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.

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