I have died and gone to heaven.
At my passing, I was working on the computer, looking at the latest whizzy stuff added to the HistoryGeo website.
You know how they say that before you die your life passes before your eyes? It’s true. Just before I passed, I saw the days before the Internet and websites such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
I saw myself plotting ancestors’ land grants on graph paper and pouring over modern-day maps trying to match up the 1800s grants with current roads and landmarks.
Then I saw the Internet and Google Maps, and I saw myself finding those magical land spots on satellite imagery. I saw that someone created the Bureau of Land Management website, and located and printed out details of land grants and also the actual grants.
I saw Greg Boyd and his Arphax Publishing when they popped onto the genealogical scene — at his first appearance at a national genealogical conference, the place was all abuzz at the slick spiral-bound “Family Maps” books he had published — showing original purchasers of land indexed through the BLM or the Texas General Land Office.
Of course, paper publishing usually is a bit slower than we techy folks would like, but we all eagerly awaited the next counties the Arphax team would produce.
My demise began a couple of few weeks ago, when I got an email from Boyd telling me he was about to release “First Land Owners Project.” His email said I would be able to see all of the 5,850 parcels of indexed land patents in Houston County, Ala. (That’s where I was doing some research and the company had a record of that).
I logged onto www.historygeo.com (yes, this is a paid site but it is worth every penny of the $59 fee — probably more, but let’s not tell the Boyds that) and clicked on “Launch a Map Viewer!” Then I chose “First Landowners Project.” A continental U.S. map appeared center screen, with tool bars on the left and top of the map and a sidebar on the right of the map. Things were ready to launch.
From the right sidebar I selected “County Browser,” and then, from the drop down choices, I selected Houston County, Ala. From the alphabetical markers, I clicked on “D” and scrolled down to “Dawsey, James J.”
This ancestor had many original grants, and using my mouse I could maneuver all around the area to see not only his pieces of land, but all of his neighbors (many of whom also are relatives).
Each section of land had the owner’s name and the date of the grant. Left clicking the mouse in the parcel will pop up a box of “Parcel Details,” which gave the patent date, exact physical location information and options viewing U.S. County Boundary History, Google Maps, BLM Source or BLM document.
The boundary history shows that from 1800 to 1810 these were Indian lands in Mississippi Territory; from 1820 to 1900 it was Henry County, Ala.; and from 1910 forward it has been Houston County, Ala.
But the Google Maps choice is the real killer — there is no guessing or having to mess with paper maps and overlays, etc. (all those “creative” things we once did). There it is in living color: a satellite view of the parcels of land Ancestor Dawsey owned in 1854.
Of course I was being just plain lazy when I clicked on the BLM Source and BLM document; it saved me from having to go to the BLM website and doing the work myself.
So, yes, folks, I died happy. Now I’m sitting here in genealogy heaven, scoping out all that ancestor land and exploring the massive amount of tools HistoryGeo has added to its website.
But I’m a little lonely up here, so come on and enjoy it with me.
Sharon Tate Moody is a board-certified genealogist. Send your genealogical methodology questions and event announcements to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She regrets she is unable to assist with personal research and cannot respond to requests for locating or researching individuals. Past Heritage Hunting columns are available online at tbo.com, search words “Sharon Tate Moody.