Family History + Google Earth = A Great Partnership, Part 2

Yesterday, I started to explain using Google Earth for family history research. I am definitely not a Google Earth expert – in fact, I am much more at the beginner level, but I am learning as I try to explain the steps to my readers so that is a good thing!

Today’s lesson is super easy. You need to have Google Earth installed for this to work. Do you have any land deeds for property that your ancestors owned? If you don’t have a copy of the actual land deed, do you have the legal description if it is the Township, Range and Section format? That’s all you need for this – Township number, Range number and Section number of the property.

If you aren’t sure if your ancestor owned property, or if you know they did but don’t know the township, range and section number, there is an easy way to find that information out and it’s FREE!

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) General Land Office (GLO) has a Records Automation website.

Right below the photos, on the top left, there is a link to “Search Documents.” Click on that. A search screen will open:

Most people are going to search by location and name, but if you have a land description for your ancestor and find that he/she was not the first owner of the land, you can enter the land description to find the name of the original patent owner.

If your ancestor had a common name, you might have to wade through multiple listings to discover which person is yours. I am going to search using “Sturgell,” which is the surname of my husband’s black sheep great great grandfather. He lived in several places, but I am going to search in Missouri because I know he lived there over a period of time.

For now, all you need for this lesson is the township, range and section number of your ancestor’s property. Isaac Sturgell’s land was in Township 21, Range 25 and Section 23.

Next, go to Earthpoint at You don’t need an account to use this feature on the website. On the Earthpoint home page, scroll down to where it says “Convert Township, Range and Section to Latitude and Longitude.”

Here is a screen shot of part of the home page screen. The line you want is near the bottom here, but if you are looking at the actual home page, it is about 2/3 of the way down:

“Convert Township, Range and Section to Latitude and Longitude”

The new search box will open up.

Enter township, range and section numbers

I entered Missouri for the state and then T21, R25 and S23 for Isaac Sturgell. Don’t worry about the N,S,E and W directional letters after the township and range options. Just put in your numbers. Instead of clicking on “View,” choose “Fly To On Google Earth.” (Remember, you must have Google Earth installed for this to work.)

Isaac Sturgell’s land was either in the town of Golden or perhaps just outside it as I don’t know where the town limits are. The larger yellow box is the outline of that portion of land marked off to include Township 21.

I put a Placemark on Isaac’s land and saved it in My Places on Google Earth.

How easy was that?

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