Thursday, January 31, 2013

Genealogy By The States : Georgia - The Cherokee Land Lottery

Jim Sanders of Hidden Genealogy Nuggets ( has a series of blogging prompts, Genealogy By The States.  Bloggers for each week focus on a specific state.  This week I'm sharing about our fourth state, my home state, Georgia.

Museum at New Echota, Calhoun, Georgia
by Cculber007 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

If your ancestors lived in northwest Georgia in the mid-1800s, they may have lived on land that was distributed through the Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832.  For Georgians, that is basically the area that today is somewhat north of I-20 and west of Atlanta to the Alabama line.  The history of property in that area is also part of the history of Georgia and its land settlement.

Photocopy of original plat of lottery drawing

Among my father-in-law's papers was a copy of the original land lottery deed for the property where he lived for over 60 years.  The original owner of the property is named in the transcription below.

No. 67
160 acres
State of Georgia
The above Plat is a representation of the Tract or Lot of Land drawn by Jasper McCrary of Camp District, Warren County, situate in the 14th District Third Section in Cherokee County, containing One Hundred and Sixty Acres which is known and distinguished in the plan of said District by the ...
Given on the 2nd day of June 1832.
By Stephen Drew, Surveyor

Wanting to learn about the property's history lead us to explore several interesting resources starting with The Cherokee Land Lottery by James F. Smith, published in 1838.  The book, available as a free Google ebook, contains "a numerical list of the fortunate drawers in said lottery and an engraved map of each district" and is indexed with the list of those persons who received lots.(1)

We also consulted The New Georgia Encyclopedia where we learned about the history of the land lottery process as well as the names of the 10 original counties formed from the Cherokee Land Lottery - Cass, Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin. Murray, Paulding, and Union. (2)  At the time of the lottery, all the property was considered to be Cherokee county.  Very soon after the lottery, the 10 counties were formed, and today this same area is part of over 20 counties.

Fortunately for us,  Georgia's Virtual Vault includes the District Survey Field Notebooks written as the land was surveyed in preparation for the lottery.  As we read through the notes for the lots around Lot 67, District 14, Section 3 we could imagine ourselves walking along creek banks, over hills, past a house, just as the surveyor had done.  We also found in the Virtual Vault a copy of the surveyor's map, showing the area creeks and notations as to the presence of maple, hickory, white oak, and pine trees along the boundaries of Lot 67.

According  to U.S. Federal Census records for 1840-1860, Jasper McCrary continued to live in Warren County.  He apparently did not choose to move into what was then Murray County to live on his lottery land.  The land lottery's purpose was to distribute land and contained no requirement that the individual settle or cultivate the land, only that they pay the necessary fee to register the land.  The photocopy of the back of the original deed shows that McCrary did register his property although the exact date is difficult to read due to a tear in the document.  

McCrary's original 160 acres changed hands several times and was eventually broken up and sold in smaller sections.  The Nelson family purchased over 40 acres from what had been Lot 67 in the mid-1950s.  Even the deed for this more recent purchase contained some of the picturesque surveyor's language as the plat was described as "starting at a certain old oak tree and walking"  toward other landmarks along the boundaries of the acreage.

The Mesa Arizona Family History Center has an informative PowerPoint slide show  about the Georgia land lotteries.  These land lotteries were another part of Georgia's fascinating history and might also be part of your family's history too.

1.  Smith, James F.  The Cherokee Land Lottery . 1838.  PDF download.  Google Books. : 2013.

2,  Gigantino, Jim.  "Land Lottery System", The New Georgia Encyclopedia. : 2013.

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