Posted by Paul Rawlins on June 21, 2010 in Collections

I’ll bet you wish you had an uncle like mine.

I’m talking about my great-great-great-great-uncle actually, James Rawlins Sr., who had some very definitive opinions regarding his final resting place. I quote from his 1843 will: “I desire my body to be decently buried in a piece of ground now used as a burying ground in the North West corner on the North half of the West half of the North West quarter of Section Eighteen in Township Twelve North of Range Twelve West of the third principal meridian, being the same tract on which I now reside in Greene County.”

We have three Greene county atlases in the U.S. County Land Ownership Maps collection on The earliest is 1893, 50 years after James’s time, but a timeline for James mentioned a burial ground in Patterson, so I thought I might find a cemetery. And how is this for luck: the 1893 atlas listed township, ranges, and meridian in bold at the top of the page.

According to the atlas, Patterson was in township 12, but the ranges were XIII & XIV West. I was too far west. I flipped back a couple of pages. There were Ranges XI & XII West…there was section 18…there was the northwest corner. But no cemetery. After 50 years, the graves of James and his wife (who would die one week after he did in August 1843) lay, I presumed, in a corner of a plot now owned by an E.M. Husted.

The good news for those of you who don’t have an Uncle James leaving behind GPS coordinates to the family plot is that the County Land Ownership collection at has just been indexed by name. In this case, of course, the index wouldn’t have helped me find James, who wasn’t there to find—but it led me right to his grandson, P. A. Rawlins, who, it turns out, owned 200 acres on the west edge of section 17, just next door.

And apparently the entire family was not lured to the open spaces of Texas or the valleys of the mountains; Rawlin(g)ses owned land in Morgan County, too, and Shelby and Montgomery and Jo Daviess, to name a few.

You can learn more about the history of county land ownership atlases and how to use them to find your own family farm—or your great-uncle’s grave—at a new landing page by clicking here.


  1. Joseph Evans

    I would love to see North Carolina in all of this, especially Cabarrus and Rowan Counties.

  2. Annette

    Found a map for my great-grandfather’s farm in Bureau Co IL. Thanks for the information.

  3. Jo

    First two I looked at I found an incorrectly indexed name and an incorrectly indexed town.

    I added an alternate for the name but there’s no option to add an alternate for the town.

  4. There is a large series of county maps for Georgia published by the Hudgins company. While they do not show land ownership, they do have all the principle roads, and show where everyone’s house was (with the names of residents identified). In more rural parts of the state, you can often identify a house on one of the maps and go find it still there today.

    The Georgia Archives has a lot of these maps in their County Map collection.

  5. Melanie

    I tried to search for several relatives this morning using this feature. I love that you have this on Ancestry, but was disappointed to see the list of states did not contain the southern-most South…Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, etc. The “heaviest” part of my research centers around these states.

  6. hi off-topic
    where’s the blog for Recent Member Connect Activity?
    i’d like to see other members’ opinions of the changes made to the activity list, and i have some of my own. am trying to understand and readjust to the new format.

  7. Paul Rawlins

    Joseph and Melanie,

    I may be the bearer of a bit of bad news here. The South simply did not get the same coverage as some areas of the country. (There is an article on the landing page that talks about some of the reasons why.) We don’t have every atlas ever printed in this database, and it can be worth checking with county and other local historical or genealogical societies to see what they might have (as Paul Graham mentioned in his comment).

    Several years ago, geographer Michael Conzen created a map graphing how many landownership maps printed between 1814 and 1939 he had identified for each county, and while this is not the final word on the subject, unfortunately, he had found none for either Cabarrus or Rowan counties. Florida fared best out of the states on your list, Melanie, but the pickings are still pretty slim.

    Good question. I will ask where that info needs to go.

    If you go to the database page , the browse function on the right will give you a list of states. You can narrow down from there by county and year. We have maps for about 30 states.

    I have passed your question along.

