One of the things I am doing for my James Simmons brick wall is figuring out who his neighbors were when he first came to Mississippi. Since I can’t follow James back to South Carolina (too many James Simmons’ there) I am going to try and follow his neighbors back in time to see if I can find where they came from. Once I do that, I can cross check to see if any of the South Carolina James Simmons’ happened to be neighbors with these other families. People tended to migrate in groups.
Mississippi is a Public Lands state so plotting out land plats is super easy (unlike the evil Metes and Bounds system, don’t get me started on that). The Public Land records are on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website.
The patents and warrants on this website show you the first/original owners. They bought or received land directly from the federal government. If the original owner then sold his piece that would be recorded in the county courthouse as a deed. When you plot out the owners you find on this website that is an important thing to understand. It just so happens that James came to the Mississippi Territory soon after it was opened for settlement so he does have several land patents.
The way I have been plotting these is by using graph paper of sorts. Here is the template I use.
It works well but it is BORING! My friend Jenny Lanctot (who has now been promoted to my best friend EVER) showed me a nifty little trick that I did not know about. You can download the original township/range survey and then plot your parcels on that. For example, you can see that the township/range I am working on is 5N11W. Here is what it looks like if you download the map of this township/range from the BLM.
Using these maps to plot the parcels makes it look so much cooler. The other advantage is that you can see the waterways! This tells you so much more about your ancestor’s land. It doesn’t have anything at all to do with the dilemma I am working on but it is still information that I want to know.
To find the map do a search for your ancestor on the BLM website. Click his Accession number in the search list. Now go to the Related Documents tab and click Surveys. You will see an icon that says “Plat Image” click that. If you have the QuickTime plugin you will see it on your screen, if not, click Basic Viewer to see it. You will also see three ways to download, PDF, JP2 and SID.
I am going to download the township/ranges for James (he had property in four) and I am also going to download the surrounding township/ranges since James’ property was right on the border. I am going to re-plot the parcels. I don’t mind, it will be a double check that I didn’t make any mistakes.
You can easily do searches for individual sections as well as complete township/ranges on the BLM website. I will download the names and land descriptions one section at a time.
The grid is a little smaller which means I am going to have to write tinier. Jenny told me to make sure I have a sharp pencil.
Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis