Monday, May 20, 2013

Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986 Available on FamilySearch - Digital Microfilm

One of the NEW record collections that appeared today on the FamilySearch collection list is the Massachusetts, Land Records, 1620-1986.  There are records from all 14 counties, but not all counties have records up to 1986.

Here is the process I used to find a deed for my ancestor, Isaac Seaver (1823-1901):

1)  On the Page for the Massachusetts, Land Records, 1620-1986, you have to click on the "Browse through 5,766,135 images" link:

2)  Clicking on the "Browse" link opens the "Waypoint" page for the 14 counties:

3)  On the screen above, I clicked on "Worcester" to get to the County records.  This provided the list of all of the record books available for Worcester County:

I wondered how late the Deed Indexes extended.  The screen below shows that the Deed Index extends to 1889:

Then I wondered what the date for the latest Deed Book was - shown in the screen below to be 1866, with Volume 716:

3)  The next step is to find your target person in the Grantee (obtained the land) and Grantor (granted the land) Deed Indexes.  I knew that Isaac Seaver was born in 1823, so he could buy land in about 1844, so I selected the Grantee Deed Index for the 1840-1889 time period, that contained the surname Seaver.

In order to find the page with your target person, you start on Image 1, and then have to guess the approximate image number in the Deed Index Book.  I call this the "guess, guess again and find" process.  After several guesses (there were 555 images in the selected Deed Index Book), and then going page by page, I found it on image 295:

I wrote down the information for all of the Isaac Seaver persons.  My Isaac Seaver (1823-1901) was known as "Isaac Seaver 3d" all of his life - he was the third adult Isaac Seaver in Westminster, Massachusetts.  I decided to look for the 1847 deed for Isaac Seaver 3d from Samuel A. Monroe in Gardner - it is on Deed Volume 429, page 137.

4)  Rather than using the Back button, I clicked on the "bread crumb trail" above the image - I picked the "Worcester" link because I want to find Deed Book 429.  When I got to the list of record books, I scrolled down and selected "Deeds 1847-1848 vol 428-429."

It opened on Image 1 (of 684), and I did the "guess, guess again and find" process to get to page 137 in Volume 429.  It was on Image 415:

Scrolling down the page, there is the deed where Samuel A. Monroe granted 50 acres of land in Gardner to Isaac Seaver 3d for $900.  Isaac had married Juliet Glazier in 1846 and they had a child in September 1847.

5)  I saved the deed images (it continues on page 138) to my computer Ancestor Files, and now need to transcribe them.

6)  A source citation for this deed, found on FamilySearch, is:

Massachusetts, "Massachusetts, Land Records, 1620-1986," digital images, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch ( : accessed 20 May 2013), "Worcester County, Deeds, 1847-1848, Volumes 418-419," image 415 of 684, in Volume 429, Page 137, Isaac Seaver deed in Gardner, Mass. from Samuel A. Monroe, 1847.

There are no shortcuts to using this process - you have to find the Deed Index for your person, and note the Deed Volume and Page number, then find the Deed on the noted page.  

This is similar to what a researcher would do using microfilm at the Family History Library, or a local Family History Center.  It is somewhat faster at the FHL or FHC (because scrolling a microfilm takes less time than clicking links and waiting for images to load, but it costs more to obtain it there.  At home, this is essentially FREE "digital microfilm" for researchers, available any day at any hour at our convenience.  

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Devon Noel Lee said...

Thanks a million for this post. I was inspired to see if Franklin County, Ohio had Probate records online but not searchable. Guess what! They are. I had the devil of a time searching these microfilms. Now, they're at my finger tips in the comfort of my home at 10 pm. Oh, yeah! Now, to see if Ohio has land records....

Diane B said...

Randy, thanks so much for this heads up. This is a HUGE advantage for me, and will save me several visits to county offices this summer (well, I hope it will!) I have no problem using the original index records and clicking around to find the correct page. As you say, it's so much cheaper and easier than renting microfilm, or visiting in person. Thanks!!

The Art of Genealogy said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I love your phrase "guess, guess again and find." It is a tedious process but it sure beats flying to Massachusetts and going through courthouses.
I also found my Marsh and Leonard ancestors in Worcester.
This FamilySearch product will no doubt be a goldmine of information as I have numerous ancestors from Massachusetts.