by Lisa South, Certified Genealogist
In Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O'Hara's father says, "Land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts." Owning and working the land was very important to most of your ancestors. This makes land records a very valuable source of information for your family tree, but they are often overlooked by the novice genealogist.
It is always important to try and locate exactly where your ancestors lived in a certain county. Many questions can be answered with this information: Were they close to the county border? What churches did they live close to? What would have been the closest cemetery? What are the possible routes of migration? Who were their neighbors (this can often give clues to former residence or possible relationships)?
Some land records will help establish the movement pattern of an ancestor, for example the record may state, "Madison Almon, lately of Coosa, County".
Some list relationships and, unlike most other records, the older the land record is the more details they seem to have.
There are three major types of land transactions:
British, Colonial or Federal government to Individual: a) British Crown grants land to colonists - 1606-1732 b) Colonies transfer land to individuals 1607-1776 c) Public domain - this includes military county, homestead, private land claim entries etc.
=> Start your search for these records at the National Archives
State to Individual: a) States that did not cede land to the federal government b) Thirteen original states, Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia
=> Start your search for these records at the state level.
Individual to Individual: a) Most kept at county courthouses b) Both grantee (buyer) and grantor (seller) indexes are usually available c) Both should be evaluated carefully before going to the actual deeds
=> Extract or copy the information from the deeds
A large number of land records are available on the internet and at the Family History Libraries. Once you have found your ancestor's land record(s), you can mark a map showing their property and find it's relationship to other towns, counties, churches etc.
As you learn more about the land your ancestors lived, worked and died on you will understand Gerald O'Hara's statement to Scarlett - "It will come to you, this love of the land."
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