Thursday, January 13, 2011

iGoogle and Land Patents

While I was trying not to contract cabin fever this weekend due to what has affectionately been called "Snowmageddon," I decided to take in a webinar or two.  I remembered that I wanted to participate in the "Google for Genealogists" webinar presented by Thomas MacEntee (of Geneabloggers fame), but because it was at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday, I was unable to attend.  [turns out "I have a genealogy webinar" isn't a good enough excuse for missing a half day of work ... didn't hurt to ask, I guess].  In any case, I hopped on over to Legacy Family Tree's webinar listing and found the recorded version (which is still available until February 5), complete with downloadable handouts.  The webinar was filled with tons of good information on how useful Google is for research, organization, time management, and more.  Note: Make sure you listen to the whole thing - some of the best information is revealed during the Q&A at the end!

After the webinar, I set my handouts aside (you know ... "I'll work on that in a minute ...") and a couple days later ran across a blog post from Cheryl Cayemberg at Have You Seen My Roots? about the same webinar.  She had actually taken the information from the webinar and put it into practice!  Obviously, she isn't a procrastinator like someone I know.  She even posted screen shots of her iGoogle home page.  Very impressive (and totally cute!).  I was inspired.  Using Cheryl's page as sort of a guide to figure out what sorts of widgets are out there, I started adding stuff like a mad woman.

Long story short, I added a widget that allows me to search for land patents at the Bureau of Land Management.  I'm not gonna lie ... I didn't even know a land patent was until I found that little gem.  I started just plugging states and names into the search engine and before I knew it, up popped a listing for John Slowey in Yankton Co., South Dakota, purchasing 189.97 acres of (what I assume) is timber land.  I'm not all that excited yet.  I need to prove this is my John Slowey, but I'm optimistic.  I also found land patents for who I assume are his brothers Bernard, Thomas, and Patrick, as well as his sister Mary, in the same general area around the same general period of time.  There are actually several for Patrick, so some may be his brother and some may be his father.

Unfortunately, there were no images available online for these particular entries.  That's not to say that you can't download copies of others.

If you're curious, here is a sample of what the document looks like (using another Patrick Slowey I found in another county):

As you can see, the description of the land isn't all that precise (especially if you have no idea where Section 34 of Township 14 is ...), but using this document and the information printed from the website, I can request a copy of the survey plats and survey field notes, and a land entry case file from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Now at least I can make a list of all the plats, notes, and case files I want to request when I go up there in March!  (You can also request them by mail, but you are required to use this form.  I'm posting the link to the actual form here, because there is no link to it in any of the literature I read - I had to search the NARA website for it).

This was a very exciting find for me ... if I can see where John Charles Slowey's father owned land, it may just help me find out where John was born!

... and because I'm sure you're dying to know what my iGoogle page looks like, here it is:


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