Subscription genealogy site Ancestry.com recently added a collection of US land ownership maps—about 1,200 county land ownership atlases digitized from microfilmed at the Library of Congress. The atlases come from 20 states and date between 1860 and 1918.
Maps show land parcels labeled with owners’ names. They vary in appearance depending on when and where they were published. This one shows Van Buren Township, Ind., in 1914.
You can search the collection by state, county, year or owner’s name. When you click to view an image, it may take awhile to hunt for the name you need (use the magnifying glass in Ancestry.com’s record viewer to enlarge the image).
Once you find a relative’s parcel, look at the other names. You may see names of people who’ve appeared as witnesses on family documents, or families who’ve married into yours. If you can determine when your ancestor purchased the land, you can contact the county (usually, the county clerk or the recorder’s office) to request a deed of sale.
It helps to have a good idea of where an ancestor lived and when he owned land before you search this database. The maps offer no identifying information about the landowners, so if you just search on an ancestor to see if he shows up, you may have a hard time deciding if a match is the right person.
The M. Reuter who owns land at the top of the above map may be a relative of mine (I’m guessing my great-grandfather’s brother).
I found the family in the 1920 census …
but then I realized I have other work I need to get done today. I’ll let you know what I find out about this.
In the mean time, you can learn more about how to find your ancestors’ land records in these resources from Family Tree Magazine:
- Family Tree University Land Records course (this self-paced course starts this week and run for a month, but you can still register until the end of the week)
- Family Tree Essentials CD, available from Family Tree Shop
- August 2006 Family Tree Magazine digital issue, also available from Family Tree Shop