Saturday, April 30, 2011

How To Locate Your Ancestor's Land

After researching my family tree for ten years, I've encountered my fair share of land deeds and records. One of my biggest problems was actually locating where that land lies on present-day maps. It can be quite challenging using old surveyor maps and even present day plat maps, and then matching them up to the maps of today.. like Google Maps. One reason I'm particularly interested in finding where their land actually was, is because this land most likely holds buried family members. Down in the southern states, many family members were buried in family cemeteries on the land the family owned before the time of modern public cemeteries. To even have a chance of finding them, if any markers of any kind still exist at all anymore, you'd need to figure out where the land was that they were living on.
In the past two weeks, I've been able to find some land deeds that pertain to my Howell family from Tippah County, Mississippi (thanks to the new database on FamilySearch!). The person I am most interested in, is Hiram Howell, my 5th-great-grandfather. He was known to have been murdered in 1853 by his son-in-law, Lindsey Slaughter.

Hiram Howell (mistakenly written as Wren Howell) had actually bought his land on 10 Oct 1846 (record on the left) from Lindsey Slaughter, who himself had received the land as part of the homesteading acts. The specific details of the land are the North-East quarter of Section 9, Township 5 South, Range 2 East (NE1/4 of S9 T5S R2E). Just the other day, I stumbled upon a website that would map the exact location of Section 9 for me, using Google Earth. Google Earth is a program that you install on your computer that is much similar to Google Maps, but with much more features and way more powerful. The website is called Earth Point, and it's specifically used as a tool for Google Earth.
Once you get to the page, navigate to the section called "Convert Township, Range, and Section to Latitude and Longitude", as seen on the right. Enter your your data into the drop-down boxes and then click on "Fly To On Google Earth". Open the file once it's finished downloading.

After opening the file, Google Earth will automatically open and bring you to the exact location of Section 9, Township 5 South, Range 2 East, in Tippah County, Mississippi. From there, I can easily find the North-East quarter of Section 9. Pretty cool, huh? To the left is a snapshot of what you'll see. What kind of tools do you use to locate the land of your ancestors?

1 comment:

  1. Great tip! I have now bookmarked Earth Point and hope to find a few ancestral land holdings using it. Of course, there are some of the old farms for which the records only have landmarks, but at least in one case I was able to use those to find the probable location.