Thursday, February 17, 2011

Still More from the Vault

This time we’re going back to Georgia’s Virtual Vault, from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s, looking for more documents to use in genealogy research. 

So far, in this series of posts and in the series on Joshua Perry, we’ve looked at marriage records, death certificates and Confederate pension records.  There are many other types of documents and records available here which may be valuable for documenting your family history, or even for fleshing out the lives of your ancestors and the places they lived.  Some of these I have not explored as thoroughly as I could because I’m generally stuck at around 1800 with all of my documented ancestors, and most of the ancestral branches appear to have moved to Georgia from the Carolinas around then or a bit later, though a few moved into the state in the years following the Revolution.  The Colonial Will Books, for example, have the official transcriptions of the wills of residents from the earliest decades of the colony.  (Remember, Georgia was the last of the original thirteen colonies.  The first 114 settlers arrived with founder James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733, when they established the city of Savannah.)  There is even a section that has some of the original Colonial wills, and it can be fascinating comparing the tattered condition of the original with the transcription from the Will Books.  So far I haven’t discovered a Colonial connection, though, so I haven’t explored these in detail.

Edison, 1901. Street Scene in Edison
All of the sections can be browsed.  You don’t need to perform a specific search.  Sometimes you do have to make a county or document type selection from a drop down list in order to start the browsing, but no other selection need be made.  It’s a great way to waste a rainy afternoon when you’re feeling listless.  And someday you might make a serendipitous discovery!  Some interesting “browseable” categories are the Ad Hoc Collection, Carnegie Family Collection, County Maps, Georgia Power Photograph Collection, Historic Postcard Collection, Small Print Collection, Vanishing Georgia, and Virtual Georgia.  Also of interest are the four sections listed under Museum Collections, the Campaign Materials Collection, Capitol Art Collection, Georgia Capitol Flag Collection and the Military Artifact Collection.  Most of these are collections of historic photographs gathered by various projects of Georgia archivists or donated by the public.  All are quite interesting, and again, you might just get lucky with a town or a building or even a person of interest to you.  For example, according to the 1900 census my 3g-Grandfather William Preston Perry was living in Edison, Calhoun County.  In the Vanishing Georgia collection I found the photograph above, captioned Edison, 1901. Street Scene in Edison (Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Archives, Office of Secretary of State;,677).  There is more to the caption, explaining what is shown, but you get the idea.

One collection I’ve just started researching is the Headright and Bounty Plats collection, more fully titled the Headright and Bounty Plats of Survey, 1783-1909 when you go to the section.  According to the Digital Library of Georgia:
Beginning in 1783 a head of household living in Georgia could be granted 200 acres of land on his own head-right and fifty acres for each additional family member, including slaves, up to 1000 acres. ... The headright and bounty plats depict a tract of surveyed land. The information includes the physical features of the land; the names of adjoining land owners; the name of the person for whom the survey was made; the number of acres surveyed; the name of watercourse bordering or running through the property; the date the warrant was issued for the survey; the date of survey; and the names of the surveyor and crew.
Nathaniel Wade Headright Plat 1836
Again, because I don’t have a lot of original settlers in the family line, I didn’t originally hold a lot of hope for this one, but the idea occurred to me to search for my ancestors names on the plats of survey as neighbors of the grantees, since when a neighboring plot has already been bought or granted it is identified by it’s owner’s name.  The descriptive information says the collection was launched in 2006 and “completed counties include Screven, Burke, Camden, Chatham and Effingham.”  When you click on the drop down list of counties, you also can select Glynn and Wilkes counties, but I don’t know if those are complete yet.  You can also search by name or number of acres.  That seemed an odd choice, but I suppose if you had a number but didn’t know the original grantee or where it was originally located, it could come in handy.  I picked a random number, 273, and the search returned three plats!

Going back to my brick wall Joshua Perry.  I know he was married to Louvicia Ann Wade in Screven County in 1832.  A quick search for “Perry” turns up nothing relevant.  So I search for “Wade”, thinking perhaps his father-in-law John McGruder Wade received a grant.  The only Wade in Screven County is a Nathaniel Wade who received his grant in 1836.  A quick glance at the plat shows Nathaniel’s 541 acres of “uplands & swamp” bounded on the north by lands belonging to the estate of T[?] Scott, on the east by the Savannah River, and on the south and west by property belonging to John Mc Wade.  I know that John M. Wade’s name is often abbreviated as John Mc Wade, and that he had remarried in 1835 after the death of his first wife.  His second wife was from Washington County, and he is listed there on the 1840 census, but he could still have owned property in Screven County in 1836.  So it’s a definite possibility.

I checked the 1830 Census for Screven County.  The first entry on the same sheet with John Mc Wade is “Josia Scott.”  Two lines above John is “Nathaniel Wade.”  Remember, these are headright and bounty plats, so they don’t show property transfers.  I’ll have to order films of the deed books from the Family History Library to research that further, but I’ve got a lead.  I can search for other names on the same census sheet.  There won’t be a one-for-one correspondence because the parcels of various grants might not be contiguous with each other, and some of the property might have other family members, tenants or even squatters living on them at the time of the census, but it’s a relative guide.  There is also a great little book that was recently published, Atlas of East and Coastal Georgia Watercourses and Militia Districts by Paul K. Graham (available from – no I don’t get a kick-back, I just really like this book).  The 1830 census shows John living in the 38th Militia District.  A quick check of the Screven County map in the Graham book shows that the 38th Militia District is in the northeast corner of the county, on the Savannah River.  (And yes, it did occur to me that county boundaries changed over the year in Georgia.  Screven’s boundaries were set by 1797, except for a small corner on the west side of the county that was carved out in 1905 to form part of Jenkins County.)  Nothing definitive yet, but good pointers for further research.  I’d call that a good evening’s work, wouldn’t you?

Here’s your summary:
  • Georgia’s Virtual Vault is a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.  In it you can find a number of documents that qualify as primary sources of information.
  • The Vault also has material that can flesh out your family history, helping to give life to the lists of names and places and dates.
  • Don’t forget to look for secondary sources as well.  If you can’t find a primary reference to your ancestors, perhaps you can find a reference to their neighbors, which may contain a passing mention of your ancestor and thereby point you toward a new avenue of research.
  • For confirmation, primary source citation, or additional research it often is necessary to access other source materials such as the census, deed books (whether on microfilm from the Family History Library or by visiting the appropriate courthouse), and published references such as the Atlas of East and Coastal Georgia Watercourses and Militia Districts by Paul K. Graham mentioned above.  Paul Graham is a Certified GenealogistSM and his website is

Later y’all,


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