I feel like a kid at Christmas! (Assuming, of course, that children would be excited about mapping utilities for historic documents as Christmas presents.) Newly released as of February 14, 2013, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has unveiled a new tool that is sure to keep you up at night surfing and searching.
What’s the Bureau of Land Management?
The BLM website is the go-to source for many original patents (first deeds/title) of property distributed in the Public Domain (US land not including the Colonies, Texas, or Hawaii) from 1785 to 1965. If you haven’t discovered it, go there now. It’s amazing. You can download actual pdf files of the original patents, which have all the great information you need to get the Land Entry File (application packet) from the National Archives.
The BLM just unveiled a new mapping tool on the site. Inevitably the first question most of us have after finding the patent is “where’s the property?” And because the land is described in Section-Township-Range format instead of the familiar City/County/State nomenclature that we’re all accustomed to, it’s really tough to find the land on a map. But not now. Once you find your patent on the BLM site, you can go to the Patent Details tab on the page, where it gives the Section-Township-Range information. There you can check “map,” wait a few seconds and “Shazam!” You have a US map with your property identified. You can zoom in and out to see what county it is in, what cities, rivers, highways, and even state borders it is near. The property is highlighted in its actual dimensions.
As amazing as this is there are limitations. If your ancestor bought a section of land that was less than 640 acres (one section) that is described in alloquots, i.e. NW1/4, SE1/2, that detail of mapping available in the program. But still! You get really darn close.
Check it Out!
Isn’t this the coolest thing since sliced bread?
So dig out your patents, or start searching for them on the BLM site, then go to the map feature and see where they are located. I’m sure it will open up a whole new dimension on your family research.