When an ancestor’s origins or parents are unknown, comprehensive neighborhood study conducted through custom research is vital to discovering clues to help answer such unresolved questions. The objectives of the study are to identify neighbors who resided in closest proximity to the focal ancestor and determine whether or not kinship ties existed with the ancestor or ancestor’s family. In holistic neighborhood study, the focus of the research is shifted away from the target ancestor and redirected toward intensive study of the records generated by those “other” folks who lived in the ancestor’s community.
In order to begin to reconstruct the ancestor’s neighborhood and bring structure and definition to that local community, a broad examination of available land records would certainly be paramount.
EXAMPLE (public domain state, using land records)
The target ancestor was featured as a head of household on the 1830 federal census of Bibb County, Alabama. Additional information from other sources consulted indicated the focal ancestor resided somewhere in Bibb County within Township 21 South, of Range 6 West, of the Huntsville Meridian. Since Alabama was a public-land state, an investigation of federal land records of the public domain will help identify potential neighbors of the ancestor. A concentration on all persons who received land patents from the government within that unique township in Bibb County will be a reasonable first assignment (see clickable map image below).
County: Bibb County
Time Period: January 1819 through June 1830
Objective: Identify individuals who received federal land patents in Township 21 South, Range 6 West, of the Huntsville Meridian
Correlation: Construct a neighborhood map of that area of Bibb County to show each patentee’s land location and proximity to other patentees
Of course, after that the above assignment has been completed, the study should then be extended to deed records (conveyances recorded at the county level) or even state-level records relative to the distribution or sale of 16th Section Lands. Evidence gathered from the deed investigation could be correlated to construct a map with even further detail to bring critical definition as to which persons lived in closest proximity to the ancestor.
How well do you know your ancestor’s neighborhood?
If you need assistance in identifying your ancestor’s neighbors of closest proximity or pinpointing the legal location of your ancestor’s real property, feel free to contact me.