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Location, Location, Location.

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Location, location, location – the mantra of real estate, but also important in genealogy too. I’ve posted before about the importance of knowing what county your ancestor lived in as records are filed by county name. In addition, our ancestors could have lived in 1 location their entire life, yet lived in 3 different counties due to boundary changes. 32 of North Carolina’s 100 counties were created by at least two other counties.

One of the problems that researchers may have is determining which county they lived in before the creation of the new county. The Government and Heritage Library has a few tools that can help you narrow down where an ancestor really lived. Today, I will use a fictitious scenario to show how you can use these tools to find a location. The locations and time frames are real, but the scenario itself is made up.

Scenario: A researcher claims their ancestor, John Doe, was born in Wilson County in 1745, lived his entire life in the same house, and died there in 1804.

The problem with this scenario is that Wilson County didn’t exist in 1700 or 1804.  It was created in 1855 from Edgecombe, Johnston, Nash, and Wayne counties. We need to figure out where John really lived, which was may have been one of those four counties that created Wilson.

After searching the land records of these four counties (which can easily be done using published abstracts of deeds here at the Government and Heritage Library), a deed was found revealing John Doe purchased land on the Buckhorn Branch of Edgecombe County in 1789. There is not a Buckhorn Branch in Edgecombe County. So where is it now? The North Carolina Gazetteer and a set of maps and indexes frequently referred to as the “Stout Maps” can help us find the answer.

The gazetteer has a several entries for Buckhorn Branch.  One of interest is in Wilson County and another says see Buck Branch. Following up, this entry for Buck Branch tells us this used to be known as Buckhorn Branch in Wilson County and has existed since 1754.

Now we are ready to go to the Stout Maps and indexes.  Published in the 1960s and 1970s, these list and show creeks and waterways with present-day names in all North Carolina counties. Using the index, we discover Buck Branch is located at ST-10.3; and Buckhorn Branch is at F-13.4.  Looking at the map, F-13.4 is in the very southwest section of Wilson County, which would have been created from Johnston or Nash County, not Edgecombe.  ST-10.3 is in the area that would have been Edgecombe County.

I wish I could show you snippets from the map and index, but these are both copyrighted. If you are a visual thinker like myself, you can try and picture things in your mind – or better yet, come visit us at the Government and Heritage Library and see for yourself.

Here is more information about the creator of the Stout maps.

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