Sunday, October 23, 2016

Using BLM Land Patent Maps for Family History

Hello everyone. Fall is finally in the air. The temperatures here in Florida are falling into the low 60s at night and the pool is too cold to swim in. With the cooler temperature the grass grows more slowly and I hope to have a little more time to work on my family history and on blogging. One of the things I have been working on lately is using more mapping tools to help people locate ancestors. I have occasionally written about maps in my previous blogs but I wanted to discuss something that happened last week in our Family History Center.

One of our family history consultants was searching for an ancestor in the panhandle region of Florida. She has had a hard time finding anything on this person. Previously, we had found his land grant on the BLM Government Land Office Records database. This database includes more than five million land title records beginning as early as 1820 as well as many land surveys and field notes going back to 1810. We searched for her ancestor, Willie Kite Vickers and found that he had a land grant in Section 23, Township 1S, Range 12W in Bay County, Florida. His parcel included the southwest quarter of Section 23, approximately 160 acres.

GLO Records Results for Willie Kite Vickers
After seeing the results we looked at the original Land Patent image.

Land Patent Record for Willie Kite Vickers
From the land patent we learned that Willie received the patent on 28 March 1906 and we could see a full description of the land he received.

The next tab, Related Documents, leads to some further information including the plat image and surveys.

Survey Information for Township 1S, Range 12W in Bay County, Florida
We were able to copy the map provided by downloading it as either pdf, jp2 or sid formats. Most everyone has Adobe or another program which opens pdf files. JP2 files are jpeg2000, while SID is the MrSID format and not all graphics software can open those file formats. For most people I would suggest sticking to the pdf format. After I downloaded the image I opened it in my graphics software so I could draw out the property boundaries of his land. I use a free program called which is available online.

Willie Vickers Land Grant - cross hatched area
Then we searched the Related Documents tab to see who else received land patents in this same area. As we search through the 3 pages of other records she saw a last name that was familiar. It was the name for James V Sewell.

Related Documents - Other land owners in this area
Looking at James' land patent we discovered that he had land in Section 22. His land is listed as the NE1/4 of the NW1/4 and NW1/4 of the NE1/4 of Section 22.

James Sewell's land patent (Cross hatched Section 22) and Willie Vickers land patent (Section 23)
When we map the lands received by Mr. Sewell along with that of Willie Vickers, we see that they were neighbors. This discovery has led to some further investigation which is still ongoing. Hopefully we will break through this brick wall with the discoveries coming from this mapping exercise.

I encourage each of you to look into the possibilities of using maps in your research. They are a great tool and provide spatial information that the usual paper records may not.

Good luck, and keep researching.

Friday, October 14, 2016

French Archives

Good morning folks. I decided to take a vacation day today to catch up on some things around the house. Last week we were struck by Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 hurricane. We lucked out and the hurricane stayed just offshore as it made its way up the Florida coast. Our damage was minimal but that put me about a week behind on the typical housework items like mowing the yard. So, as I am waiting for sunrise I decided to write another short blog post.

Yesterday I attended our monthly German Genealogy Interest Group meeting. This was the first meeting of our year. We start in October and have meetings through May while the snowbirds are here and then take off the summer months. One of the members began asking about archives. As you may remember, I started a series of posts on archives in Germany, France and the Netherlands a little while ago. She was interested in the archives for the Alsace region. After her question I decided to provide more information on the French archives that I have been able to find.

In 1791, after the French Revolution, France was divided into departments which are the local divisions of government. Today, there are 96 departments in France and 5 overseas departments. Each of the departments is distinguished by a two digit number as shown in the map below. These departments have their own archives, and many have smaller local archives. Many of these archives are online.

Departments of France

These archives have important collections of records for your genealogy research. I have been able to use several of them for research that I have done for others. You can see my previous posts concerning the Paris, Haut Rhin, Bas Rhin and Moselle archives. My goal this morning is to provide you with a link to a comprehensive list of the French archives that I have been able to find online so you can further your French research.

The national archive for France can be found at Once you arrive at the National Archive you can find a list of the departments. Each department lists their main webpage, contact information including e-mail, hours of operation, and any regional or local archives within the department boundaries. You can find the department archives list at The archives also have a specific set of pages for genealogy research - In case you can't read the French pages, there is an English translation of the pages available by clicking in the upper right corner of the pages for the English link.

If you want to learn more about the departments and other political regions of France this link is a great resource (

Hope you have luck and let me know if you find any discoveries in these archives.