Did Your Ancestor Get Federal Land?

There are many ways your ancestor might have obtained federal property. Military service before the Civil War may have made him eligible for bounty land, he may have made a direct cash purchase, he may have been an early settler who filed a pre-emption claim, a homesteader who worked the ground the required amount of time, or someone who obtained property in another way.

To search federal land patents–those deeds that transferred property from federal to private ownership, visit the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office website.

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Scan the Whole Thing First

I first worked on my children’s Belgian ancestors years ago. When using the vital records from the 19th century, I used them the way I had other European records from the same time span. I looked in the “book” for and read through the entries for the years I thought included the person’s birth date. Then, if I had the correct person and had the names of the parents, I scanned the years before and after the birth to locate siblings.

Imagine my surprise when I found indexes interspersed in the records. I had never encountered those before. While indexes are not perfect, they would have saved me a great deal of time.

Moral-the first time you use any “new” record, familiarize yourself with the whole thing first, don’t assume that it is like every other one you have ever used.

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Was the License Returned?

If you’ve located an entry in local marriage records that a license was issued for your ancestor, have you determined if the license was returned? The issuance of a license means only that a license was issued and that a couple was intending to get married.
Usually cancelled licenses are returned and “cancelled” is written somewhere on or near the entry in the record indicating the license was issued. But not always. Sometimes they are just not returned.
Sometimes licenses that are used are not returned by the officiant, even if the marriage took place.

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From Whom Was the First Purchase Made?

If your ancestor was a landowning farmer and migrated from Point A to Point B, see from whom he purchased that first piece of property when he arrived in Point B. It might have been a relative or former associate, neighbor, etc. The owner of that property in Point B might have been looking to sell it and heard that his relative or former neighbor was thinking of moving.

Or the seller could have been totally unrelated.

But you won’t know until you look.

rampley-farm

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My “Now” Wife

Just because your ancestor uses the phrase “my now wife” in his will, it does not mean he had to have been married twice. A man might use the phrase to make it clear to whom a bequest was being made. If his will said “to my now wife I leave my farm for her life and at her demise it to go to my children” that meant his wife at the time he wrote his will. He might have been concerned that if he remarried and his “then wife” married again that his real property might fall out of his family’s hands.

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Genealogy Tip of the Day is sponsored by GenealogyBanksearch for your ancestors in their newspaper collection.

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