Friday, December 18, 2009

Diving Into Land Records, With a Splash of Webster & Parks

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on my Oakland County, Michigan clan.  And I’ve been studying up on land records, so I thought I’d put my learnings to the test.

Since my Michigan clan had located there when it was still a territory, I figured I’d find some federal land patents for at least some of them.  So my first step was to check out the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office records online.  While my clan was located in other areas of Michigan, my focus was on the surnames of Webster and Parks in Oakland County, Michigan.  I found several records (with images) for those I know are related, as well as a few others that I’m not sure about at the moment.

Following the advise of Christine Rose in her book, Courthouse Research for Family Historians, I made a list of all the people I found with the surnames I was seeking, and then placed them in context on a section map.

There are 36 entries on my list.  I included the following headings:

  • Document #
  • Name(s)
  • Aliquot Parts
  • Section
  • Township
  • Range
  • Meridian
  • Issue Date

Once I had them entered, I sorted the items first by township, then by range, so I could visually see them grouped together.

Figure 1 – Screenshot of my land listing for Oakland County, Michigan.

I then took my list and placed the names in the corresponding section on a township map.  My biggest group, with each of the two surnames, was for Township 2N, Range 11E.  It includes Robert Parks, Aaron Webster, and Luther Webster.

Figure 2 – Township 2N, Range 11E, Oakland County, Michigan

The close proximity of Aaron Webster and Robert Parks could explain how Aaron’s son, Calvin, and Robert’s daughter, Betsey, came together and married in Oakland County in 1825.

Next, I hand-drew the six sections that are clustered together, to see what pieces of land were owned by whom, based on the descriptions.  This gives me a better idea of how close these families were location-wise.

Figure 3 – Hand-drawn map of Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, 17, 18 in Township 2N, Range 11E, Oakland County, Michigan

Here I can see that Robert Parks and Aaron Webster did not share property lines.  However, Robert did share property lines with Luther Webster, who was Aaron’s son. 

Next Steps

Most of the names on my list I recognize.  Some are common in my tree and will require further investigation as to whether or not they are related (e.g., I have several William Websters and some John Parks that could have been in the area during this time period).  There are some names I am not familiar with, but given that they are related surnames and in the same general vicinity, it’s worth looking into them.

Here’s what I plan to do next:

  • Investigate who else owned land in Township 2N, Range 11E (especially in Section 5 between Aaron Webster’s two pieces of land).  Then devise a plan to investigate local land records for these people in hopes of determining if they are related.
  • Devise a plan to investigate local land records for the people I’ve already identified in order to determine a trail of ownership.  In the case of those unknown to me, it should also help determine whether they are related, and if so, how they are related.
  • Right now, my list contains 10 different townships in Oakland County.  I’d like to see how they all fit together in the larger picture, as opposed to just the individual township. 


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