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.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Goals for 2013-2014

It's that time for me to set my goals for 2013-2014. Instead of setting goals at the New Year, I set them when I have my birthday in June. For me this is a more natural way of measuring my progression than by the calendar year. You can read last year's post here.

A quick review of last years goals and how I did. The first goal on my list was create a website for my business. Well, I didn't do it and it remains on my list for this year. My problem with this goal is procrastination. I keep thinking I need to get this or that thing together or lined up and so it doesn't happen. However, two weeks ago I had a revelation that I can always change the site and it is not "written in stone" as they say.

My other two goals were a combination of research and write. I did fairly well with these two goals. I've done lots of research towards a case study and a kinship determination project. There is a particular genealogical problem I have come across, that if I can solve it (in a timely manner) would make a great case study. I have other candidates for a case study, but this other one is more interesting/challenging and I love a good challenge.

I have done lots of writing too! The down side is that it has been for other people. I want to focus a little more on writing for myself. In fact, this year I want to complete at least a rough draft (at minimum) of my case study and kinship determination project for certification. I'll also put in my goals to complete the transcription element for my portfolio too.

So here are my goals for the next year:

  1. Create website for my business (DO IT!!!)
  2. Research- pay particular attention to solving above challenge mentioned
  3. Writing- make a focused effort on writing for myself, whether it is articles or portfolio work, etc.
  4. Write a rough draft of case study and kinship determination project
  5. Complete transcription element for BCG portfolio
There you have it. I have made my goals a bit more specific this year to give some added focus for myself. Of course I have a lot of other projects I want to work on and ideas to pursue. This list is to remind me where I would like the emphasis to be.

Friday, June 14, 2013

IGHR 2013 - Day 5

Today was the last day of IGHR. However, this morning we had two presentations. Our first lecture was given by Lloyd deWitt Bockstruck on Colonial and State Bounty Land. This covered land received for participating in the various wars and skirmishes before the Revolutionary War. It was a fascinating overview of history that was just the tip of the iceberg. Lloyd is clearly an expert in this field and is a wealth of information.

Our second and last lecture was given by Christine Rose on Bounty Land Records. This covered the land awarded to people who participated in wars and skirmishes after the Revolutionary War and before the Civil War. Christine stressed many times the importance of being familiar with U.S. Statutes. The Statutes determined who could get land and when, ie. soldiers, widows, other heirs, and turning in a land warrant for script. Christine paid particular attention to Ohio and Virginia, as those two states have some issues that are unique to dealing with land and the Revolutionary War soldiers.

After the lecture we were awarded our certificates of completion, traded business cards, and said our good-byes. I finished packing up my car and headed to our last lunch on campus. This was such a great week and I am sad to see it end. Not only is it a great learning experience, but I get to catch up with my friends and colleagues many of whom I only see at IGHR.

On the drive home I reflected on my week. I realized how much I have grown as a genealogist in the past year. I measured this based on how much I was able to understand in lectures and social discussions on the topic. I was also seeking out sources in the libraries while on campus, with an understanding that I hadn't fully grasped in previous years. Having said that there is a lot more to learn. I have many new sources to study and seek out. I'm already looking forward to next year and the new learning experience that will bring.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

IGHR 2013 - Day 4

Today we spent the entire day of our land class with J. Mark Lowe learning about Land Platting. This was a treat. Mark is entertaining and has a way of explaining things that involve the class which helps illustrate a topic for understanding. For example; when explaining what metes are, he had a few of us stand up, to represent the metes. The lines connecting us would be the bounds. Metes and bounds land surveys are for the most part are found in state land (colonial) states, with some exceptions.

Mark also went through a few steps of drawing a tract map based on the "calls" (compass directions) that are found in a deed or elsewhere. We got some tips on how to determine the scale, how to mark North on the paper, and what else to include with our plat. Altogether we platted 4 deeds. To some it may not sound like much fun, but it happens to be an activity that I enjoy. I love working with land. Land is concrete. I find this oddly comforting. Land doesn't pick up and move around the country dodging the census taker, the tax man, or go into some strange void.

