Scotch-Irish-L Archives

Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 2005-12 > 1134079558

From: "Linda Merle" <>
Subject: Re: [Sc-Ir] Re: Land ownership; indentured servant; ports of emigration; Early Scotch-Irish arrivals
Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 14:05:58 -0800

Hi Neil,

The genealogy source I used meant that 90% of
the people at some point owned or 'owned' (including squatters),
land, not that 90% of the people living in a given locale
at any given time owned land. That's because for someone
doing genealogy what is important to recognise is the
criticality of land records in colonial America. 90% of your
ancestors will appear in SOME land record. Very possibly
NOT the one you need them in -- if your experience is anywhere
similar to mine <grin>.

So the percentage of land owners is much lower than the 90%
figure I mentioned because the 90% does not relate to a
single moment in time in a given location, but means that
there is a 90% change that your John Anderson appears in
some land record, somewhere, at some time. Mine does. He
buys land in Western PA. WHile he's rumored to have lived
in Old Cumberland Co, there's no land records that name
him there, that I've found. Of couse I've not read every deed
in three or four counties....

Land records in colonial and post colonial America
are not easy. One of the problems is that obtaining a grant
(ie buying land from the state or colony, not an individual)
was a process. Sometimes our ancestors started the process
with a warrant but sold the warrant and the land. They do not
appear in the grants. Or they bought the warrant. It's very
confusing. Often they squatted on land for their whole lives,
As one was not required to register land sales, it is possible
the ancestor owned land but doesn't appear in the deedbook
or any other. He will appear in the militia records and tax
records. If those survive.

The only way to know for sure that the ancestor didn't
own land is to not find him in the tax records, but they
often don't survive. And I suspect some of mine could figure
out a way to evade the tax man anyway....

>example, my earliest proved ancestor of VA>MD>sw PA>flatboat to Maysville,
>KY 1790>OH (all during 1760-1796) apparently did not own land until 1791 in
>KY before he moved his family across river into Northwest Territory in 1796.

He may not have legally owned land. Have you checked court
records to see if he is named in the 1781 (I think it was)
proceedings where people who could prove that they had been
settled on land for a year could purchase at reduced prices?
Sometimes in KY that's one way to determine if the person
was there in 1780 (I think it was). Of course the person
could have continued to live on the land and not purchased,
but moved to either purchase better or cheaper land elsewhere.

Anyway if the man appears in the Northwest Territory records
(or somewhere in his life or death), then he goes into the
90% side of the pile. Ie he appears in some land records.

The Harper book sou nds like a must read but again, doesn't
contradict the statement that I lifted from another source.

Also you can sometimes find info about a 18th century ancestor
who originally settled a plot of land by searching the deedbooks
WAY into the 1800s, approaching 1900. Having read about
this strategy, my sister undertook it to try to identify
the parents of one of our brick walls here in Western PA.
Around 1880 our great great grandad registered the deed,
naming everyone he ever knew who could testafy that he had
received the land from his father. He named all his brothers
and sisters. His father spelled his name differently and
does not appear in any land records. It must have been a
private sale for which the deed was never registered.

Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify what the 90% figure

Linda Merle

Sent via the WebMail system at

This thread: