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Land records: an underused source in lineage research

Land records are often a “source of last resort” for genealogists. Rarely fully indexed, they require us locating and accessing a separate index book (called a grantor/grantee index); copying down the volumes and pages that apply to our ancestor; and then going into each volume to copy the appropriate pages. It’s time consuming and often difficult.

So, why bother?

Land records can provide the following information:

  1. A statement of residence: The buyer and seller’s residence is typically listed on the deed. That statement of residence can help you place your ancestor and help build a timeline of their movements.
  2. A statement of relationship: It wasn’t uncommon for relatives to deed land to each other or for someone to inherit land. In those circumstances, the record may provide a statement of relationship.
  3. The name of a spouse: In certain circumstances, women had to sign off on their husband’s land sales. You may only get a first name, but the deed can give you a hint as to the identity of the spouse.

Land records are typically stored on the county level, except in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. If you’re looking for digital copies, start by using the catalog in FamilySearch.

Happy hunting!