Our class let out a little early, so I decided to once again look at the BCG portfolio materials. Why am I torturing myself with this? Well the day before I had been pressed for time, and didn't get to view one of the portfolios I was really interested in viewing. I also hadn't been able to fully view a small binder of judge's comments on various portfolios. First I just looked at the comments. I think this is a great idea on the part of BCG to have gathered these for viewing. The binder contained examples of "approved" and "disapproved" for certification portfolio reviews. These sheets do not accompany the portfolio, so I was only able to view the critiques. I was relieved to discover not all of the "approved for certification" critique sheets had passing marks for every rubric. There were some areas (very few) that an applicant "did not meet standard." However, the judge took into consideration the entire portfolio, and the level of skill demonstrated throughout all of the assignments. The portfolio I viewed had a really good example of the Kinship Determination Project (KDP). I enjoyed the direct approach this portfolio displayed and felt like it was a less complicated style than some other examples I have seen.

Our dinner tonight was the banquet that is always held on the last evening of IGHR. It tends to be a fairly jovial affair, as attendees have a general feeling of accomplishment for the week. The keynote speaker tonight was Julie Hedgepeth Williams who has written A Rare Titanic Family, which was the subject of the presentation. Julie narrated an incredible tale of her great-uncle, his wife, and their child that survived the Titanic disaster. It involved some interesting research on her part and was a wonderful story.

During the banquet tonight a rather heavy storm front moved through. This seems to be an annual part of the IGHR experience. Fortunately it was over by the time the banquet was. Once I got back to the dorm I did a little packing in preparation for leaving tomorrow. This week has passed quickly and I'm sad to see it end. However, tomorrow morning we still have two more lectures before receiving our certificates of completion. When it comes to genealogy research there is always more to learn!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

IGHR 2013- Day 3

Today was packed full of information. We started out the morning with a lecture by Angela McGhie on Using Tract Books. These are books that recorded first purchases or attempts at purchasing land in the Federal states. Angela showed us the formula of how to figure out where to look in these books for our ancestors. It can be slightly complicated and tedious if you don't know exactly where your ancestor settled. However, this is a great resource and I was so excited to learn about it. Even better, Angela told us that Family Search has digitized all of the books, with the exception for those in Missouri and Alaska. Our next morning session was spent in the computer lab with Rick Sayre. He walked us through the Bureau of Land Management site along with a few other sites. This session was very interesting and easily could have been longer.

After lunch, we had another session with Rick on Land Records in the Serial Set, American State Papers, and Territorial Papers and other Government Documents. This was a wonderful session. We saw examples of why all of these sources can be valuable in our genealogical research. Rick showed us various ways to access these sources online. It was interesting that different sites can give you varying results for a search term. Go figure. Now I have to say I searched a little bit tonight for my ancestors and had okay results. I will have to search more at a later date, when I'm not so tired.

Next, Christine Rose presented Inheritance. This was guessed it...the law of inheritance. Christine covered terms such as; entail, primogeniture, dower and curtesy. She explained the loopholes around the law of inheritance in the Colonial era and some laws that were specific to Virginia.

Before dinner tonight I briefly viewed a BCG portfolio. This portfolio was outstanding and I felt totally intimidated. The portfolios that the BCG usually display are the best of the best. The cream of the crop if you will. However, I have to admit to a curiosity of being able to view a portfolio that passed and was more of a norm. Not that I am aiming low by any means, but I also don't want to think I will never be capable of producing a passing portfolio.

I decided to attend an evening session tonight before doing some of my own research again. The session I chose was presented by Judy Russell entitled, The ABCs of DNA. She covered yDNA, mtDNA, and Autosomal DNA. I'm very familiar with the first two and feel more than comfortable explaining the meaning of them to people. I'm familiar with Autosomal testing, although going into the session I couldn't have explained it very well. However, the way Judy explained Autosomal DNA with the accompanying visual aides, made it extremely clear and it was a "light bulb" moment for me. Judy also covered a few of the DNA testing companies and how they differ. It has given me some thoughts about testing and I probably need to figure out a budget now.

