Friday, November 25, 2016

Finally Some Deed Books At Family Search

I've been preoccupied with other things and had not been aware that some deed books are now digitized and available at Family Search. If you have early Pennsylvania, Tennessee or North Carolina roots you definitely should search using your county names in the Family Search Catalog (for some reason you have to leave the word county out of the search?). Many of these newly digitized films don't appear when looking at what is available by state. If you search deeds by state you won't see them. Deeds books may contain the only information available, other than tax lists and probate, for your earliest ancestors.

Click the camera to see the digitized book

I've been going to the Family History libraries here in California recently looking at microfilms of records not yet online. One of the films in the Orange Library Catalog wasn't in the drawer where it was supposed to be. I asked a staff member and they told me films were being removed from the as they are digitized. Happily one of the films I needed is now online at Family Search and is searchable from anywhere (some digitized films or books are only available online at a Family History Center).

With only a small fraction of the 1790 Census still surviving for the Southern and Mid sections of the US land, tax and probate records are the only places we can find documentation for many of our ancestors in the 18th Century. Some of my ancestors left wills or intestate probate documents which have been very helpful in identifying family members. I had been searching for one ancestor's will in probate records and will books. I finally located it filed in a deed book. Deed books can also contain hand drawn maps which may show your ancestors property lines. They sometimes also contain marriage records, as I found in a Pennsylvania deed book. The records clerk could record anything he saw fit to in these books.

Instead of leaving a will some of my ancestors deeded their property to their children before they died. Often these deeds state they were in consideration of "love and affection." Some of the most valuable deeds are the ones listed in the deeds index as "et al", these were generally families selling parents' property.

Since deeds contain a description of your ancestors property and who shared their property lines, they provide great clues to where the land was located, and who the all important friends and neighbors were. I visited Greene County, Tennessee last August and wondered where my ancestors Roger Browning and William McPike's properties were located. I didn't have any deeds to provide an approximate location even. After I found out that some deeds are online I searched to see if Greene County, Tennessee deeds are online. Happily I found that all of the books containing my family's deeds are online at Family Search. I had wondered if these men lived near the Davy Crockett family in Greene County, Tennesse? I now know they lived on the other side of the county. They lived about 11 miles away from Greeneville. William probably did live closer to Greeneville and the Crockett property when he lived on the Washington and Greene County Line. Unfortunately the deed for that property didn't mention any water courses.

My ancestor Roger Browning  purchased his property from Thomas Gragg or Gregg (this family married into the Browning family).

The land is described as being on the Nolichucky river and Meadow creek. From this information I can surmise that the land was probably near a road now called Greg Mill.

I did see the Nolichucky river while I was in Greene County. It's stretches through the length of the county so it's hard to miss. Davy Crockett's family lived on the Nolichucky on the other side of the county.

A baptism on the Nolichucky River

Sadly Virginia is a state that has been completely neglected by Family Search as far as digitizing. I continue to search both probate and deed records using the old microfilms. I either have to order them, at the my local FHC, or travel to the Los Angeles or the Orange family history libraries. Since deed books aren't every name indexed I find it helpful to page through them looking for names. While doing this for Franklin County, Virginia an unexpected ancestor and his wife showed up. William McPike of Greene County and Cocke County, Tennessee. I had no idea he ever lived in Franklin County, Virginia. He never showed up on any tax lists or Census records for the area? How could I be sure this was my McPike family? Obedience was named as William's wife, and they were said to reside in Cocke County, Tennessee when the deed was executed.

William and wife Obedience's deed

The Virginia State Library's digital image collection does contain Virginia Land Grants. I found the record for the purchase of William McPike's land there. It matched the number of acres and location in the sales deed. When he purchased the Blackwater River land it was then in Bedford County, Virginia. This area was later located in Franklin County, which was formed from part of Bedford.

Not sure if Thomas Jefferson really signed the deed my ancestor received?

Many deed indexes for Pennsylvania counties are now online. One of my ancestral locations is Chester County, Pennsylvania. Only a few deed indexes are available online for Chester. A complete index is available at the Chester County, Pennsylvania local Government website.

I found an "et al deed" on the Chester County index which appears to be children selling parents property? It's a Jacob Urmy ux Susanna et al deed. Sadly this isn't in a book that is online at Family Search. The coverage of deeds is spotty. You have to scroll down to see which books are still only on microfilm and those that are online.
Sussana et al

I was able to find a deed for my ancestor Christian Brower which had been digitized. His wife Eve is also named in the deed. The name of a wife is really important information when trying to verify who the deed refers to, or establishing the name of a wife. Sadly in states like Tennessee the wife's name was generally not recorded in deeds.

