I have discovered a new GeneaGem. Months back, I wrote about using DeedMapper to plot out metes and bounds land surveys. As Americans began the Westward Movement, the government began issuing land parcels using an organized planning system call the Public Land Survey System, often referred to as the Township, Range and Section system.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) General Land Office (GLO) has a Records Automation website that is both fabulous and free.
This site is very easy to use. Simply click on “Search Documents” at the top left corner.
A search box opens for you. The great thing about this site is that it can be used in several ways that are very helpful for genealogy research.
First, if your ancestor lived in a state that uses the PLSS for land parcels, but you don’t have the land description for the property that he/she owned, you can search by Location and Name.
I put in the surname “Sturgill” in Ohio and three hits came up, all for William Sturgill, one of my husband’s mystery ancestors:
All three listings are dated 1837 so I chose the first patent in the list because it has the lowest number. I then clicked on the live link under “Accessions.”
There are three categories of information. The first is Patent Details, which shows that the land was sold from the Chillicothe Land Office under an act of 1820 and there were no mineral reservations. William received 43.05 acres located in Township 5N, Range 17W and Section 10 in Lawrence County, Ohio.
If you click on the land description next to the box, it plots the land location for you:
From the dotted lines representing the borders of Lawrence County, it is easy to see that the county was an odd shape, but it is also possible to see that William’s land was in the eastern portion of the county, not far from the Gallia County line.
A township normally was divided into 36 sections, so William’s land was in the north central area.
The best part comes next! Click on “Patent Image.”
The first page of William Sturgill’s land patent papers has been digitized and there is a Print Friendly button on the top right side of the screen. The downside is that most land patent files are more than one page long. If you would like the whole file, you will have to contact the BLM to order it.
Also, not all land patent files have the digitized first page available yet. I first tried this with “Stufflebean” in Oklahoma and the file that came up did not have the image in it yet.
The third tab is for Related Documents. It shows all the people who have some type of relationship to that piece of land.
The other tab on the home page is the Reference Center. Click on that to see the various resources available on the website to help you understand the land records:
All in all, this is definitely a GeneaGem. In addition to accessing land records for ancestors, researchers can use the Related Documents section to look for the FAN (Family and Neighbors) Club. Instead of looking at the 1840 census and wondering how close someone lived to a person of interest, this database can show exactly how close together two people lived. In the case of William Sturgill, his neighbors consisted of current family members and future extended family through marriage.
This website deserves a definite thumbs up! Check it out for yourself.