I do believe I taught them something new -- and fun!
It's all about land.
The Bureau of Land Management has a terrific website, if you have ancestry in a state that used the township and range system. Very few, if any, of my ancestors lived in such a state. They were generally from states that used the metes and bounds system. (Beginning at a black oak, hence 13 poles...)
Let me take you through the steps I showed the attendees this evening.
1. First, you want to go to the BLM site. Here is the link: https://glorecords.blm.gov
2. I use Mr. Kerry's relatives as an example. so I began to fill in what I knew about his ancestor, Thomas Oakley.
Notice that I don't have much information other than his name and the county in Ohio.
3. Soon, I had an image that showed his name, and the township and range numbers of his property.
4. Under "Image", there is an indicator of a document, which I clicked.
Look at that! I can download the Land Patent!
5. And, if I go back to the home page, I can see who his neighbors were.
Thomas appears three names up from the bottom.
6. Here comes the fun part!
Open another window in your browser, and go to Earth Point. Here is the address: http://www.earthpoint.us
You will see the space in the center of the page where you are to fill in the Principal Meridian, Township, Range, and Section. Those are items you can obtain from the BLM window that you still have open.
7. Once you fill them in, tell it to "Go Fly..."
When I added a layer of roads to the image, I discovered that we drive past this area all the time. Just last year, we decided to turn down one of the roads that surrounded the property.
We were looking at the land Thomas Oakley owned!
8. GoogleEarth allowed us to see it from a street view, too. It's more fun to actually visit the area, but this can be the next best thing.
By combining the sites of the Bureau of Land Management and EarthPoint, you can visit the land of your ancestors and see what they saw.
Go ahead and give it a try!