Our ancestors were certainly Land Owners, and to some degree, had significant holdings when compared to today (2017), when a building lot "may" be a quarter acre and many times, less.
But one must look at the comparison between the mid to late 1700's and the early 2000's. We're talking about 200+ years and a lot of societal changes. One example that is mentioned in the following articles is the transferring (or purchasing) of land. In our world of the 21st century, huntsmen and other citizens purchase handguns and rifles for sport or personal family protection. In colonial times, one might actually barter and trade land (owned property), for a gun. It would seem like a high price for a weapon, don't you think?
Then, on the other hand, citizens of the colonies might very well have been "given" land by the government because of some deed they had performed or other seemingly trivial (to us), action.
This page, and the text included can actually be found on a public website of Ancestor Tracks which is an excellent source for information on landowners, land, and maps of colonial times. We have included these pages in our website simply as a convenience. Read on to experience the Real Estate Market, and other details, about our Beaver County ancestors. Ancestor Tracks website includes an online store where you can purchase CD's, printed maps, and other information concerning colonial land transactions across the state of Pennsylvania. While we have copied text concerning OUR ancestors in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, your needs may extend to other parts of the state and you would do yourself well to visit the complete Ancestor Tracks web pages.
The Land Owning Process
The process for obtaining land in Pennsylvania involved a 3-part process: (1) the prospective landowner had to file an application for land in fairly specific terms. When the Land Office
received the application, they issued a warrant, or an order to have the desired tract surveyed. The applicant had to pay a fee for this warrant and became known as the warrantee.
The loose warrant was copied into a ledger called a Warrant Register. (2) The next step was to pay a fee for the survey and wait until a deputy surveyor could be assigned to do the work. The
results of the survey were returned to the Land Office with a precise description and map of the tract, nearly always including the names of the neighbors who owned the adjacent tracts. These
loose surveys are on file at the Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg and have been copied into Survey Books. (3) The last step was to pay yet another fee to the colony or state and receive
the final title which was called a patent. This is the official deed transferring ownership from the colony or state to the individual. He or she now became the patentee.
Again, the patents were copied into ledgers called Patent Registers. Sometimes, many years passed between the 3 steps.
In our experience, perhaps 60-70% of the warrantees of a county were also the patentees. Often, however, the original warrantee died and the land passed to a relative or was bartered (sometimes for a gun or a coat) or sold to someone else; or he stayed on the land for a short while before moving on (usually west) and transferred the land to someone else who then patented it and became the patentee; or he was a speculator who never intended to settle on it and transferred ownership to someone else to then patented it.
Thus, there are two major references to check when researching early Pennsylvania land records: The Warrant Registers and the Patent Registers. A third register, which is an index of all of the names of tracts patented before about 1830, can be consulted if the name of the family tract is known but the name of the warrantee and patentee are not known. This CD contains all of the indexes to the Warrant Registers (67 volumes which are the master indexes) for the original sales from the Penns, and then the state, to a majority of the first legally-recognized owners of private land throughout Pennsylvania. As the published description of the registers states, "This is the primary finding aid [in the Pennsylvania Archives] for locating patents and surveys when the name of the warrantee is known. Information given is warrant number, name of warrantee, type of warrant, acreage warranted, date of warrant, date of return, acreage returned, name of patentee, the patent volume, book, and page number and the survey book and page number. The names of the warrantees and warrant dates extracted from some of these registers were published in Pennsylvania Archives (series 3) volumes 24-26, but the published version omits the warrant numbers, return of survey information, and patent information."
Note also that those county registers which were published also omit the names of the patentee and the location of the land (usually the watercourse or the township), two vitally important pieces of information for the genealogist.
ALSO included on this CD is the "Old Rights Index" for Bucks and Chester Counties, as well as the "Old Rights Index" for Philadelphia. These indexes predate the warrant registers above, covering the three original counties from 1682 to 1740. Used together, these registers encompass all of the sales from the Penns and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania except for the Last Purchase Warrant Index, and the Proprietary Rights Index (for warrants issued to the Penns or their associates) which have never been scanned.
A little background is in order: The original three counties--Philadelphia, Chester, and Bucks--were established in 1682; other counties were set up as people became dense enough to warrant a courthouse. Thus, as each county came into existence, the PA Land Office created a new register and began entering the land sales as they occurred. Thus, the warrantees are entered under the county as it existed at the time of the sale, then under the letter beginning the last name, and then more-or-less chronologically thereafter. For the researcher, having all of the county Warrant Registers in one place makes the search of the records far easier. The next search for your early Pennsylvania settler is the Index to Patent Registers CD. Remember, these registers, or ledgers, predate the deed books at the county courthouses. They document the very first landowners of the colony, or state, of Pennsylvania.