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Finding Land Purchases Using Earth Survey’s PLSS and Google Earth

Alexander Huston's Land Purchase W1/2 of Section 30, Township 2, Range 6 Between the Miamis

Alexander Huston’s Land Purchase W1/2 of Section 30, Township 2, Range 6 Between the Miamis

I love maps! As I plan my trip to Ohio (in late April,) I am looking more carefully at the warrants, deeds, plat map, and census information in order to pinpoint exactly where my ancestors lived. This includes five generations of Croys, Hustons, and Oswalts and living in approximately eight locations in the state, so I’ve started early. (Really, I’m just an excited obsessive trying to make planning a trip six months ahead of time look normal.)

I’ve studied the system of land grants recorded in Ohio. The state was a petri dish of survey methods for a brand new nation. The best, most complete assessment of the various systems, nine in all, from the old metes and bounds method (you know, where the corner is five paces from the rock by the big sycamore) to the Public Land Survey System (the standardized system for US lands) can be found at the Old Fort Steuben website.

I can figure out where land is pretty well if I know the range, township, and section, but it requires some significant cross eyed head twisting on my part…and time. First, where is the land? That determines what survey system was used. Next, how where the ranges, townships, and sections set up? They are all slightly different. Finally, how do you place that information on a modern map?

Too late in the game, I started thinking…maybe there’s a tool to help, and of course, there was. I found it on one of Cyndi’s Lists (a fabulous resource most genealogists know about, but if you don’t, check it out at

The tool I found takes advantage of Google Earth and produces an overlay marking all of the PLSS lines established in the United States. You just download it to Google Earth. Easy…it appears automatically in the Google Earth sidebar. Then you navigate to the part of country in question. And there it is! Pin and label the site using the pushpin tool at the top, and print it out.

Maybe you already know about this wonder tool, but I’m spreading the word because it is TOO COOL. They give a nice tutorial as well, and you can access it by right clicking on each label in the sidebar.

What did I map out and tuck away in my trip file?

  1. If you follow my blog you know I was wondering about the exact location of Alexander Huston’s land grant Between the Miamis named in the Chancery Records as Township 2; Range 6; Section 30. [i](The map above shows the area.)With a move of my mouse, I discovered the land is now a suburb southeast of Dayton, OH. So, first trip decision…I won’t be visiting there. Driving up and down housing tracts isn’t my thing, and besides, their gravesites are long gone. Note: this is an unusual outcome for my ancestor’s land choices. Generally, their lands were (and still are) remote and insulated; it’s a genetic thing.
  2. Jacob Croy’s land originally registered at the Steubenville Land Office on August 2, 1805, Section 29, Township 9, Range 8[ii] and never finalized due to his death between then and October of 1807.[iii]
  3. Three purchases[iv] seen below in what is now Carroll County, OH including
    1. Jacob Oswalt’s land purchase, originally registered at the Steubenville Land Office on September 24, 1805, Section 12, Township 16, Range 7 and
    2. his purchase in 1820 of the w1/2 of Section 17, T16 Range 7 (the eventual site of Morges, OH written about extensively on this site.)
    3. Andrew Croy’s land purchase right next door on the east ½ of the southeast ¼

      The Land Purchases of the Oswalt and Croy Families: originally Stark County

      The Land Purchases of the Oswalt and Croy Families: originally Stark County

I have more mapping to do. Jacob Oswalt II moved from the Carroll County to Seneca County a few years before his death. Need to map that out. And Andrew Croy and his sons, including my great, great grandfather lived in Coshocton. Then there are my great, great grandparents and their daughters and seven sons (chronicled here under Civil War blogs) after their move to Washington County, OH. I’m well on my way mapping those places, but the research required different sources…and maybe a different post. [v]

[i] John Huston vs. Henry McGrath, Chancery Records; Records Center and Archives, Montgomery County Reibold Building 117 South Main Street, 6th floor, P.O. Box 972, Dayton, Ohio 45422-1110

[ii] Early Ohioans’ residences from the land grant records. Mansfield, Ohio: Ohio Genealogical Society, 1976 [accessed 8-24-13]

[iii] Mary Croy and George Roberts “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” Database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 22 June 2015), Columbiana > Marriage records 1803-1818 vol 1 > image 15 of 166; county courthouses, Ohio.

[iv] See endnote ii

[v] All imagery from Google Earth with Earth Survey’s PLSS program applied.

About croywright

The author, a writer of history and historical fiction, always yearned to go back in time.

One response »

  1. Thanks for the post. I could provide land records for John Croy (died 1824) and his following 5 generations if you would like (my line of genealogy.) Most are in Montgomery Co, OH Madison Township.


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