The Importance of Deeds

I’m researching migration patterns in the American South.  And as I reviewed the issues of the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal, I found this article (missed the first time around): “Tidewater Migration Patterns: Planters, Soldiers, and Turpentiners–A Case Study of Jones and Onslow Counties, NC,” written by Dennis E. Jones (May 2002): 165-193.

This is a major contribution to migration studies and includes lists of migrants with the date of the record, the source of information, and the destination in and out of these counties. Principal source: Deed Books!

Some genealogists have touted deed books as the principal source for genealogy proof–and I agree. William Dollarhide advocates searching them first because of the important origin data and family relationships they contain.

My experience has led me to search marriages, census records (or tax lists) and probate records before searching the deeds–so that I have additional names and relationships to recognize the property evidence that applies to the ancestors of interest.

Spending the research time and resources in the deeds–a sophisticated source–without some additional names on the list, has required searching them over and over again. So I do preliminary searches in preparation for searching the deeds.

Some years ago, researching my husband’s Johnson/Johnston lineage in Augusta County Virginia, I read over 750 deeds and abstracted them. What an amazing body of genealogical evidence. Then I earmarked additional surnames that were connected to the Johnstons and went through the deeds again.

Author Jones discovered that by the 1850 census, 31% of North Carolinians were living in another state: Georgia,  Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida  (from Onslow) in that order.Georgia,Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida in that order (from Jones County). Heaviest out-migration, 1830-1839.

It really is important to study the work of other genealogists and scholars–increasing your knowledge of the context in which your ancestors lived. This study of North Carolina migration is a good start. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Stay tuned because I will share other significant studies on migration as I prepare a major work on the migration patterns of our ancestors.

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