ancestor tracks using land tracts to track your ancestors
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ANCESTOR TRACKS – USING LAND TRACTS TO TRACK YOUR ANCESTORS. Sharon MacInnes, Ph.D. Angus MacInnes Use Your Space Bar or Right Arrow Key to Advance Each Slide If You Click on a Hyperlink, Use Alt-Tab to Return to this Presentation Click on “Escape” to Stop Presentation

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ancestor tracks using land tracts to track your ancestors


Sharon MacInnes, Ph.D.

Angus MacInnes

UseYour Space Bar or Right Arrow Key to Advance Each Slide

If You Click on a Hyperlink, Use Alt-Tab to Return to this Presentation

Click on “Escape” to Stop Presentation

Links Only Work in Full Slide Show Mode

our mission
Our Mission

We are committed to:

  • Uncovering land records which will precisely locate the earliest landowners of as many land tracts of Pennsylvania as we can, very often pinpointing settlers before the first census of 1790 as well as subsequent censuses
  • Publishing and indexing Township Warrantee Maps containing details of the first landowners of PA and publishing them as county atlases; these maps have not previously been easily accessible to researchers
  • Publishing finding-aid resources for researchers of early landowners, such as the Warrant Registers in the Pennsylvania Archives which cover all 67 counties, as well as the earliest transfers of land from the Penns to private individuals (“Original Purchasers” and “Old Rights”); the Patent Registers; and the Tract Name Indexes for tracts which were patented with names.
  • Adding free images of maps in the Library of Congress to our website which show landowners (to coordinate with censuses--1860s, 1870s, etc.)
  • Linking other sites which have resources for early PA land records to our site, thus creating a one-stop center where genealogists can click on their PA county of interest and be taken to those resources, no matter where those resources might be.
why are landowner maps important
Why Are Landowner Maps Important?
  • Warrantee Maps often are the only way to locate exactly where your ancestors were living prior to and after the Census of 1790
  • Friends and relatives moved in groups, so maps help you trace these movements westward
  • Neighborhoods often reveal family relationships
  • Questionable families can be verified through nearby related families, sponsors and witnesses
  • Migration trails of related families indicate where to look next to find yours
  • Tract locations lead to specific areas to search for original documents, court records, tax lists, published locality histories

Where do you go next after you find your ancestor in a census? Use tax lists, church records, and county histories, but land records are essential. Residents listed in the census can be placed together since census takers usually went door-to-door. So check to see if we have published the Township Warrantee Maps for that county.

For example, William Marsh owned no land, but the 1790 census places him near several relatives in Washington Co., PA, including his mother-in-law Ann (WELLS) LEVINS (census not returned by township).


Although the Washington County Census was not returned by township, the Jefferson Township Warrantee Map in our Early Landowners of PA: Atlas of Township Warrantee Maps of Washington County pinpoints closely related residents grouped together in the 1790 Census, including…


Ann Levins’ tract “Rag Town” is shown in Jefferson Twp., Washington Co., PA, surrounded by her daughter and son-in-law, brothers, sons, and nephews. State draftsmen used original surveys to create Township Warrantee Maps starting in 1907.


The Washington County Warrant Register, pg. 237 (on our CD Colonial and State Warrant Registers in the Pennsylvania Archives CD) documents Ann LEVINS’ Warrant to Accept her tract and shows the page and volume where her Warrant and Survey are recorded


Ann Levins’ Survey, 1787(Information on the Township Warrantee Map in our Washington County Atlas, as well as our Washington County Warrant Register on CD, led to the original document in the PA Archives, Harrisburg)

what is our process for our atlases
What Is Our Process for Our Atlases?

