Forgotten Trails: New family maps book great research resource

Published 8:20 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2006

By Staff
I want to continue with the writings of Mr. Emmett Brooks, but first I want to take a break to tell you about a new resource that has come my way.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a call about a new book that is available to help those doing historical or genealogical research in Escambia County. The book came in the mail last Friday and I got a look at it over the weekend.
This book covers the whole county showing homesteads, roads, waterways, towns, cemeteries, railroads and more. As you know, if you do research, land in Alabama is divided into sections, townships and ranges. This is not true in all states, but it makes it somewhat easier to find and identify land. There are 36 sections to a township and land can be bought by the section or any division of a section. A full section is one square mile or 640 acres.
An example would be downtown Brewton. It is in the southwest quarter of section 28 in range 10. The road map in this book has the streets and cemeteries that are located in that particular section and township. The patent map for the same section shows that James Snowden either bought or was given a patent for that particular area in 1858. In fact, James Snowden was the owner of the majority of the section with other owners being Walker A. Snowden (1852), George C. Harold (1883), William Snowden (1825), Jenkin Curry (1891), William Monroe (1891) and Eliza C. Bruton (1851).
It is always a good point to look to the neighbors when trying to make family connections. If one person bought land in a section, it is very likely that his neighbor would have bought land nearby. Use this information when trying to find relationships.
This book may not be for everyone, but for those who do a lot of research I recommend it. In fact, the one they sent was for Escambia County, of course, but I want to get my hands on the book for Dale County also. That brings up another point. I believe that you can get the book for each and every county in the state.
Another wonderful source has also been brought to my attention recently. It seems there is a collection of maps available (for a price), which show many urban areas in minute details.
The Sanborn Company began making fire insurance maps from 1867 to 1970. This company sent out surveyors to detail buildings in all major urbanized areas regarding fire liability. They note the buildings and whether they are brick, frame, block, or etc.
This would have a great deal to do with the amount of insurance needed to cover the building. It is quite interesting to note that the first one for downtown Brewton was done in 1893. There is a note of fire debris on that map and the next one, done in 1896, shows a whole section of downtown gone.
This indicates exactly which buildings burned and what those buildings were used for. The maps are fascinating and I can't wait to get another look at them. They would make wonderful maps to be housed with the Escambia County Historical Society for those of us who would use them.
Next week I will return to the writings of Mr. Brooks.