 1988).

Land Owners in Ireland 1876 (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1998).

Macmillan Atlas of Irish History by Seán Duffy (Macmillan, 1997)

A Short History of Ulster by Sean McMahon (Mercier Press, 2000).

The Surnames of Derry by Brian Mitchell (Genealogy Centre, Derry, 1992).

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, by John Grenham, 4th ed. (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012).

Image Credit: Crowded Main Street, Strabane, Created by Herbert. F. Cooper (Photographer), Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Flickr.

Census, Soundex

Using Soundex

Editor’s Note: The following article is an excerpt from Emily Croom’s bestselling Unpuzzling Your Past. 4th Edition Expanded, Updated and Revised, an invaluable guide which provides all the tools you need to begin your family research. More information about Ms. Croom’s book can be found at the end of this article.

In the following, Ms. Croom discusses how to utilize the Soundex code for genealogical research, which states have the information for specific census years, as well as issues you may encounter in your research.

The 1880, 1900, and 1920 federal censuses and parts of the 1910 and 1930 censuses are indexed by state using a code based on the sounds in surnames. This indexing system is called Soundex. It is most often available as microfilm of the cards on which basic census information was written . . . . The Soundex is especially useful when you do not know specifically where the family was living in the census year. It will tell you their county and community and where you can find them on the census.

One drawback of the 1880 Soundex is that it includes only households with children age ten and under. If Great-Grandpa’s children were already over age ten by 1880, you cannot find him in the Soundex unless he lived with a family that included young children.

States with 1910 Soundex (or Miracode, a Similar System)

Alabama          Illinois             Mississippi                 Pennsylvania

Arkansas         Kansas           Missouri                     South Carolina

California        Kentucky        North Carolina            Tennessee

Florida             Louisiana         Ohio                            Texas

Georgia            Michigan         Oklahoma                    Virginia

West Virginia                                                                                    Continue reading…