Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Tract Book Happy Dance

Last summer I was in Washington D.C. at the National Archives pulling every possible land record for my ancestors that I could think of. At that time, to order these records it would have been $40 per record (now it's $50). Considering the amount of records I came home with, my trip paid for itself.

However, there was one record that eluded me and the staff at NARA. This was the land record for George Fry, my ggg grandfather. I knew that George had moved to Colorado from Missouri and so did his father. There were Homestead records for George's father, son, and brother. George was listed in the Colorado census records, has a death record in the state, and is buried there. I also knew he had gone to Denver, Colorado in the 1870's. I know this because his wife died there, my ggg grandmother. These people were farmers back in Missouri, so it made sense that they would continue to be farmers in Colorado. So where was George's land? Where was his Homestead land record?

Apparently there were a few George Fry's living in Colorado. I discovered this because I looked at their land records filled with all sorts of great documentation about family and where they came from. One record even had immigration papers in it. None of these George's were my George. I was frustrated. Would I have to go to Colorado and dig through deed books?

A couple weeks ago at IGHR in the land records class, Angela McGhie gave a lecture on Using Tract Books. I discovered that FamilySearch has digitized the tract books for every state, except Missouri and  Alaska, and put them online. Angela also gave us some tips on how to use them. This can require using a few sources to figure out which book to look in.

Last night I realized I was finally caught up from being away for a week, and sat down to search through the online collection at FamilySearch.  I decided to look first in the area where George's father had land. This is the earliest record I have for a land purchase in Colorado. Within 10 minutes I found George.

Colorado tract book, vol. 1 (Denver land office), p. 94, Township 8 South, Range 65 West; "United States, Bureau of Land Management Tract Books, 1820-1908," digital images, FamilySearch ( 
accessed 25 June 2013).

George is at the bottom of this image, which is about the middle of the page in the book. Also listed are his father, Jefferson, and two brothers on the same page. All applied for Homestead land. However, George commuted his application to a cash sale. That was one of the reasons I couldn't find him. The other two reasons are: the BLM site has transcribed his middle initial as H, it is supposed to be W. I can  understand how it could have been transcribed incorrectly, since the writing is not all that clear. The larger problem is that all records I have for George are him living in Delta County, Colorado not Douglas County where he and his family applied for land. So I was looking in the wrong county.

Commence the tract book happy dance! I found George and I had the satisfaction of knowing I was right. George had bought land in Colorado.


  1. That's great, Cinamon. Glad you were to put to use the information you learned at IGHR.

  2. Congrats! And thanks for the info. about the tract books on FamilySearch.

  3. Hi Cinamon,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in my Fab Finds post this week at

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Nothing sounds like a bigger snooze than attending a land records class and yet it was a life-saver. Good for you!

  5. Ah, yes. "except Missouri ..." But it will take me forever to look up the other people so I guess by the time I'm done with them, Missouri and Alaska will be available, too.

  6. How did you find the tract books? I've been all over the site and can't find it.

  7. T and for others looking,

    Here is the url to the FamilySearch page for the tract books;

    Happy searching!

  8. Congrats on your new find!

  9. Great find Cinnamon. Your GGG is probably doing the happy tract book dance as well, - happy that all of your hard 'searching' paid off! Good for you!