Genealogy Immigration/Migration: Using land grants and transfers in researching immigrant ancestors

Using land grants and transfers in researching immigrant ancestorsBy Barry J. Ewell

The following are records and resources that genealogists find extremely helpful and full of clues to find immigrant ancestors. The information is designed to provide a quick reference and direction of where to find and search for records as probable places to find information.

Land records are not a great source for learning the origins of immigrants. While they are often used in other aspects of genealogy research, they seldom mention an immigrant’s home. They are used most effectively to establish residency and relationships. During the colonial period, land records may be used to establish immigration.

Many immigrants came to America because of the availability of land, and these immigrants were often the first settlers in many areas. Many of the early lists of settlers are based on land grant records. In some of the southern states, these settler lists come from headrights—documentation that helps establish the number of people transported to settle on and improve tracts of land.

How to Use Land Records
Use land records to learn the following about your ancestors:

  • death date and place
  • residence
  • names (and addresses) of descendants
  • other places where the ancestor may have held property
  • relationships, including clues to help sort out adoptions, guardianships, and other unclear relationships
  • economic standing
  • clues about ancestor’s feelings toward family members
  • clues to the deaths of other family members
  • names of stores and vendors frequented by your ancestor
  • ancestor’s signature
  • occupation
  • citizenship
  • marital status

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