If you’re doing land research in Public Domain States (all states except the Colonies, Texas & Hawaii), there is a book series you absolutely must know about. It will blow you away.
Family Maps of <county, state> Series
Gregory and Vicky Boyd have taken on the task of making land ownership maps using the Bureau of Land Management data. So, without a doubt, they have authoritative information simply based on their high quality source.
What they have done is simply amazing. They have mapped by Section, Township, and Range, each of the first land owners and organized the maps into books segregated by county and state. What that means is unlike plat maps, which you can find on www.ancestry.com, that map all of the owners of the property at a given point in time and regardless of whether the land has been owned previously, these maps document only the first owners of the land regardless of when the land was purchased.
Imagine a section map, which because we’re talking about the Public Domain lands, is mostly sectioned off in a grid pattern. And in each “box” you will find the name of the person who first purchased that land. Further, you will find the date on which the patent (title) was issued. Fabulous!
The Boyds take this one step further in that they have three maps for each section. The first is as described above with a map of the first settlers. The other two maps are the same section but one is topography (all the rivers, lakes, and other natural features mapped) and the third one is contemporary with the modern cities and highways drawn out.Not only can you know where your ancestor settled, when the land was acquired, who his/her neighbors (read: relatives) were, but you can literally get a feel for the lay of the land. Truly remarkable.
What you may not realize is that the land was purchased at different times and under different legislative Acts. You may have a person who got his land through the Homestead Act right next to someone who purchased his land with Bounty Land (Script Warrant Act.) In the back of each book is a breakdown of how many parcels/persons bought land under each Act. It’s great insight to know how the county was settled in aggregate. Were they a bunch of “Homesteaders” or 1812 War Veterans with Bounty Land Warrants to use?
About The Series
Each of the books in the Family Maps of ________ series represents one county. You’ll find one book for each county they have completed, and the book would be entitled “Family Maps of <county, state>,” or for example, Family Maps of Jackson County, Missouri.
As you can imagine mapping every township in the Public Domain is a big project. And though the Boyds are working very hard, they haven’t finished every township in every county yet. You can see a list of published books on their website, where you can purchase any books of your choosing.
However, if you’re near a major library like the Midwest Genealogy Center, check there first. They probably have the collection.
If you’re doing early settler research, you probably already know that the land records are golden. This tool can either be the icing on the cake for your research or the key that opens up doors to wonders yet unknown.