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Breaking Through a Brick Wall with Land Records

Fairfield County, Connecticut, Deed Book 7:479, James & Ebenezer Crofoot to Zechariah Lacey; FHL microfilm 0005474.

    You may have noticed that I missed last week.  It some-times happens <g>.  My trip home from Salt Lake City left me with a terrible case of bronchitis and I've just gotten behind.

   Prior to the 20th century, most Americans owned land...remember the availability of land was one of the reasons our ancestors emigrated.  So why don’t more genealogists use these records?  They aren’t difficult to find, however, they can be difficult to read and understand.  They are an important source as they can sometimes solve long standing brick walls, placing our ancestors in a specific place at a specific time, identifying relationships as well as possibly telling us where our ancestors came from or where they went.

    When I was starting out, I didn’t even think of using land records.  Both my husband and my ancestors were 20th century immigrants.  My grandmother had a house she had inherited from her (unmarried) sister and our parents eventually owned their homes.  It was many years into my search before I even thought to get a copy of my great grandmother’s will.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she owned two houses and three lots in Greenwich, Connecticut, two additional pieces of property in Stamford, Connecticut and property in Milford, Stratford and Trumbull, Connecticut.  How did my great grandmother accumulate all this property between her arrival here in 1905 and her death in 1939?  She purchased her first house in 1912 and rented rooms in the house (this is the house that my grandmother eventually inherited). The second one was purchased because it was larger and had more rooms (to rent).  The other property in Greenwich as well as the property in Stratford was inherited from her son, an accountant who died at the age of 32.  The property in Milford was conveyed to her by a quit claim deed from a brother, Arthur Mackay.   There are clearly some stories here...one of these days, I’ll get back to working on my own family and trace the rest of the property <g>.  

    The value of land records for earlier ancestors has become apparent to me.  In Connecticut we are lucky to have vital records dating back to the 1600s, that is if your ancestors were members of the Congregational Church which kept the records.  I have two instances where individuals I’m searching for either disappear from the records (because they became Baptists) or never were recorded (because they were Anglicans).  I have some derivative references that provide information about the family but without source citations, so I have been unable to prove the connections.  

    The deeds have provided me with vast amounts of information, in one case proving that the individual in the deed (with the same name) was not the individual I was searching.  The deed shown above, however, named not only the individual I was searching, but connected him (and his brother) to their father, David (our honored father, David Crofoot, deceased) and his wife Elizabeth (dower property set off to Elizabeth).  The other information it provided was that James was living in Salisbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut in 1803, proving that the James Crofut living in Newtown in the 1800 census was the wrong individual, but that the James Crowfoot living in Salisbury was the one I was searching.

    I’ll continue to write about land records over the next few weeks.  I hope you’ll give them a try.

    Happy Hunting.


Resources to learn about land records can be found in Books - US Research.

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Land & Property Research

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2013