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# Thursday, June 19, 2008
Plot Ancestors' Lives With Online Mapping Tools
Posted by Diane

Q. I heard about a site that can help me find places in Chicago where my ancestors lived. What is it and how does it work?

A. You’re thinking about ChicagoAncestors.org, an interactive online mapping tool, created by the Windy City’s Newberry Library.

Type in an address, and you’ll get a map showing the location, along with nearby churches, sites of crimes and more. Roll over the map markers for each place to see data such as addresses, dates, related library resources or links to online images. (The data come from other history-related projects, such as Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930 and the Historic American Buildings Survey.)

There’s also a keyword search box, so you could type in St. Thomas, for example, to see locations of churches with that name. Registered ChicagoAncestors.org users can customize maps by adding their own map points, and comment on existing map points. Check the Tools section for documents that help you convert addresses predating the sweeping 1909 street renumbering.

Descendants of Bostonians can take advantage of a similar tool. Tufts University’s Boston Streets features Cowpaths, a map-based tool named for the cute but false story that Boston streets meander because they trace old bovine trails.

You can use it to plot information from the Boston Streets' databases of street scene photos, city directories and historical atlases. Users can either search those databases first and then click to plot matching places in Cowpaths, or start in Cowpaths by assigning different search criteria to up to four map layers. Use the illustrated Cowpaths primer for more-detailed instructions.
   
Those whose families didn’t live in Chicago or Boston can use good old Google to create a map showing a neighborhood over time, and where relatives lived. Start by going to Google maps and clicking Sign In, then creating a profile (if you don’t already have a Google account). You’ll be able to import images and add text and markers. You also can let others view and/or edit your maps.

A FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum member used features in Google Maps to find a street-image view of her grandparents'  former home. You can see then-and-now shots in her post.


land records | Web tips
Thursday, June 19, 2008 3:04:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Land Records: What Are Metes and Bounds?
Posted by Diane

Q. In my land-records research, I’ve come across the term “metes and bounds.” What does it mean?

A. Metes and bounds is an old method of surveying territory for settlement, used in the original 13 Colonies. “The indiscriminate survey system, or metes and bounds, dates to England,” says Ohio genealogical speaker and writer Jana Sloan Broglin. “This system used objects for marking property lines, such as trees, rocks, or bends in streams and rivers.” Errors were common: Trees fell, rocks looked alike, river bends moved, compass directions were off. Also, land plots could end up with odd shapes.

The United States passed the Land Ordinance of 1785 to rectify this situation and establish a system for political organization of the mostly unmapped western lands won in the Revolutionary War. The more-reliable rectangular survey system divided land into ranges, 24x24-mile tracts, 6-square-mile townships and square-mile sections, all based on a north-south meridian and east-west baseline.

Each section could be subdivided for sale. Within each township, section 16 was set aside for school revenue.

A rectangular survey land description, or aliquot parts, for your ancestor’s plot might be “NE ¼ NW ¼” or the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of a section. The description also would include a section number and the township’s position in relation to the range line and baseline.

Broglin’s home state was the first surveyed under the new system. “Ohio was surveyed in several major subdivisions, including the Congress lands, US Military District, Connecticut Western Reserve, Virginia Military District, French Grants, Ohio Company First and Second Purchases, Donation Tracts and Refugee Tracts,” she says. Early surveyors created 5-square-mile townships rather than the later 6-mile standard. (Get help with Ohio research in Broglin's July 2008 Family Tree Magazine Ohio State Reserch Guide.)

Why is all this important for genealogists? If your ancestor purchased land from the government in a public-land state, you know to look for General Land Office (GLO) records of the transaction.

Start by searching the Bureau of Land Management’s GLO database of land patents. Land entry case files are at the National Archives and Records Administration, which has a guide on its Web site.

If your ancestor bought land from a private party (not the federal government), or lived in a state-land state (the 13 former Colonies, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Texas and Hawaii), look for land records in county courthouses and at state archives.


land records
Tuesday, February 19, 2008 2:16:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 26, 2007
This Land is Whose Land?
Posted by Allison

Q One of my coworkers told me she’d bought a farm and turned it into a winery, but was having trouble tracing how ownership has changed hands over the years. Any advice?

A In most counties, you can research recent land transfers on the county auditor's or property assessor's Web site. Before that, research deeds, which record land sales between individuals.

“You’ll find deeds in county courthouses, except in New England states, when they’re typically in town halls,” writes Sharon DeBartolo Carmack in her August 2006 Family Tree Magazine article on land records. “Clerks generally recorded copies in huge ledger books, including an index with each volume.”

Each book usually has two types of indexes: grantors (sellers) and grantees (purchasers). You’re working back from the most recent known owner, so you’ll probably want to consult grantee indexes.

The Salt Lake City-based Family History Library (FHL) has microfilmed many counties’ deed records. To see if that includes the records you need, run a place search of its online catalog for the county, then look for a “land and property” heading. You can borrow FHL microfilm through your local Family History Center. If only the index is filmed, use the volume and page number given and request the original deed from the courthouse.

Once you get back to early settlement in the area, you’ll look for an original land purchase from a Colonial proprietor (in a state-land state) or the US government (in a public-land state).

In a state-land state, these records are with the state archives or historical society. In public-land states, you’d look for land patents and related records at the National Archives and Records Administration (read the archives’ guide). You can search most public-land sales at the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Web site.

Read county histories, too, for information on early settlers—look for them at the local library and historical society, or search online bookstores such as Amazon.com.


land records
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 6:36:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]