This is the sixth of a seven-part feature on how to use land records in genealogical research. If you missed last week's column, you can find it at http://www2.tbo.com/list/life-genealogy. At the site, click on the blue subheadings for the 12/16/12, 12/23/12, 12/30/12, 1/6/13, and 1/13/13 columns.
A basic goal of genealogical research is to determine where and when an ancestor lived. But let's be honest: Reading a land description on a piece of paper isn't very exciting.
With two really nifty online tools you can turn land descriptions into a knock-your-socks-off experience. So let's look at two sites: Earthpoint and Google Earth.
Find the land description you got when you explored the patents on the Bureau of Land Management website (www.glorecords.blm.gov). If you missed that column on Jan. 13, use the website link in the header of this column to read it.
Go to www.google.com/earth/index.html and download the software for Google Earth.
Go to www.earthpoint.us. On the left under "USA Utilities" and "Township & Range," select "Search by Description."
Enter the required information — State, Principal Meridian, Township, Range, Section — that you got on your patent search last week. Click "Fly on Google Earth." Depending on how your computer handles downloads, you might now get a link that you'll need to click.
Now you should be hovering like a bird over your ancestor's land. Look for a large orange outline. This is showing you the township of your ancestor's patent. Now look for a pink square outline. This is your ancestor's section of the township. Visualize that square divided into quarter sections (check your patent description to get the exaction description). If you aren't good at visualizing, go to the Google Earth toolbar and select "File." Then you can save or print the image. If you saved a graphic, you can pull it into a document where you can mark the quarter sections, or you can print it out and mark it by hand.
Sometimes road names fail to appear on the Google Earth views. So if you aren't familiar with the area, you might not have a clue about where you are. Go back to your Google Earth view, select "File" and "View in Google Maps" from the toolbar. Now you have the same satellite view complete with street names.
In all the steps you now should have sufficient information to use any type graphic — from topographic map to satellite imagery — to pinpoint where your ancestor lived.
Next week's column will conclude this seven-part series with information on land entry files and additional resources for land study.