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Madison County Genealogical Society

Minutes of the Meeting - May 14, 2009


The May 14, 2009, meeting of the Madison County Genealogical Society was held at the Edwardsville Public Library in Edwardsville, Illinois.

President, Robert Ridenour, called the meeting to order.


In the absence of our Treasurer LaVerne Bloemker, Secretary Barbara Hitch presented the financial report for the month of April 2009.

Librarian Elsie Wasser reported that we had received several new items for the library:

John M. Browning Family History was donated. However, since it does not directly relate to Madison County, it will be placed in the general library rather than the genealogical section.

Index of 1900 Census for Madison County. Barbara Hitch is doing the indexing and has finished Moro Township.The book will be placed on the shelf and other townships added as they are completed.

Illinois Central, A Guide to Illinois Genealogical Resources in Springfield, Illinois by Tom Pearson, Librarian in the Special Collections Department of the St. Louis Public Library.

Sacred Heart and St. Michael The Archangel Catholic Cemetery, Livingston, Olive Township, Madison County, Illinois. This beautiful book was created and donated by Frank and Janis Nemth of St. Louis, Missouri. It gives the history of the cemetery and the church and includes a complete listing of the tombstones and a color photo of each tombstone.

May Meeting

On May 14, 2009, Tom Pearson of the Special Collections Department of the St. Louis Public Library gave a presentation titled Land Rich, Dirt Poor: An Introduction to Land Records for the Genealogist.

Mr. Pearson explained the difference between state land states and public land states. He also differentiated between the two most common surveying systems used in the United States: the indiscriminate metes and bounds system, and the federal township system.

Tom told the audience that there were four main ways to legally acquire land during the 19th century: Buy it, Inherit it, Use a bounty land warrant, or Homestead it.

He gave a brief history of land acquisition in early America: Bounty lands were offered by colonial, state, and federal governments in lieu of cash as inducements to get men to enlist in the armed forces. The system worked well because governments in early America were generally cash-poor and land-rich. Giving ex-soldiers land both: 1) helped solidify a colony or state's claim to that land; 2) helped create a larger tax-base for the colony or state. Settling ex-soldiers familiar with weapons and survival techniques on frontier lands also afforded a measure of protection to citizen settlers worried about Indian troubles or encroachments by foreign governments.

A private who was sworn into federal service during one of America's wars during the first half of the 19th century typically received a bounty land warrant good for a quarter section (160 acres).

Mr. Pearson described the process that an ex-soldier had to follow to claim his bounty land. He also informed us that nine out of ten ex-soldiers who were awarded federal bounty land sold their warrants - sometimes to friends or relatives, but usually to speculators!

Most federal military bounty land was located in the present-day states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Iowa. Most War of 1812 ex-soldiers claimed bounty lands in one of the following: the Military District of Illinois (2 million acres, later expanded to 3.5 million acres); the Military District of Arkansas (2 million acres); and the Military District of Missouri (500,000 acres).

Some states also awarded bounty land to Revolutionary War veterans: Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. Most Revolutionary War soldiers claimed bounty lands in the Military District of Virginia (4 million acres) and the Military District of Ohio (2.5 million acres).

The last bounty land warrants were issued in accordance with an act of Congress in 1855. Soldiers of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 were the last American soldiers to be awarded bounty lands based on their military service.

In 1862, Congress passed the first of the so-called Homestead Acts, which granted 160 acres of land to settlers in various states west of the Mississippi River. To be eligible, potential homesteaders had to swear that they had never taken up arms against the United States. The homesteaders also had to agree to live on the land for five years, erect a dwelling that measured at least 12' x 12', and cultivate at least 10 acres of the parcel. Civil War Union Army veterans could cut one year of the residency requirement for each year of military service.

Mr. Pearson told the audience the type of data that could be found on Homestead Act Applications, Homestead Act Proofs, and Homestead Act Certificates.

He finished his presentation by listing the land sale records in Illinois and Missouri, along with supplying several websites where land record information could be found.

This presentation was well received and prompted several questions.