By Jeannette Holland Austin
The deed records should not be ignored when researching ancestors. This includes land grants, plats and lotteries. Anyone who has drawn a modern-day deed heads the document with "John Smith of Goochland County, Virginia" The first land and bounty grants contain vague descriptions of the land. That is because the boundaries contained no neighbors or traditional measurements as we know them today. Instead, 18 chains to an oak tree adjoined by a pine forest is about the best that you can expect. Therefore, one goes in search of a deed record which mentions the names of neighbors, who received the original land grant and the date thereof, and designates gifts to children and other relatives. As time goes on and the community grows, the names of adjoining neighboring lands and witnesses appear in the documents. Also filed with the deeds are "Gift Deeds" and " Marriage Contracts". This is where the details provide further clues. One should follow the deed records from the first day of acquisition to the last deed, when the land is either sold or inherited. Then, a similar search should be done in the Tax Digests. The research should be able to recite the activities of the ancestor year-by-year.
County and Probate Records to Help you Find your Virginia Ancestors