Genealogy Friday: 9 Gems that Can be Found in Land Records

posted in: Land Records | 0

Land Records




Along with probate records,  have also used land records to track my ancestors.  At times I have been frustrated by the lack of a will or probate record on my ancestor, but can find a land record or deed for my ancestor.

So what do land records tell me?


  1. Location—the record will tell where the ancestor lived; often in earlier records it may say something such as on Durbin Creek, on Saluda River, etc.
    Early Land Tract Records
    Early Land Tract Records
  2. Family Relations—often a father will deed land over to a son, especially if a son marries or as the father grows older {but there are often many other reasons other than these two}.  Research the other party in this transaction to determine if there is a relationship.   This is often a great way to discover the married name for a daughter.
  3. Dates of arrival or departure—did your ancestor live in the area for a short amount of time, arrive from the mother country or decide to journey farther west?  Land records can suggest dates of arrival or departure depending on when land was bought and/or sold.
  4. Buyer or seller—there are two books for land records.  One is the grantor {seller} and the other is the grantee {buyer}.  I have learned to make sure that I check both of these.
  5. Measurements—lands records often have references of metes {measurement of boundaries}, direction, and distance.  Sometimes physical objects such as trees, creeks, and adjacent tracks of land are mentioned.
  6. Price—the amount paid for the land is listed.  I have seen land paid for in both American dollars and the British pound in 18th Century and early 19th century land records.  Also, if a large amount of land was sold for a few dollars or is listed as a “gift” you can bet this is most likely a child or family member.  This is a great reference to tracing children.
  7. Plat Maps—with the information from a deed or land record you can check plat maps for the exact location of where your ancestor lived.
  8. Dower rights—this originated in the English law system but are in many of the estate records from the American colonies and through to the early 19th century.  A dower right means the husband was unable to sale land without his wife’s consent.  You may find a release of a Dower Right.
  9. Bounty land records were given to veterans of the American Revolution and War of 1812.  These papers offer great information including place of enlistment, ancestor’s birth place, length of service, dates of marriages and deaths, pages from family Bible’s, etc.   There are often many indexes and books for these land records that can be found in local libraries, as well as in the land records.

Land records can be found in the Clerk of Court in the county where the ancestor lived.


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