“. . . thence south 60 poles to a white oak. . .”


I spent the better part of an afternoon last week transcribing some land patents from colonial Virginia. While reading the documents, I let my mind transport me to the land. I imagined two or three men out walking the land measuring out the distance in poles and choosing landmarks to identify the boundaries and mark the corners. A Spanish oak here. A red oak there. Up to a pine on the hillside. Some of the land in question lay along the western side of the Shenandoah River. I could imagine the beauty of this unsettled territory in 1734. What a challenge it would be for the men who cleared the land for farming in this raw wilderness! What an even greater challenge for the women who would be by their side!

Generally land descriptions in patents or deeds for state land states are measured in metes and bounds and will give the names of the neighbors when identifying the property but this pristine land had only one neighbor at the time. Imagine the loneliness the family might have felt as pioneers in this isolated area.

One of the things I love about genealogical research is trying to imagine myself in the historical setting of the period I am researching. Thinking about the early settlers of the Shenandoah River valley made me all the more appreciative of the comfortable life I enjoy in my well-defined neighborhood. Indoor plumbing and the local grocery store are just a few of the modern conveniences I am thankful for. While I love to imagine what life might have been like back then, I am always grateful when I drift back to reality where I can enjoy a comfortable bed and a temperature controlled home!

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