Monday, August 31, 2015

I have a new toy!

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.

Public Land Survey System
Metes and Bounds


Copyright © 2015 Michèle Simmons Lewis


  1. I love to work with land records and have found some really good genealogical info in them. I enjoy plating land descriptions on the Mississippi county highway maps (available from MDOT as pdf). I never thought of plotting land descriptions on the survey plats. However, I printed and pasted together the survey plats for much of Yazoo County, Mississippi, showing the ridges Ridges are indicated by dotted lines and I compared those ridge lines with the roads on the Yazoo 1874 landownership map and with the current roads. My home is on a ridge line. All the rainfall to the north of the road goes to the Yazoo River -- to the south it goes to the Big Black River. I didn't notice any ridges on the example you used. Guess the topography in that part of the state is more level.

  2. How can I subscribe to your blog by getting email?

    Actually, I am currently subscribed but changing my email address. I don't see how to "follow by email" any more.

    This is a problem on other blogspot blogs I currrently follow, including my own! I know on my blog (, it says in the layout that I already have the "Follow by email" widget, and it shows up in the html code, but it does not show on the screen. Google search shows other people have this problem but I haven't found a solution that works.

    Michele, you are so tuned in to the technical stuff, I thought you might have an idea.

    1. Look at the right sidebar and then scroll down a bit and you will see the Follow Us by Email.

    2. I see it now, but it is NOT on Firefox!
      On Internet Explorer and Chrome, I do see the box "Follow us by email" so I can now subscribe with my new email address.

  3. Michele,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  4. I love land records but I still have so much to learn about them. Recently I read that from the information on the BLM site you can order a land case file from NARA. I wanted to add this to your post. I found an article in Family Search's wiki that explained it:

  5. I order my land entry files through a professional genealogist who pulls records at NARA. I get them quick and very inexpensively. He also knows his way around the records very well and can find other related things for me that I didn't even know were there.

  6. Great post! I'm definitely going to give this a try.

  7. If I'm following your directions correctly, you get to a section that has 4 choices: "patents, surveys, LSR, CDI." Is that where you click on surveys? If so, I've only ever found a survey once. The person I just tried I got "no matching records found." I was searching for land for Amanda M Trammell in Taney County, Missouri. Can you see if you get anything? Or, is there a separate way to just type in the township & range & get it? Or, is it just that some have the survey, and some don't? Thanks, Dana (

    1. I have never worked with Missouri records before so I pulled up Amanda's patents. The surveys are not there as you found so I am assuming that not all of them are available yet.

    2. Thanks for checking! As I mentioned, I have looked at the BLM records quite a bit, though I don't remember what states, and I've only found one survey. :( I hope more are available and do come online! I imagine some of them have been lost or just won't ever become available. Anyway, it's wonderful when they are there!

  8. This is very cool! Can't wait to try it! I wanted to let you know that this post is included in my NoteWorthy Reads #22: Enjoy your weekend!