Friday, December 4, 2020

Finding Jacob Hamman’s Land - First Understanding Iowa Land

(click on images to enlarge)

Recently, I was in search of land possibly owned by my maternal great-great grandfather Jacob Hamman in Plymouth County, Iowa. (See previous posts Immigration, Naturalization and Ship Travel Presentation, Sunday Obituary-Jacob HammanMy First Naturalization Papers-Jacob Hamman)  I wanted to be able to go and stand on the land my ancestor once owned in Iowa or at least see where the land was while I was on my Genealogy Road Trip. (see previous post)

Understanding the history of the land and how the land was portioned was going to help me understand any possible land deed I found for Jacob. Doing the background research first always helps in locating and understanding local land deeds. I actually did not do this first but rather as I went along. Good time to learn from my mistakes. I would have understood so much more if I’d done this first.

First, the history of the land: what we now know as Iowa first belonged to France, then Spain, then France again. The land was then purchased by America as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1834 this land was part of the Michigan Territory and then in 1836 it was under the Wisconsin Territory.

The Iowa Territory wasn’t actually established until 1838. (Many places to consider when looking for records!) After Iowa became part of the United States most of the land was listed as ‘public domain land’, land that legally belongs to the citizenry. ‘Public domain land’ is managed by a public entity such as a state, region, province or municipality-directly or by institutes or state companies. This land was then surveyed and divided into townships (36 square mile sections).

Iowa was termed a Federal land state with the land being public domain land. The government granted land through cash sales, homesteads, military bounty land warrants, etc. The sale of the land was used to build schools, roads, etc.

According to America's Public Lands, the Homestead Act of 1862 was a law passed by Congress “to facilitate the settlement and development of vast areas of public domain west of the Mississippi River by citizens and masses of immigrants moving to America for a better life.” Most of the laws required some level of development effort on the land before it could be purchased.

Iowa uses the rectangular land survey system of section, township and range. The townships were six-mile square blocks of land, divided into 36 one-mile squares called sections. The township was numbered north and south, starting from the centerline, and the range was numbered east and west starting from the centerline.

The records for Plymouth County Iowa, where my ancestor lived, are located at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa.

Once I got to the Plymouth County Recorder's Office  I learned I would need the township, range and section number for the land in order to identify where the land is located today. There wasn’t an index to look in to find Jacob’s land by searching his name. Where could I possibly find the township, range and section numbers? Back to square one. The only thing I could think of was would Jacob have mentioned the land in his Will? Luckily, I was already in the right building and only needed to go upstairs to get a copy of his Will and see if the land was mentioned.

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.

Enjoy the journey,

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