Property Records in the South–Don’t forget the Surveys!

Property ownership is of great importance to every level of jurisdiction in the Southern States–your ancestors came to America for land. Property records make up the most consistent, most reliable, most provable record category of all. Your ancestors emigrated, migrated, and moved around to acquire land. The South offered rich, fertile acres in abundance—so until you discover differently, assume that they had landholdings and search the records.

Property Research Study Bibliography:

Arnow, Harriette Simpson. Seedtime on the Cumberland. New York: Macmillan Company, 1960. Excellent maps showing Kentucky and Tennessee stations not found in other sources.

Bond, Beverley W. The Quit-Rent System in the American Colonies. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1965. Discusses a little understood and very important part of the landholding system in the South.

Burns, Francis P. “The Spanish Land Laws of Louisiana,” Louisiana Historical Quarterly 11 (1928):  557-81. Act of Congress, 3 Mar 1807, confirmed title of any settler who had been in possession of Louisiana lands for 10 years prior to 20 Dec 1803–for plantations that did not exceed 2,000 acres.

Carley, William S. “Using Named Lands to Extend Family Lines: As Illustrated by Wheatley’s Content,” NGSQ 81 (1993): 165-177. Valuable case study.

Comtois, Anita. Maryland Rent Rolls: Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties, 1700-07, 1705-1724: A Consolidation of Articles in the Maryland Historical Magazine. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976. Includes a new preface by Robert Barnes and a Foreword by George B. Scriven. Read these new introductory pages first. The rent rolls are a combination of tax rolls and chains of title. And they are essential records for Maryland genealogy.

Dunn, Richard S.  Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713. New York: W.W. Norton, 1972. An overlooked, valuable study you will benefit by reading.

Hoffman, Margaret M. An Intermediate Short, Short Course in the use of Some North Carolina Records in Genealogical Research. 1990. PO Box 446, Roanoke Rapids, NC  27870. Sound strategies for getting the most from  property records and other source categories. Use with her North Carolina Land Patents, 1663-1775. 3 vols. Available Margaret M. Hoffman, PO Box 446, Roanoke Rapids NC 27870. Study the introductions to each volume. Hoffman also transcribed the land transfers in the Granville Grant area.

Hone, Wade E. Land and Property Research in the United States. 1997. Ancestry, PO box 476, Salt Lake City, UT 84110-0476. Emphasis on Public Land states—those in the South: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Kulikoff, Allan. Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1986.  Compares Virginia and Maryland. Very important study–includes evidence not usualy considered when searching land records.

“Land and Property,” Heritage Quest Vol. 15 (May-June 1999) whole issue #83.

Linn, Jo White. “Headrights in Virginia and North Carolina,” Heritage Quest, #21, pp. 45-48.

McNamara, Billy R. Tennessee Land: Its Early History and Laws.  1999.  Available from author, PO Box 6764, Knoxville, TN 37914-0784. Essential study before you begin reading the records.

Main, Jackson T.  “The One Hundred,” William and Mary Quarterly, Ser 3, 11 (Oct 1954): 354-84; reprinted in Arlene H. Eakle, Virginia Notebooks, vol. VI, pp. 1-15. The 100 wealthiest landowners in Colonial Virginia and where their lands were located.

Mershon, S.L. English Crown Grants: The Foundation of Colonial Land Titles Under English Common Law. New York: The Law and History Club, 1918. Old and very good.

Mitchell, Robert D. Commercialism and Frontier: Perspectives on the Early Shenandoah Valley. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986. Discusses where the products of the land were marketed.

Pruitt, A. Bruce. “Some Land Grant Alterations,” North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal (May 1990):  86-90. This is but one category of state property documents—with corrections.

Read, Bernetiae. The Slave Families of Thomas Jefferson: A Pictorial Study Book with an Interpretation of his Farm Book in Genealogy charts. 2 vols. (Greensboro NC: Sylvest-Sarah, 2007.) A full 18 pounds of color-coded Black migration patterns and genealogy. This work is an award-winning model of how to trace Black families. Based on Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book–the record of his slaves and their families.

Russell, Donna Valley. “Finding Land Tracts,” Western Maryland Genealogy 3 (Jan 1987): 26-29.  Good presentation of the unique land system of Maryland.

Swann, Lee Ann C. “Landgrants to Georgia Women, 1755-1775,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 61 (1977): 23-24, 31-32, and ff.

True, Ransom B. Biographical Dictionary of Early Virginia, 1607-1660.  Microfiche master index to some 30,000 people abstracted from every surviving Virginia county deed, will, court record to 1660. Early American Institute, William and Mary College, 1980. One of the most complete indexes for the Colonial Period. Family History Library #6632718. Includes also slaves and persons referenced in the records by given name only. For up to 5 pages from this Dictionary containing data on your surnames, send $15.00 and up to 8 surnames to Dr. Ransom B. True, APVA, Jamestown VA 23081.

Vidrine, Jacqueline O. Love’s Legacy: The Mobile Marriages Recorded in French, Transcribed, with Annotated Abstracts in English, 1724-1786. Lafayette LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1985.  Includes List of Landholders in West Florida based on Elias Dunford’s Map, 1772.

Winslow, Raymond A., Jr. “Land and Tax Records,” North Carolina Research, edited by Helen F.M. Leary and Maurice R. Stirewalt, 1980. Available from North Carolina Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 1492, Raleigh, NC 27607. Thorough treatment for North Carolina.

If you have been seeking your hard-to-find Southern ancestors for 15-20 years–its time you had an “easy button.” Searching the same records other researchers have checked, hoping for a different answer usually doesn’t work. Learn about property sources and records that others before you have not used. For the first time, you can solve your research problems. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Stay tuned! And be sure to check my other blogs that match your ancestry: Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, England before 1650–The Kingdoms, Scots-Irish Genealogy, New York.

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