Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bounty Land records... and the elusive records for Peter Troutman

Lately I'm obsessed with one of my ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War, Peter Troutman. I've written about him recently and about the quest for his estate papers. After finding what I was looking for I moved on to his bounty land papers. I had a lead and a number from a DAR record: BLTW#40921-160-55. Now what the heck did that stand for?!

Oh sure, I googled. That was a lesson in pure frustration. Sometimes googling is not the way to go.

I really like digging around the Pennsylvania Archives online. This link is my favorite and leads you to a page about Research Topics. Notice the list on the left and you'll see "Genealogy". Under that you'll see a tab for "Land Records" and that's where the bounty land goodies are kept. If you scroll down the page you'll see a good explanation of the whole bounty land process, and that's helpful. As I understand it, the soldier or his widow would first make application for land given out as a bounty or special payment to the infirmed soldier or the widow. There were local lawyers and agents to be dealt with and papers to fill out and letters to write. So the land just wasn't given out as a bonus pay but as a thank you from the government to the old warrior hard on his luck and not able to work, but only after some proper documentation and proper checking. And you know how we genealogists love documentation!!

After the application was approved, a warrant was issued to instruct the surveyor to go survey the actual land and provide a plot map indicating boundaries. This step also initiates the production of a title, which is not finalized until later.

Next step is the survey. We've all seen the old survey maps and the strange measurements and notations on them. I am especially fond of the old surveys that identify landmarks like an oversized rock or old oak tree.

Once the survey is completed it was, at lest back then in the late 1780s, copied neatly into a survey book. Next, a return with written description of the land was conveyed in Pennsylvania from the office of the Surveyor General to the Secretary of the Land Office.

The last step was that a patent was issued with title to the land conveying clear title and all rights.

As much as I enjoy a stumble through the old land records of the fine state of Pennsylvania, I ended up sending an email to an archivist asking for guidance. I included the cryptic code from the DAR record of BLTW#40921-160-55 and asked if he had any idea what that meant and where I might find it. I thought it would take a couple of days to get a reply, but one came back in an hour or two. Here's what he wrote:

“B.L. Wt. 40921-160-55” refers to a Federal Bounty Land Warrant (40921=warrant number; 160=number of acres; 55=act of 1855). The warrant would not have been for land in Pennsylvania. You’ll want to search the unindexed bounty land applications and surrendered warrant files at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

It was a federal bounty land warrant!! I thought it was a State of Pennsylvania warrant. So that's why I couldn't find it. And look what he wrote: The warrant would not have been for land in Pennsylvania!

Long about that time one of my internet Troutman researchers provided a transcribed document that spelled out that this land grant number belonged to the widow!! If it was the widow's, where was the patriot's land grant... if he had one? And so I dove back into the Pennsylvania Archives. Only this time I found it!!!

See that notation on the top image referring to the west side of the Little Allegany Mountains? And the mention of the township? That's exactly where the Troutman family settled when they moved from Berks County to Somerset County. It's right there near the Comp Church at Comps Crossroads, the church that Peter and his neighbors built, and the churchyard where he and his wife and some of his children are buried. Yes, this was his land grant for certain, this was Peter Troutman's land, my 4th great grandfather. And I'm glad to have found it.

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