If you have ancestors who owned land in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Wisconsin, you will be interested in a new series of books from Arphax Publishing Company.
These are public land grant states where the federal government sold farmland to private individuals, primarily for their use to homestead and improve the land. That is, each purchaser obtained land at reasonable prices if he or she would inhabit and cultivate the property. The government's records of these land sales often can provide genealogical clues not found elsewhere.
When the federal government was formed after the Revolutionary War, all the lands outside the original thirteen colonies and the next five states added to the Union was ceded to the federal government and became part of the public domain. Land was then sold to individuals, to corporations, and to state and local governments. Depending on the piece of property and the time frame, the document issued by the government relating to the survey, sale, or transfer of the parcel may be called a land patent, a warrant, or a homestead.
These records have been available to the general public for years on paper and recently became available on the Internet on the Bureau of Land Management's web site. However, finding families of interest and plotting their locations to see who lived near each other has always been a painstaking process. At least, that is the way it has been until now.
The Family Maps™ series of books offers a quick-glance opportunity to view the same information already drawn out for you. These books provide maps in counties that contain hundreds and usually thousands of federal land-patents. In the Deluxe Editions of these books, the maps are accompanied by road and waterway maps that include towns and cemeteries, and that allow true family historians to find ancestral land.
These books also show variant surname spellings, maiden-name possibilities among neighboring patent-holders, multi-patentee buying groups, overlapping parcels, cancelled patents, and more.
This week I had a chance to examine two of the books available, a Deluxe Edition for Union County, Illinois, and a Homesteads Edition for the similarly-named Union Parish in Louisiana. Both are full of information of interest to genealogists.
NOTE: In the rest of this article I will use the word "county" to refer to both counties (in most states) and Louisiana parishes.
Both books contain multiple maps:
" A map of the entire state, showing the location of the county covered by this book.
" A larger map, showing the county of interest and the surrounding counties.
" A still larger map of the county, showing the congressional townships within the county. (These are labeled by townships and ranges, such as "Township 12-S, Range 1-W.)
" A map showing the distribution of cities and towns within the county (only in the Deluxe Edition).
" A map of the known cemeteries within the county (only in the Deluxe Edition).
Following the maps, you find pages and pages of text and then still more maps. First of all, there are pages listing all the surnames listed in the patent, along with the number of parcels that were purchased by people of that surname.
Next, the books contain Surname/Township Indexes. These are lists of surnames along with pointers to the maps that show where their land was located. For the two books I looked at, these indexes alone ran about 25 pages in each book.
Finally, there are maps of each township; however, the two versions of the books vary somewhat:
The Deluxe Edition contains Township Map Groups for the entire county. Each map contains a Patent Index, a Patent Map, a Road Map, and a Historical Map. These maps give detailed views of each township's land, roads, lakes, streams, railroads, and cemeteries. You can see the land your ancestor purchased, along with all the significant landmarks around his homestead.
The Homesteads Edition has maps covering the same territory but with fewer details. While you can quickly and easily find the parcel of land purchased by your ancestor, you will not see the roads, lakes, streams, railroads, and cemeteries.
Of course, the Deluxe Editions provide more details; at the same time, they are thicker, cost more to publish, and therefore sell at higher prices.
The differences between the two editions can be confusing, so I copied-and-pasted the following explanation from Arphax Publishing Company's web site:
What is the difference between a DELUXE edition and a HOMESTEADS edition?
- Are based on actual Geographical data for the subject county.
- Contain 3 maps per Congressional Township: an all-name indexed Patent Map, a Road Map, and an Historical Map (current-day Rivers and Railroads), with the latter two maps containing city-centers and cemeteries.
- Contain an Appendix of hundreds of known Aliquot Part descriptions (section parts).
- Patent Maps are not based on actual Geographical data for the subject county, but rather on a typical 36-section Congressional Township.
- Contain 1 map per Congressional Township: an all-name indexed Patent Map (no cemeteries, towns, rivers, roads, etc.)
- Contain no Appendix of Aliquot Part descriptions (section parts).
- Type for Surname Indexes (county-wide and by-township) are in a smaller type-face (font) than in Deluxe Editions
The end result is that [the] Deluxe editions allow comprehensive research for the physical location of the underlying land, are quite a bit longer than Homesteads editions, but a little more expensive.
All that being said, Homesteads editions offer researchers the same ability to identify relationships between owners of land that the Deluxe Editions do, and at a reduced cost.
In short, these books provide a huge amount of information of value to genealogists. Often the best method of finding individuals in these states is to plot the land sales to families, including all related families and even those unrelated individuals who traveled together to the newly-opening lands to start new lives. In the past, plotting the movement of such communities required many, many hours of poring over printed information, usually requiring the researcher to manually create crude maps for his or her own use. The Family Maps series of books do all that hard work for you!
These books are "must have" publications for anyone researching ancestry in the public land states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.
The Family Maps series of books sell for $19.95 to $36.95 each. A full list of available books is listed on the publisher's web site. If they do not yet have books for the county of your interest, check back in a few weeks. New books are being printed at the rate of two or three per month.
In addition to finding the list of currently available map books, you also can order the books from the secure shopping cart system on the same web site: http://www.arphax.com