  8. How cool is that??

    It is such a great addition. I downloaded from the IL Genweb an atlas that listed M. O. Allen in Otter Creek, IL (my gg-father). I could barely read the image.

    Your images well worth the sub!

    Hats off to ancestry on this one!!

  9. Gary

    Great addition. I just found that my ggg-grandfather and 4g-grandfather each owned land in Stark County, Illinois, Fancy Creek Twp. Thanks.

  10. Sue

    OK, the first county I searched was there. What’s with the search engine? My search provides an example of the difficulty with Anc. search parameters. I know the person’s full name: Charles Edney James. (Land records may not have or use all.)I know the county and the town, Anc. doesn’t want/use both for my ex. Mansfield, Piatt, Illinois, USA. Anc. only fills in Mansfield, Illinois, USA without the county. WHY? I can enter Piatt County, Illinois, USA, without a town. The first result is for someone with the correct first name and surname for land in a DIFFERENT county. The second result was my Charles shortened to Chas in the group of communities in Piatt. I recognize the names. Chas is a smart result. OK, I can deal with Mansfield not being there. As an Anc. user I want the system to provide results on my two limiters there in the initial results. There is no obvious option for exact match except for date. But wait! “Using Default Settings” can be changed to a type of “exact match.” Anc. is changing the description on the search template.Please be more consistent. Now I prefer a reasonable priority given to the name(or initial) of the person with the needed surname. Could the parameters be set to allow the searcher to set a priority for exact location match or alternatively to find others with the same surname in the chosen county as possibilities BEFORE giving results in different counties and states? Could searchers require the results to be in the specific county and state? If I search by “surname only” in the county, I do find my person and relatives. When a researcher knows enough about the person/family to search in a particular state and county, Anc. should be able to limit the results. At present, the researcher may wonder if somewhere deep down in the nearly 7,000 hits (as in my original search) for the “specific surname in the precise county and state” there might be a hit which is relevant. Let me search and know that my given input get results for 10, 100 or even 500 possibilities. Heaven help the newby get the best results when searching. I have been searching my family history for more than 30 years and I keep plugging. There is extra explanatory info for the various resources on Anc. Interestingly if I browse the County Land Ownership Maps,there is a listing by county and state to go directly to them with various dates. In the case of Piatt County, Illinois, there are only two. The results show several more possibilities. I don’t know where these dates of maps originate and see no explanation. It would be nice if the searcher to go to the specific county and state and search from the narrower set of records. I managed one search for my above individual and Anc. provided less than 6 hits. Unfortunately, I can’t replicate that search for those results!

  11. Sue

    Searching for NE land records. The browse list does not include Franklin County. Perhaps the complete list of counties could be given with a note that there are no records to date for that county on Anc. As it is presented it looks like Anc. overlooked that county. Thank you.

  12. Loretta

    I found one relative, the image downloaded, everything went well. After that, I have been unable to get anything. I have found several people in the index, but when I click on the image icon, I am sent to another page that has nothing to do with the map. Often it is the home page, and sometimes to another page, but never to the actual image of the map I want.

    I have tried this over two days, and it still won’t work. I am frustrated.

  13. Loretta

    I’ve discovered my problem. When I printer the image, I made a “trusted” site. Apparently that messed everything up. When I removed it from the trusted list, the database works like it is supposed to do.

  14. oldbuckhouse

    I just love this database. Probably found out how my g-grandfather met g-grandmother.

    I do have a suggestion/question. When I input a name to be searched, shouldn’t this category be within the results, rather than having to search it separately?

    And, if this database has been programmed for name search, would it show-up under, Maps and Photos?

  15. oldbuckhouse


    Before I commented under this Blog, I sent a note to customer service. I also checked the Search Blog, because this seems to be a situation for them.

    Unfortunately, there wasn’t a place to comment. Yes, I could have started one, but then ran across this.

Comments are closed.