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Land Analysis Charting System
By Heather H. Doherty

Getting all the information concerning the land of a particular surname in one place can be helpful if you want to analyze that data without shuffling through pages and pages of deeds, warrants/surveys, wills, Orphans' Court and/or Chancery Court records.  At the bottom of this page is an example of the system I created for this purpose for the Hastings surname of Sussex County, Delaware.  The charting system is a useful method of organization that enables you to more clearly see connections between different sets of land data that may not have been noticed before.


Description of Chart Headings

Date:
  date (or closest available date) of when the land was transferred from one person to another, could be date of a deed, a probated will or an Orphans' Court record. 
Grantee/bought/bequeathed to:  the individual(s) who received the land on that date. They may have purchased it in a deed, received it as part of an Orphans' Court judgment or had it willed to them.
From:  the individual(s) who owned the land prior to the transfer on the date given.
Land:  where the land was located (e.g. Sussex County, DE) &/or the name of the tract of land (e.g. "Kings Lott") if provided.
Neighbors:  in the description of the metes and bounds within the deed or Orphans' Court records (or a description of the land in a will), they will often mention people who owned land that bordered the land being described. I refer to these individuals as "Neighbors" on the chart.  Note: Documents don't always list ALL neighbors of a tract of land.  Often, you will only see two or three neighbors in a deed, and sometimes you won't see any listed at all.
Description:  information about the land itself (e.g. who owned the land prior to the grantor/deceased, landmarks such as roads or marked trees, whether land was part of a larger tract, if information obtained from a warrant or survey etc).
Acres:  number of acres that were being transferred on date given.  Note: acreage is not always supplied, sometimes there are even blanks on the page where it was supposed to have been filled in, but wasn't.
Ref[erence]:  the source information (e.g. a deed's book & page, probate record, etc).
Witnesses:  the individual(s) who witnessed the document (e.g. will, deed, Orphans' Ct. record, etc).
Notes:  Anything else that might be important that was not covered in any of the other categories (e.g. amount paid, attorneys, if land was split up in court, if it was part of a larger tract of land, if land sold was the "widow's third", etc).

You can modify these headings or change the order to suit your preferences.  What's important is getting all the information in one place.  In fact, since making this chart, I added another column for the "Amount" of money the person may have paid for the land in a deed.  Sometimes the amount of money is important.  For example, if land was sold for $1, it was likely the grantor and grantee were related.

If you're using deed abstract books (a reference book with transcribed data from original deeds, usually published in the last few decades) to find deeds that mention your ancestor's surname, it's even better than if you just used the original deed index alone.  The deed index only lists grantors and grantees, but the deed abstract books have an everyname index, so you can find deeds where your ancestor's surname was mentioned as something other than the person who bought or sold the land (e.g. witness, neighbor, previous owner, etc).  The more data you have for your surname the better.

After making the chart, you will be better able to see if the land in one record was the same as that described in another record.  Once making a determination, you can color-code the chart so that all those parcels of land that were the same are highlighted with the same color.  Looking at the matched up deeds all at once can tell you far more than each one can individually.

[Note:  Although it may seem like there is a lot of data, your spreadsheet software likely has a "find" function, whereas you can type in a word and it will find all other mentions of that word.]


Example of Matched Up Deeds

- Deed #1:  Date: 12 Feb 1810 - William Williams to Samuel Parker
                    50 acres on Rd leading to Broad Creek, black oak tree marked with 5 notches.
                    Neighbors: John German & Robert Pascal, Sarah Crofton
- Deed #2:  Date: 23 Jan 1824 - Elijah Parker to Jeremiah Parker, son of Elijah
                   "Williams Delight" (no acres given) on Rd leading to Broad Creek, black oak tree marked with 5 notches
                   Neighbors: John German, Daniel Pascal & Widow Crofton
- Deed #3: Date: 15 Nov 1848 - Jeremiah Parker to Parker Hanson
                   50 acres named
"Williams Delight" on Rd leading to Broad Creek, black oak tree marked with 5 notches
                   Neighbors: Widow German, Daniel Pascal, Thomas Weston
                  
What Can We Learn From These Deeds:
1) If the land was 50 acres in 1810 & 1848, it was likely 50 acres in 1824.
2) If the land was called
"Williams Delight" in 1824 and later, its possible it had the same name in 1810, but names of tracts of land were subject to change. If you find a deed prior to 1810 concerning the same land, and it was called "Williams Delight" then, it was likely called that in 1810 as well.
3) The Parkers could've changed the name of the plot of land, but they didn't. 
"Williams Delight" was owned by a Williams prior to the Parkers.  The Williams family was probably the one who named it "Williams Delight".  Could Williams be related to the Parkers?  Was Williams a maiden name of Samuel Parker's wife or mother.  It would be a good idea to check the marriage records for this possibility.  Of course, it's also possible they had no relation at all, but it doesn't hurt to check.
4) All three deeds described the land as being on the road leading to Broad Creek, but that alone wouldn't be enough to match up these three deeds, however, the black oak tree described as having 5 notches is far more specific.  There could've been several people who lived along the road leading to Broad Creek, but far fewer had a black oak tree with 5 notches on it that was also on the road leading to Broad Creek.
5) It's likely John German died between 1824 and 1848 because "Widow German" was a neighbor instead of John in 1848.
6) Robert Pascal likely either died or moved away as Daniel Pascal replaced him as a neighbor in 1824.  He's possibly a son of Robert.
7) Sarah Crofton and Widow Crofton could have been the same person.  It's possible one deed provided her first name, while the other referred to her simply as "widow".  Widow Crofton possibly died or moved away prior to 1848 as Thomas Weston was a neighbor then and her name did not appear.  Thomas Weston could've married a daughter of Crofton or he could be unrelated.  Since they didn't always list ALL the neighbors, Crofton still might have been a neighbor in 1848 while Thomas Weston could've been a neighbor in 1824.  Let's say you're descended from Elijah Parker (father of Jeremiah), and you already know one of Jeremiah's daughters married a Weston, but you didn't know which Weston and there was no marriage record found.  The neighbor would be a good candidate.  People didn't move as far away from home as they do today.  I've come across several instances where a son/daughter married a next door neighbor or got married and moved in next door.  Note: Another reason to look at the neighbors: they may show up as neighbors or witnesses on some other document related to the Parker family.
8) Something happened between 1810 and 1824.  In 1810, Samuel Parker had the land, and in 1824, Elijah Parker was selling it.  How did Elijah get the land?  First thing I would check is the probate record of Samuel Parker (if he had one) to see if he had any children named Elijah.  Other records to check would be Orphans' Court & Chancery Court records.  Let's say you are descended from Elijah Parker, but don't know who his parents were.  Samuel would be a good candidate to look into.
9) Who was "Parker" Hanson?  This land was in the Parker family for almost 40 years, and people have been known to use surnames as first names for their children, especially back then.  Because his surname was "Hanson" rather than "Parker", my first guess would be that he was a son of a woman who was born a Parker.  I'd check marriage records for any female Parkers marrying a Hanson prior to 1827 (Parker Hanson had to have been 21 yrs old in 1848 to have purchased land, and she likely married prior to his birth).  Perhaps you already know Jeremiah Parker's daughter married a Hanson, "Parker Hanson" might have been a child of that union.


Example of the Land Analysis Charting System

land analysis charting system