Land records are often overlooked by the beginning genealogist. This is unfortunate because they may contain clues to family relationships. Often, a deed will contain language specifying a relationship. For example, “I deed to my son for love and affection”. Even better is “to my daughter, wife of so and so”. After a landowner’s death the land is often divided and sold by his heirs, also indicating family relationships.
Unlike birth and death records which have only been kept in
Illinois since the 1870s, land records were kept from the date of formation of
a County. Land records are kept with the
County clerk or County recorder in the County Courthouse. Many have been
digitized and can be found online on sites such as familysearch.org.
It is important to know whether that County was formed from
another County because there may also be land records at the parent County. The
Newberry Library has an interactive map showing County boundaries at https://newberry.org/atlas-historical-county-boundaries.
In addition to searching for the actual deed records, it is often helpful to look at maps of our ancestors’ land. These maps help show the so- called FAN club - that is, the friends, associates and neighbors who may have interacted with our family and potentially be related. A map may also give clues as to the geographic terrain that may have affected where our ancestors did business or worshipped. You may find that a town in a neighboring County was closer than their own County seat. A good online source of maps is at the Library of Congress – www.loc.gov/maps.
Note: This was originally published in the "Tips from the Genealogy Committee" column in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Newsletter (March 2021). While these tips were written for those researching Illinois ancestors, many of the principles can be applied to other locations.