Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Florida Townships & Ranges

In Florida the legal property description is based on a rectangular grid  (6-miles by 6-miles) of townships and ranges with a meridian (center-point) passing through Tallahassee.  Each township and range is subdivided into 36 square mile subdivisions (1-mile by 1-mile) termed sections.  The sections get further divided into aliquots.

There is a better explanation on a website called Section, Township & Range, at genealogy.about.com/cs/land/a/public_lands.htm.  There is another good explanation on Wikipedia as Public Land Survey System at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Land_Survey_System

I have two "simple" online ways to local these coordinates.  One is to use the Official DOT County Maps of Florida, at www.dot.state.fl.us/surveyingandmapping/countymap.shtm.  You can view and download the maps as pdf-files (the border have T[township] and R[range] with the sections in boxes on the map.)  The other (less simple) involves using Google Earth downloading a kml-file and executing it to apply the township-range-sections to the Google Earth map.  The kml-file is available from Earthpoint at www.earthpoint.us/Townships.aspx.  When you open this webpage, simply click the box labeled: View on Google Earth in the BML Township, Range and Section section.  The kml-file will be downloaded, you don't have to register.  Open your free copy of Google Earth, then find EarthPointTownships.kml in your downloads and double click on the file to temporarily install it on your Google Earth.  It is an intensive program and will slow down Google Earth so turn it off for other projects.

The Thomas Register for Florida, a large book in the Reference Section of your larger public Florida library will contain a township and range map as well.

Okay it isn't real simple, but it ain't rocket science either.  With a handle on the legal description of a piece of land, you will be able to find it on a map and likely on the road in front of it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Land

At the recent Los Floridanos meeting in St. Augustine, someone was asking about how some family member got such large tracks of land.
There are several ways these pieces of land were obtained in Florida.
Land Grants, 

  • The Armed Occupation Act, 
  • Military Land Bounties, and 
  • Buying the land from the Government Land Office
  • Second-hand Railroad land

Are the most common methods in Florida.

Most of the files on the Spanish Land Grants are available through the Florida State Archives.  The physical copies remain in Tallahassee, but the State provides images of these files online at: Florida Memory – Spanish Land Grants, www.floridamemory.com/collections/spanishlandgrants/.  
Prior to the sale of Florida to the U.S. government, the King of Spain gave land grants to many individuals.  After Florida became part of the U.S.A., the U.S. Supreme Court had to decide whether the land grants were valid which created a good paper-trail.  The original land grants were in Spanish, but for the court were translated.  That is why you will find both languages in the documents.  Only some of the West Florida (the Panhandle) land grants are missing.  At the website you will find images of each folder and it's contents that you can print or save as a digital color jpg-file (if you right-click your mouse when the cursor is over the image, you will find a selection of features.)  Since the legal proceedings were lengthy, the title of the land grant may have been passed to heirs or sold for cash.

An online tool for finding the other types of land acquisition from the U.S. government is the Bureau of Land Management’s Government Land Office Records, www.glorecords.blm.gov . Look over the information page, but click the words Search Documents next to the house symbol on the green bar down from the top.  You should be on the Search Page with the defaults of “Search by Document Type” and “Patents” selected.  You will need to select Florida for a location for your initial search leave the county unselected.  Next in the names area type the last or surname (if more than one spelling is possible you will need to repeat the search for each), for the initial search don’t enter first or middle names.  The click Search Patents on the orange-brown line near the bottom of the page.  To see a record, click the leading image or accession number.  If you need to shorten your list, add first names or a current county.  It is an informative database for you to find land records and some history.  DO NOT BUY CERTIFIED COPIES, you can print and download images for free.

The State of Florida maintains a similar looking website that you may find useful called the Land Document Search, .  It is free.

In the 1840s the U.S. government passed the Armed Occupation Act of 1842.  A Florida resident could claim 160 acres of land by settling on land South of Newnansville and Palatka and also away from other regular settlements and outposts, register with the General Land Office (GLO), farm 5 at least of the acres, built a house.  This put the settler on the Indian Frontier and he needed to be prepared for conflict.

Military Land Bounties were granted to the soldiers after wars.  The size of the bounty was sometimes determined by the soldier’s rank.  And sometimes the bounty could be transferred to an heir.  In Florida the veteran could apply for a military warrant that could be applied to acquiring a government owned land.  The veteran had the option of selling the warrant.  Typical military warrants in Florida were for the Seminole Wars and Mexican War.

Buying land from the government is the largest category whether it is homestead land (cheap with strings) or outright (more expensive without as many strings) some land is dry and some still submerged.  And there are second-hand land deals.  The railroads were often given large tracks of land adjoining the railway, these were many times sold (the Florida Land Document Search catches many of these transactions.)

This posting is already too long.  I will write another discussing Townships, Ranges, and Section soon.

Please comment, if I explained poorly or got it wrong.  Or if you have more tips for us.  

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