Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Land Grant Analysis

Early land grants and patents become an important part of tree climbing. Understanding how to use the acreage involved will often make a difference in getting out the right branch. Also, placing various land grants together by associated surnames will help break down many brick walls.

The following pages show how this can be done using graph paper. [By now you should have bunches of this stuff!] Making a scale that can be used to give a general outline of a land amounts can be useful. The upper page is taken from an article written 1997 outlining the use of maps. It ends with the outline shown giving one square mile to every 640 acres of land. A line is then drawn showing that at 2 square mile = 1280 acres, 3 square mile = 1920 acres, 4 square mile = 2560 acres, etc., etc... If you have an ancestor who takes up a land patent of 4,000 acres, he would have a land area of six miles long and one mile deep, or any short of other combinations. If his initial grant was along one of the water courses marked by "mile markers", this would directly apply. [This was true of the first land grants in Virginia along the water highways!]

The figure to the right tries to show an enlargement of the graph which can be scaled to plot the grants as recorded. A beginning way to think about land grants!

Taken from: The Jones Genealogist, Vol. IX, No. 2, July/August, 1997, p. 4.


  1. I read a great article with lots of detail on how to draw up plats. I have a current GIS map of the boundaries, and several deeds, but have not been able to piece together all the parts that go into making the original land grant...about 100 years prior to the time I have been researching. The land markers are trees and stakes which have not survived over time. But I would love to be able to see what it looked like before the family started dividing their portion since about 1757. I started trying to trace back the deeds, but found that some citations were not recorded accurately. Do you have any practical suggestions on how to reconstruct how the land might have looked like over a hundred years prior?

  2. Great question! Water courses are often used and frequently stay at the same general location. Mile markers may survive in some areas. Generally the court house location remains the same and some early churches may be in their original locations. In some cases, there are historical maps made of the area, and provide some distinctive landmarks. You may need to begin at a known location and build from that. In some cases I have found historical atlases to be helpful. Try to find one geographical area that seems to be the same from your time period. This becomes a starting point.