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Whatever Happened to Great-Grandfather's Land in Virgina?

Many of our ancestors made Virginia their new home when they arrived in the New World during the 1700's. Many of the places we enjoy today may be situated on the land of our early Virginia ancestors who were the original property owners. And while the land our ancestors claimed as home is still there, the old home and homestead is probably is something total different.

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Priscilla Harden
Word Count: 803 (approx.)
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Many of our ancestors made Virginia their new home when they arrived in the New World during the 1700's. Today Virginia and the surrounding area is home to many of our Nation's offices, several military installations, many large towns and cities, as well as land used to graze horses and preserved monuments and historical places. Many of the places we enjoy today may be situated on the land of our early Virginia ancestors who were the original property owners. And while the land our ancestors claimed as home is still there, the old home and homestead is probably is something total different.

Virginia is home to Colonial Jamestown, one of the earliest English settlements in this country. If you have early Jamestown ancestors, there are several websites which contain genealogy and historical information which might be helpful to you. If, by chance, you would like to reconstruct the old home place and perhaps see it as it is today, useful resources are also available. One book called, The Site of Old "JamesTowne 1607-1698, by Sameul H. Yonge (Hermitage Press 1907), is a "brief historical and topographical sketch of the first American metropolis." This is an excellent book in which Yonge strives to reconstruct Old Jamestown, with many sketches and diagrams to give you the real picture of your ancestors during those early days.

Samuel H. Yonge was in charge of protecting the James River and Jamestown Island. He was in charge of the project under the United States Department of Engineers in 1900 and 1901.

Sources that can support you in pinpointing your ancestor's land, The Library of Virginia online is one outstanding site. It can be found at www.lva.lib.va.us/. Under the Site Index, selecting the topic Land Office Patents and Grants/Northern Neck Grants and Surveys, Virginia/ will take you to the Land Office Grants search page.

Search for your ancestor here, remembering also to try multiple spelling variations. You might also find your ancestor listed in conjuction with someone else. You can find those also, by just a basic search. The land described might be that of a neighbor's, but mentions your ancestor's land bordering it. This will give you clues also of where your ancestor's land was located. Pay particular attention to rivers, creeks, or other key landmarks the land document mentions.

Two of the most important clues you are looking for will be the county where the land is located and how many acres are involved. Even though the county lines have changed, you still have a beginning point. Other clues might be something like, "south side of the main branch of Tuckahoe," or "both sides of Rock Run of Smiths River." These example are actual ways you may find your ancestor's Virgina land listed.

Creeks, and rivers take different paths as time progresses, and that Creek may not be in the same as your ancestor knew it, but will still give you an idea of the approximate location, and knowing the number of acres will also give you a sense of where the property extended from the river or creek.

Now that you have some idea where the land of your ancestor is, you can place it on a map. The Library of Congress online has maps which might be of help you to at Library of Congress/digital collections/historical newspapers - FREE, using the search term "Virginia maps." A Google search might also help you by just entering the creek or river name. Now, one example I gave above was "both sides of Rock Run of Smiths River." Sometimes it is hard to find Rock Run, but you may want to search for it, also, through colonial maps on the Net, or in your local library.

Other ways to check might be by putting a question on one of the message boards like Genforum. Many people might have other sources for maps and they could help you find that particular area you are looking for.

Once you have found and placed your ancestor's land on a colonial map, you are ready to plot it on a modern road map or other recent maps. After this, you are now ready to find where the land is today and what is there. Search on the Net using any new landmarks found when plotting your ancestor's land on a more recent map. The landmark may be a park near or part of a town. This will aid you in finding how the property is being used today. You might even consider searching the landmark on Google, using images. A picture is worth a thousand words.

You might discover some very interesting findings through your research of the land documents. Perhaps your ancestor's land is now a golf course, or may be home to a high tech water plant, or maybe they are still grazing horses on it. The information is there for you to discover and enjoy!

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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