16 May 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Finding All Our Grandmothers, Part 3

Because of their complexity and the rarity with which they have been digitized, land records compete only with court records for the title of most underutilized resource in genealogy.  In their favor, land records are nearly always indexed - the need to track and prove ownership of land is one of the oldest reasons for record-keeping - though I suspect that taxation is an even older motive. And while very few of them have been digitized, most surviving land records have been microfilmed.

Yeah, I know - and part of me fully agrees - that peering into a reader as microfilm scrolls across the screen is just oh so yesterday.  But prospectors have always had to wash their way through a whole lot of dirt to find their nuggets.  And if you are one of the lucky ones, you really could get the opportunity to change Mary Ann LNU into Mary Ann Maiden-Name. 

Consider this example from Alachua County, Florida Deed Book A:45 (I have a lovely image, but it turned out to be unreadable at any size that would fit here):

"This indenture made this 16th day of June, eighteen hundred and forty nine, between James H. Smith of the county and state aforesaid, of the fist part and William Dell of the County of Alachua aforesaid, of the other part. Witnesseth, that whereas a marriage has here-to-fore been had and solemnized between Mary, formerly Mary Thomas, now Mary Smith and the party of the first part, James H. Smith and the said Mary hath begotten the following named children, viz:  William F., Bryan, Fanny, James, Hampton, Milton, Florida, America, and Curling Smith...."

I will admit that this was a bit of an odd indenture - Mr. Smith appears to have been going on a long journey. This indenture was putting his major assets into the hands of Mr. Dell in a kind of trust arrangement whereby the wife and children would be sufficiently kept by the income from the assets and Dell would get the profits beyond that. 

The results, though, are not so unique. I have on several occasions found all of a man's heirs listed in a deed when the man died intestate and the land portion of his estate was being placed for sale.

Yep, until FamilySearch gets all of its county records online, it will usually require using older technology - and it may sometimes be a little tedious. But for me, the "Eureka!" moments are worth it. 
Good Hunting!

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