Christian Brower and wife Eve are recorded in this deed


The digitized deed books are scattered. Not sure what the order they are being digitized is? There doesn't seem to be an order? Family Search isn't the only place to find deed books or deed indexes. Some counties have these books online. State websites often have land patents and grants online.

It really pays to search the Family Search Catalog by county now since all microfilms are slowly being added. These can only be found by searching locally, and not by state.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Part 6 Philadelphia


Part 6 Philadelphia
I spent a couple days in Philadelphia on this trip. I loved the wonderful historic character of the city. Our first capital put me in a proud patriotic mood. Felt very proud to be an American, and proud of my Pennsylvania heritage.

I'm not sure which ancestors actually had visited Philadelphia? All of my German ancestors, and my Forgey ancestors, Andrew Forgey and Margaret Reynolds, likely arrived in America at the port of Philadelphia. It's thought that Johann Roush may have lived in Philadelphia before migrating to the Shenandoah Valley. I did find a Johann Adam Rausch on Philadelphia substitute censuses up to 1764. Not sure he is my ancestor? It was thought he had migrated to Virginia by 1764? When Johann Adam Roush arrived in America he took the oath of allegiance in a Philadelphia Court House.

Carpenter's Hall built in 1774
Many of the buildings in the historical core are reconstructions, like Colonial Williamsburg. Independence Hall is largely a reconstruction. There are some walls, in Independence Hall, which are original. The first Continental Congress was held at Carpenter's hall which is one of the few remaining original buildings in the historical core of the city. This building was completed in 1774.

Within these Walls Henry, Hancock, & Adams inspired the Delegates of the Colonies With Verve and Sinew for the Toils of War
Inscription over south doorway of Assembly Room
Ancestors' marriage Christ Church
Christ Church is another of the original structures in Philadelphia. The church was built from 1727 to 1744. George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Benjamin Franklin attended church here. According to the Pennsylvania Archives records my ancestors Benjamin Browning and Mary Abbot married March 23, 1751 in Christ Church. So exciting to see that church. It's one of the most beautiful churches I've been too.

Christ Church

Ben Franklin's grave with pennies tossed on it for good luck.
Actually a penny saved is a penny earned so he would be against this.

The historic Betsy Ross house was wonderful to tour. It was so interesting seeing what the 17th Century townhouses looked like inside. Very cramped small staircase. Probably not comfortable for tall people. Betsy likely didn't live here, but probably lived in an adjacent house.



Elfreth's Alley, according to Wikipedia, is our nations oldest street dating back to 1702, with homes built from 1728 to 1836. This street would have been in existence when my ancestors arrived at the port of Philadelphia.


Below is picture of the foundations of the Slave quarters of the Presidents Home in Philadelphia. George Washington lived in the Presidential home from 1790 to 1797, and John Adams from 1797 to 1800; these foundations have also be excavated (see youtube film). The house had an interesting history even before the Presidents made it their home. It was built in 1767. It housed General Howe during the British occupation in 1777 and 1778.  After the British were driven out of the city Benedict Arnold lived in the house.


Quaker Meeting House was built between 1804 and 1811

When I went to Europe last April I changed planes in Philadelphia. I saw all the Liberty Bell souvenirs for sale, and I wanted so badly to go and see it. It was so nice to finally see it. We have a replica here in Southern California at Knott's Berry Farm, along with a replica of Independence Hall. I remember visiting Knott's Berry Farm on a field trip with my school and enjoying learning about the founding of our country. An audio reenactment of the debate which led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence is presented there. I was very inspired by that presentation which made finally visiting Philadelphia even more special.


We stayed at a hotel near the reconstruction of Philadelphia's famous City Tavern. It was called the "most genteel tavern in America" by John Adams. It was frequented by the Founding Fathers. It was originally built in 1773. Two hundred men gathered there in 1774 in response to the port blockade of Boston harbor by the British. This restaurant/tavern has a great atmosphere with period costume dressed servers.

City Tavern

Moving on to some more modern additions to the city. The steps Rocky ran up are a favorite with tourists. These 72 steps lead to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Across the street is the Washington Monument. This is a beautiful collection of bronze statues with Washington on horse back as the central figure. It was dedicated in 1897. The view of City Hall is particularly striking from here.
Rocky steps



The National Constitution Center, across from Independence Hall, provides some interesting museum displays with artifacts which belonged to the Presidents. Great views of Independence Hall also. The center also has a dramatic performance about the Constitution and its continuing relevance to our lives.

National Constitution Center

I'm looking forward to visiting Philadelphia again. I didn't feel like a couple days was enough. So much interesting history and personal ancestral history.

Dulles Airport