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Land Records and Legacy 8

"Land records. What good are they for genealogists? Just boring documents and no reason to look at them."

I remember thinking those exact thoughts over two decades ago when I began my genealogy quest. As I gained more experience and repented, I remember thinking how silly it was that I had ever ignored these records.

While browsing my end-of-line ancestors in Legacy 8 yesterday I examined what I had on my 4th great-grandfather, Lewis King.

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Studying his chronology (how does one do research without Legacy's Chronology View?) I noticed that the 1850 census showed he had $220 in real estate. I also noticed that I had not recorded any "Deed" events. If he had real estate, those transactions should be recorded in the deed books. This is my end-of-line ancestor, and I haven't searched the deeds? No wonder he is still a mystery.

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I first turned to the FamilySearch Catalog to see what land records are easily accessible. Since land records are usually recorded and cataloged at the county level, I entered the following, and clicked Search.

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Eight entries appeared, I clicked on the first:

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What I noticed next put me in a genea-good mood! In addition to the 807 rolls of available microfilm, there was a note that New York's land records are available online.

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The next screen was a little intimidating though.

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After clicking on the Erie County link there were scores, even hundreds of links to choose from. Fortunately, the first grouping were links to the indexes of the deeds. I chose the Grantee index, 1808-1859 volume 1. Remember, the grantee is the buyer. Grantors are the sellers. Watch Mary Hill's webinar, "Land Records Solve Research Problems" for more.

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It got exciting on image 429 of 906, where it listed for the first (and only) time in the Grantee Index, Louis King. The index provided the name of the grantor, the book number, page number, date of the transaction, the date it was recorded, and a brief description. Here's what it looks like (I photoshopped it a little to make it easier to see):


Then I turned to the Grantor Index and found Lewis King in book 163, page 146 and book 182, page 296.

Armed with the three index entries, I returned to the hundreds of links and saw that in addition to the digitized indexes, FamilySearch also had digitized images of all the corresponding deeds. Below is the deed from book 182:


Thankfully there are zoom controls in the lower right:

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Knowing that I will be adding this image to Legacy, I clicked on the Save button (next to the zoom controls). After the image was downloaded, I renamed and moved it to my desired folder on the hard drive (see Chapter 9: "Getting Organized" in Digital Imaging Essentials for more on organizing your digital images):

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We've now completed step one - the most difficult step - which is to "perform the research." These steps are also outlined, beginning on page 198 in my new book, Legacy Family Tree - Unlocked! in the chapter "Adding Land Records PLUS a Visit to the Cemetery."

Step 2: Set up the source clipboard

Before adding anything to Legacy, and knowing that I will be citing the source of this deed in various places, it is time to set up the source clipboard. Setting it up takes a little more effort in the beginning, but will save time later on.

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In the Individual's Information screen, I clicked on the triangle to open the Source Clipboard and clicked on the Clear All button. Then I clicked the Step 1 link and scrolled through the Master Source List to check to see if I had previously added a master source for these particular land records. Seeing that I hadn't, I clicked Add and selected the following template.

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Filling in the fields for the Master Source looked like this:

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Next I filled in the Source Detail, added the transcription to the Text/Comments tab, and linked the digital image to the Media tab:

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Step 3 - Analyze and add the new Deed event, sourcing as you go

Each step is important, but step 3 - adding the deed event - helps to build the person's chronology - which is essential to successful research - especially when researching an end-of-line ancestor. After saving the Source Clipboard, click on the Add button and do the following:

  • Fill in the Event name, date, place, and add the transcription of the deed to the Event's notes.
  • Paste the source from the Source Clipboard by clicking on the Single bar of the Source Clipboard.
  • Add the digital image of the deed.

The new event looks like this:

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Since the event belongs in others' chronologies, we can now click the Share Event button to share it. This prevents us from needing to manually add the event for others. In this case, I am going to at least share the event with Lewis King's wife. After sharing the event, she now appears on the "People who share this event" screen AND the event now appears in her Chronology View:

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Sharing the event with the grantee is also a consideration. For this specific situation I'll forgoe it for now.

Reviewing the deed, I am really excited about one thing in particular - new names for Lewis' wife. The deed spelled her name as both:

  • Fronika
  • Fronaka

These two spellings can now be added to her Alternate Names screen:

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I'm excited to have two new ways to search for her! This was the biggest find for me in this deed.

Studying his updated Chronology View, the 1857 deed adds a little uncertainty to the exact timing of his migration from Erie County, New York to Iowa, although he could have returned to New York to finish the sale of his land.

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Steps 4-6

I will forgo the detailed explanation of steps 4-6 in this article, but will do it on my own. I can't wait to study the other two Erie County deeds and "re-search" previously-searched records and sites using the two new names for Lewis' wife.

Below is the summary of steps for working with a deed in Legacy 8 as outlined in Legacy Family Tree - Unlocked! If you can believe it, the book goes into much greater detail with specific step-by-step instructions for every aspect of researching, recording, and analyzing a deed. Here, we've only touched the surface of what land records are, but hopefully this introduction will at least generate an interest in them for you.

Summary of Steps – Deed

  1. Create the To Do item and perform the research
  2. Set up the source clipboard
  3. Analyze and add the new Deed event, sourcing as you go
  4. Close/complete the To Do item
  5. Plan for future research
  6. File the paper document, if applicable


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And how does this insular view help British, Australian, Canadian, etc. users? How does it encourage us to upgrade to V.8?

Dee - I would treat land records from any other country the same way - add the Deed event, add its citation, and review the updated Chronology.

Oh my, I need to go back to add more land/deed events to see if I can wriggle out another clue on several ancestors in late 1790s, early 1800s. Thanks, Geoff.

I loved this post. More like this please - so great to see real-life examples that integrate finding records, then analyzing them, and then finally documenting and storing the results. Great! In response to an earlier comment, the nationality of the record isn't the focus as much as the thought process behind using the chronology to take another look at what you have, and then acting on what you find.

Sometimes deed transactions weren't recorded for years after the event. Don't get hung up on the time frame of moving on to Iowa.

AND I strongly recommend the Land Use course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy for additional education on the value of land:)


The usefulness of Legacy in handling these sort of specialised records could be greatly enhanced if the alternative terminology used in other jurisdictions was available. For example, in Australia 'grantor' and 'grantee' have a completely different meaning. A 'grant' is the process and documentation when the land is first alienated from the Crown and a title is first issued (see, you are already confused!). Any subsequent transactions involve a 'vendor' and a 'purchaser'. All Australian states use the Torrens title system administered at a state level. It can be very confusing to people who are not familiar with the terminology to have to adapt to American concepts. It shouldn't be too difficult to provide a 'translation' of the basic concepts.

Most of my ancestors came from Scotland or England, where it was only a small group of people who were landowners in relation to the rest of the population, and my ancestors weren't part of that group. That's what drew them to Canada and the States. You've given incentive to search the land records here, but wish I could learn more about them as ag labourers and tenant farmers "back home".

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