2018 August – Advanced Land Research

Advanced Land Research: Beyond Deeds

Coordinators: Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA and Richard G. “Rick” Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA

Additional Instructor: Angela Packer McGhie, CG

Held 29 July-3 August, 2018, at Daemen College, Amherst, NY. Registration Information.

Land genealogy is as important as people genealogy for overcoming family history research barriers. This course explores land distribution in the current United States by colonial powers, private land claims, federal land records at both the National Archives and the General Land Office, and local-level county or town deeds. Students will learn about the Public Land Survey System and the metes and bound system. Course content illustrates the use of land records to prove kinship. Use of software and Internet resources for finding land records, mapping, and deed platting is demonstrated.


Overview of Land Division in the United States (Rick Sayre)

An explanation of the overall history, survey, and process of acquisition and distribution of land in the United States, first by foreign governments (British, French, Spanish), and then by individual states and the U.S. government.

State Land States (Pam Sayre)

Identifying “state land” states (the original thirteen colonies, their “children,” and a few other unique states) and understanding the property descriptions for these metes and bounds surveys. A look at resources for finding records of the first purchases or grants of land from a previous government, state, or commonwealth in these areas, and a brief look at how property in state land states is described in deeds.

Federal Land Division (Rick Sayre)

A description of the United States government’s method of surveying and describing lands it acquired after formation of the country and from other later sources such as the Louisiana Purchase. A brief look at how federal land (rectangular grid survey) is described in deeds.

Transferring Title Between Individuals (Angela McGhie)

There are several ways title is transferred. The process and terminology of land sales will be covered.


Land Division in Ohio & Other Unique Areas (Rick Sayre)

Some areas within the United States have unique systems of land division, such as Ohio with its several methods of survey, New York with its large estates, and New England with its town lots. This session describes some of the areas that don’t follow the norm of other state land or federal land states.

Using the BLM General Land Office Website (Rick Sayre)

Learn to use the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office website to locate patents for first purchasers of federal land, find bounty land awarded to veterans for service in wars up through the Mexican War, locate the neighbors, and discover the jewels available in this valuable online source.

Homestead Records (Rick Sayre)

Because the Homestead Act touched so many lives in the United States, creating huge numbers of records, and because homestead files within the General Land Office are such rich sources of information about the claimants, this session describes the Homestead Act, the process of claiming the land, and provides illustrative case files.

Land Entry Files (Angela McGhie)

From 1789 to 1898, the United States acquired public land, surveyed it, and disposed of it, creating federal land records in the process. Today the National Archives holds land entry papers for the thirty public land states whose lands were once part of the U.S. public domain. These records are valuable for locating families and individuals at a point in time and documenting family land holdings. They may also provide valuable family information.


Tract Books (Angela McGhie)

Tract books were maintained by the General Land Office, and then the Bureau of Land Management, to record land entries and actions affecting the disposition of public land. They can be used as an index to locate patented as well as cancelled land transactions.

Private Land Claims (Pamela Sayre)

When the United States acquired land that had been under the governance of foreign nations (Great Britain, France, Spain, and Mexico), the U.S. government agreed to grant title to land owners who could prove prior legal land rights from those foreign governments. This class shows how to access and use records resulting from the adjudication of these “private land claims,” which may provide significant family information.

U.S. Military Bounty Lands (Rick Sayre)

An understanding of the process of applying for and receiving bounty land from the U.S. government for military service is the intent of this class. Case studies will illustrate this process, and resources for finding these important records will be shown.

Online Sources of Land Records (Pamela Sayre)

An exploration of the rich resources for land research available from the Family History Library, FamilySearch, and state and local websites: deeds, maps, property tax records, and more. Learn to use various websites to locate resources; then analyze and correlate the records to form valid conclusions.


Land Records in the Serial Set, ASP, and Territorial Papers (Rick Sayre)

These three government publications contain unique and significant information concerning land transactions in the public domain. These documents cover most of the nation’s history and contain among many things, information on land titles, bounty land applications and claims, and private land disputes. Students will discover the nature of these records and how to effectively search them.

Records of the General Land Office: A Guide (Rick Sayre)

This guide is the first comprehensive guide to federal land records created 1804–1912 relating to the contiguous states west of the Mississippi River. Published by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as the fourth part of its Trans-Mississippi West series (following guides to State, Justice, and Agriculture Department records), it continues the inventory of Department of the Interior records, and is a continuation of The Territorial Papers of the United States.

Studies in Metes and Bounds Lands (Pamela Sayre)

This session explores and examines metes and bounds deeds—how to read them, plat them, and understand the context of an ancestor’s land in the context of a neighborhood. DeedMapper platting software, online locality maps, and Google Maps will be demonstrated as tools for visualizing plats and placing them in their correct locations. (two sessions)


Finding and Using Land Ownership Maps (Rick Sayre)

A description of the many maps that contribute to knowledge of land ownership, from a detailed map of property owners along the upper Ohio River, to 1800s-era cadastral survey maps, to county maps by Arphax detailing original purchasers of federal lands. Online resources will be demonstrated.

Reports on Class Projects (Pam Sayre; and Rick Sayre)

At the beginning of the week, students will be assigned teams and a project to complete together. In this final session, teams will present their findings to the class in a brief report.

Wrap-up and certificates before lunch