Tomorrow we spend the entire day with J. Mark Lowe and land platting. This promises to be an entertaining day and probably some moments of confusion. If you have ever platted a metes and bounds piece of property then you know what I'm talking about. I suspect we may be a bit cross-eyed by lunch time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

IGHR 2013-Day 2

Today my morning was spent with Lloyd de Witt Bockstruck and his presentation on Colonial Land Records in America. Lloyd is a wealth of information on this topic. However, even with the microphone it was difficult to hear him at times.

Lloyd started out with land resources in New England and explaining how land was allocated and where to find records. He illustrated that New Jersey was divided into two sections of East Jersey and West Jersey. For some reason the boundary goes diagonally across the state, making East Jersey north and West Jersey south during the colonial period. Lloyd continued to discuss the other colonial states and the various idiosyncrasies of obtaining and keeping one's land.

After lunch we spent the afternoon with Rick Sayre who presented Federal Land Records at the National Archives, Part 1 and Part 2. Rick discussed the various laws that led to migration and the settlement of land, and how to work the Bureau of Land Management website. He will go into more detail with the website tomorrow. We also practiced finding specific sections or subdivisions within a township diagram. One item that I was particularly excited to learn about were the Cancelled Homestead files housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Rick showed us photos of one very thick file full of genealogical information. Unfortunately, these files are not indexed and take a little bit of know-how to find a specific one.

When class was over, I went to the library and did a little research of my own. Afterwards I met up with some friends for dinner. The cafeteria was not nearly as chaotic as it had been the night before thankfully. My friends had homework to tackle, so I head to the campus Law Library to continue with some of my own research. This is the first year I have been able to do this and it is quite a luxury! Tomorrow is a full day of learning about tract books, going to the computer lab for hands on experience, and an afternoon full of lectures.

Monday, June 10, 2013

IGHR 2013- Day 1

Today was the first official day of classes at IGHR at Samford University in Birmingham. This year I am taking Understanding Land Records, and I've been pretty excited about it. Why? When it comes to doing genealogy work, land records are invaluable. Often they can be the key to understanding relationships and making connections. Land was important to our ancestors.

After the introduction this morning, Christine Rose, the course coordinator, presented 2 sessions on County Land Records. She discussed the types of records you could find at the Recorder's office, and what the various terms used meant ie., Warranty Deed, Trust Deed, Crop Lien, Dower Release, etc. Christine also went through how to find records at the Courthouse, and how to make sense of the Russell Index and the Graves Index. One index Christine discussed that I found really interesting was the Devisor/Devisee index. It is an index of real property, not household items, given to individuals. I was very excited to learn about this. I've often wondered how I could find an ancestor listed in a deed of an unfamiliar or unknown person. Now I know where to look.

The two afternoon sessions were spent with J. Mark Lowe, who presented The Carolinas and Tennessee. He discussed the history of land ownership in this area from the colonial period through the 1920's. Mark then walked us through (literally) the process of how to obtain and own land, how individuals might deal with a land grant transfer, and how to navigate the North Carolina Archives website. He showed us lots of maps dealing with different time periods, how the districts were created, modern maps compared to historical maps, topographic maps, and geographic regions maps.

Then it was time for dinner. This was a chaotic affair. While our institute is going on the university is also conducting orientation for the incoming freshman, and various sports camps. There were several teams of teenage baseball players. The cliche of teenage boys' appetites was demonstrated as they walked through individually with a couple plates of food each. This made for incredibly long lines to get dinner. I was more than ready to leave for the evening lecture.

The lecture I attended tonight was given by Judy Russell titled, The Ethical Genealogist. She discussed the code of ethics from various genealogical organizations and how they fall into basically 3 rules. Judy showed examples to illustrate her points, and told of her mistakes to learn from. As always, Judy is an engaging speaker and if you ever get the opportunity to listen to her lecture, on any topic, go!

Tomorrow it's more land lectures, and I couldn't be happier!