About Colonial Deeds

By Jeannette Holland Austin

One may think that deeds written in Colonial times are not worth viewing because the boundary lines of neighbors had not been set and the descriptions consisted of “chains”, “trees, and “tracts of land”. However, here are a few tips which might assist.

Let us take the example of old deeds in Westmoreland County, Virginia, which county was founded in 1653 from Northumberland County. This was the home of President George Washington. Many deeds exist between his family members; also wills and estates. The story of kinship and various residences (in other counties) is told in those documents. One can also use those names to search the immigrant books, and learn the origin of the ancestors and the first acreage granted. Usually, they brought family members and servants with them. The number of people which they brought into the colony was rewarded with acreage. This is how the first settlers acquired so much land! Whilst thumbing though Cavaliers and Pioneers by Nugent, one might find their ancestor listed in this manner. The next step is to go to the county where the sponsor acquired land. A normal tenure for a servant was seven years. Afterwards, their name might appear in the county deeds as he was released as an indentured servant and given promised acreage from his sponsor. Also noteworthy is the entire list of names brought over should be used as clues as to marriage partners, etc. If, say, fifty people were brought into Westmoreland County under the same sponsor, then that is the community during that time period. Other books to explore are : Early Virginia Immigrants by Greer; The Complete Book of Immigrants by Coldham, et al.

As one learns of the history and the persons in the colony, the fine details of the search becomes fascinating! It is surprising how much more can be learned. Goochland County Wills, Inventories, Accounts, Estates and Deeds have now been added to 8 Genealogy Websites. This is 17 books of scanned information dating from 1728 to 1803. It includes everything that the genealogist needs to search to locate ancestors!

Latest update: Virginia Pioneers