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.

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