Links in the family chains
Why chase land grant records
The Legal Genealogist loves the readers of this blog.
And Facebook friends.
And the genealogical community in general.
Yesterday, I asked folks to join with me in crowdsourcing the acquisition of North Carolina land grant records for the website NCLandGrants.com.1
This free searchable website, created by David McCorkle, a North Carolina researcher and land expert, is now supported by North Carolina Historical Records Online (NCHRO), “a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit organization dedicated to providing public access to high quality images of original records and other related information useful to researching North Carolina history and genealogy.”2
The goal was to help David get copies of land grant records microfilm from the North Carolina State Archives so it can be digitized and put online to accompany the fabulous searchable index of these 216,000+ grants that’s already on the website. Each roll of microfilm can be digitized for $16. So, for example, the three rolls of Granville County land grants records that I funded yesterday cost $48.
At the start of the day yesterday, David had 20% of the records acquired. By last night, the percentage funded or acquired was more than 47%.3
That is just so cool. This descendant of many many North Carolinians offers a hearty thank you to everyone who has kicked in or who will.
Now… why land grant records? I mean, they don’t have the tidbits you can occasionally find in deeds like a reference to “my son John.” So what good are they?
I mentioned a bunch of things yesterday: “Even if our ancestors didn’t get a land patent, these records tell us who they might have lived with or near, or worked for. They may have been chain carriers on a relative’s survey. They tell us who settled our part of North Carolina and when.”4 I’ll add that these fill in for records loss in counties like the one where my folks spent most of their lives — Burke County — where the pre-1865 deed books were lost in that minor little dust-up called the Civil War.5
But I want to focus now on just one part of what these records show: that business of being “chain carriers on a relative’s survey.”
So… what’s a chain carrier? According to the University of North Carolina at Asheville: “They were land surveyor’s assistants; handled measuring chain. Generally, there was a legal requirement that chain carriers take an oath as to the honesty of their work; therefore the chain carrier should have been of legal age. It was a common practice for a member of the family to serve as a chain bearer for the surveyor.”6
Read that part again: “It was a common practice for a member of the family to serve as a chain bearer for the surveyor.”
You want to add to the evidence that Thomas Davenport, who got a land grant in Burke County in 1778, was related by marriage to William Wiseman (William’s wife Mary was Thomas’ sister)? The fact that William Wiseman was a chain carrier on Thomas Davenport’s survey is going to help.7 And I sure wouldn’t leave out the fact that both William and Thomas Wiseman were chain carriers for Thomas Davenport on another land grant.8
Maybe you want to tie in the next generation of Davenports. It doesn’t hurt to have Jonas Davenport as the chain carrier for a grant to William Davenport in 1803.9 Or Thomas Davenport as the chain carrier for a grant to Jonas Davenport, issued the same day.10
And I could go on and on with a whole bunch of related families who all settled near each other — and who all carried the chains for each other’s surveys.
The bottom line here is that evidence of one person carrying the chain for another provides a link in our proof chain for our families.
You won’t find that in the deeds. It’s those land grant records that give us those links.
Now excuse me… I have more records to examine…
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Links in the family chains,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 22 May 2021).
- Judy G. Russell, “Buy some land!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 21 May 2021 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 22 May 2021). ↩
- North Carolina Historical Records Online (http://nchistoricalrecords.org/ : accessed 22 May 2021). ↩
- See “Current Status of NC Land Grant Shucks By County,” NCLandGrants.com (https://www.nclandgrants.com/ : accessed 22 May 2021). ↩
- See “Buy some land!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 21 May 2021. ↩
- See Betsy Dodd Pittman, “What Happened to Burke County Court Records?” Journal of Burke County Genealogical Society 7 (September 1989): 70. Also, Betsy Dodd Pittman, “What Happened to Burke County Court Records? (Updated),” Journal of Burke County Genealogical Society 16 (August 1998): 4–5. ↩
- “Surveying Units and Terms: Chain Bearer,” Speculation Land Collection, Ramsey Library, University of North Carolina at Asheville (http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/mss/speculation_lands/ : accessed 22 May 2021). ↩
- North Carolina Secretary of State, file 19 (Thomas Devanport, on Wilsons Creek, the west fork of John’s River, no. 19, issued 10 December 1778; entry 165, 11 June 1778, book 28, p. 19); North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh. ↩
- North Carolina Secretary of State, file 131 (Thomas Devanport, on the warrior fork of John’s River, no. 131, issued 15 March 1780; entry 760, 11 November 1778, book 28, p. 131). ↩
- North Carolina Secretary of State, file 3505 (William Davenport, waters of Roses Creek, no. 3270, issued 19 December 1803; entry 4218, 3 September 1801, book 117, p. 325). ↩
- North Carolina Secretary of State, file 3517 (Jonas Davenport, on Squirrell Creek, waters of Towe River, no. 3282, issued 19 December 1803; entry 4391, 27 March 1802, book 117, p. 329). ↩