Purchase: We purchase Township Warrantee Maps, usually from the Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg, like this 48” X43” map of Cumru Township, Berks Co. If maps don’t exist for a township, we search for and include alternate sources.

we transcribe the data
We Transcribe the Data
  • We transcribe all of the information shown for every tract (the following is part of Cumru Township, Berks County)
we add atlas coordinates
We Add Atlas Coordinates
  • After all data has been transcribed, we reduce the size of the maps and superimpose them onto an atlas layout page
these maps introduce each township chapter
These Maps Introduce Each Township Chapter
  • Now we proofread each piece of data for each tract and add a last column to the chart for the coordinates
  • Then we add footnotes if we find data regarding the specific landowner or tract
  • Finally, we add an everyname index to make all of this treasure store of information is accessible to researchers

(partial index from our Greene Co. book)

so how can a researcher use our products
So How Can a Researcher Use Our Products?
  • After tracing your ancestor back as far as you can go in Pennsylvania court houses, check the books we have published for those counties, or click on the map at to see if another land record source exists;
  • andcheck our Warrant Registers CD to see if your ancestor was an original owner (warrantee) who purchased from the colony or the state; also check our Patent Register Indexes CD to see if he or she was a patentee (someone who purchased from the warrantee and actually received clear title);
  • andcheck our Warrant Registers CD and Patent Registers CD to see if your ancestor came from a different county, esp. the parent county;
  • ifyou only know the name of the tract he or she owned, check our Tract Name Index CD to see who warranted & patented the land. Perhaps there’s a connection;
  • usesurrounding names of landowners for further research, placing your ancestor into the context of his community. You will find clues in neighboring tracts to relatives and close affinities.
our products
Our Products
  • Warrant Registers and Patent Register Indexes and Tract Name Indexes from PA Archives (on CD) which show the first transfer of land from the Penns (or later, the Commonwealth) to private owners. Please note: These registers should not be confused with the deed registers located in the counties which show all subsequent land transfers.
  • County Atlases called Early Landowners of PA: Atlas of Township Warrantee Maps of *** County
  • CDs containing the large maps obtained from the PA Archives and other sources, but not the transcribed information. These can be cut and pasted into your family history.
  • Free images showing landowners on our website from later maps (1860s, 1870s, etc.) (scroll down page)
  • Links to other sites which have resources for early PA land records to our site (scroll down to PA map)
ordering information
Ordering Information
  • Using the information in our Warrant and Patent Indexes (on CDs), or the Tract Name Index (on CD), or on the Township Warrantee Maps (in our books), you can request copies of original warrants, surveys and patents from Harrisburg as follows:
    • $25/name for non-PA residents (search includes 10 single-sided xerox copies)
    • $15 for PA residents

PA State Archives

350 North Street

Harrisburg, PA 17120-0090

how can you help other researchers access these essential tools for uncovering early pa landowners
How Can You Help Other Researchers Access These Essential Tools for Uncovering Early PA Landowners?
  • Click on the following if you have a genealogical society or family history newsletter
  • Click on the following if you are a speaker or lecturer
  • Click on the following if you are a professional genealogist
  • Click on the following if you are a genealogical librarian or historical society
  • Click on the following if you have a website
  • If our website at does not address an issue or you think of something else, click on the following for all suggestions or questions
and the 1 reason why land matters
And the #1 Reason Why land matters…

“I remember vividly one trip to what we had identified as a many great grandfather’s acreage. I was standing, looking at the land, much how it must have looked nearly 250 years ago with its ever-expanding stands of trees, valleys and hills, and each little valley having a ‘run’ or ‘lick’ to identify it and the people who lived there. I could smell my ancestry in the handful of dirt I picked up, a clean earthen smell that told of the melding of a people and the land. It told a story of people that moved on, and were better for having known the land, leaving behind a land that was better for having known the people. It told the story of a hard and hostile land, of Indian raids and captured or dying children, spouses, cousins, and families, but also the story of gentle land, of rebirth, joining and continuing the cycle.

“Here in this little valley that still held so many of my ancestors, I was touched by the smallness of it all, the smallness of West Virginia, the smallness of myself, yet a smallness, that when put together with all the other smallnesses creates the vast tapestry we call genealogy. Standing there with the dust flowing from my outstretched palm, and the warm wind at my face, it suddenly dawned on me why my wife and I do genealogy. It’s not to prove that we’re related to some magnificent historical figure or group, and it’s not to have a legacy to pass on to our children or grandchildren, but simply a drive to complete the puzzle, a genealogical jigsaw puzzle with its myriad of shapes and colors. We keep looking for the pieces and trying to fit them together, turning, twisting and examining each piece, until we fit it in with the rest, or set it aside to be looked at later. And we do all this for no other reason than deep inside we know the puzzle needs to be worked.” Dennis Ridenour, NGS