I must admit that platting your ancestor's land in Kentucky can be downright confusing. Unlike other northern states (and likely a lot others), the old deeds in Kentucky can be confusing to read. Everything is based on trees which are no longer there, rocks, poles .... there's no way you say to even figure out what your ancestor's land looked like! Everything is based also on the nearest waterway - which might be some distance away, and neighbor's lands as the "lines" on all sides of the deed. For this tip, I want you to get a pencil, a calculator, a ruler and if possible, some graph paper. I'm going to try to teach you how to draw the plat of a pretend ancestor and then you can dig out your Kentucky deeds and try your hand.

First of all - the old deeds mention poles and links, not inches and feet. So, note down on a piece of paper somewhere that 1 inch equals 126 poles. Thus, if we divide the poles shown in the description of the land by 126, we know how long to draw each side. We are most familiar likely with what is known as 15 minute maps which mean that 1 mile equals 1 inch. (Some other maps use a 7.5 minute map which means 1 cm equals .25 km. ) On a 7.5 minute map we can convert 1 inch to equal 320 poles. Don't get confused now, it'll all work out!

On your graph paper draw an arrow off in the corner pointing north (always pointing at the top of the map). Jot down the scale you're using and we'll stick with the 15 minute map. Draw an arrow showing the direction you're going. And along the lines you'll be drawing write the call. The call? What's that? Let's take a minute to learn some terns that aren't in our vocabulary unless we use them daily.

begmeans beginning - where we're going to start
Call means the line or the boundary
cor -means corner
fk -means a fork
ln -means line - the path we'll be following
p -means pole/perch, rods - all are equal to 16.5 feet
rd -means road (not too many of these in the earliest days!)

Since a lot is based on trees, I think you can figure out their abbreviations such hick for hickory, wo or w/o for white oak, ro or r/o for read oak; most of the times the type of tree is written out or abbreviated enough to be recognizable. But, their spellings are varied!

And, as a little refresher of measurements ...

An acre is 160 square rods, 43,560 square feet or 1/640 square mile
A chain, with which they measured, is a constant 80 chains for each mile.
Each chain is 66 feet long and  has 100 links.
A degree - back to high school math, is 1/360th of the distance around a circle.
A link was 1/100th of a chain (see above) and was 7.92 inches or 25 links or 1 rod long.
Metes and bounds is the way the survey was taken with the measurements being the metes and the  Boundary markers being the bounds.

Stick with me and you might print these definitions off so you can refer to them later! Now let's look at Samuel Stickinthemud's deed. See if you can work with me through this.

Samuel Stickinthemud lived in Swampland County (you know I'm making this up I hope!) The property is shown "on Stinky Creek" and here is the description of the land:

Beginning on a read oak.
Thence due west 120 poles to a white oak and a dying elm
Thence due north 160 poles to a hickory
Thence north 80 degrees east, 300 poles to a poplar
Thence due south 200 poles to a marked rock
Thence South 65 degrees west 160 poles to 2 scrub brush trees on the bank of a pond
Thence north 60 poles to the beginning.

You've marked a starting point somewhere on the paper so we'll begin right on that dot which you have labeled "red oak"

Step 1 - due west 120 poles to a white oak and dying elm. Take that 120 poles and divide by 126 (refer back to the paragraph "First of all..." and that will give us .95 inches. Lay your ruler on the paper and draw a line straight west going approximately .95 inches. That line ends on a white oak and dying elm, draw a dot at the end of the line you've just drawn and write in beside it "white oak and dying elm".

Step 2 - due north 160 poles to a hickory. Divide the 160 by that good old 126 and that will give you 1.27 inches. Lay your ruler at the point you marked in step #1 and extend the line north 1.27 inches. At the end of the line write to the side "hickory".

Step 3 - north 80 degrees east, 300 poles to a poplar. Zero degree always means due north and south. So this is 80 degrees towards the east of north and south. Divide the 300 poles by 126 giving you 2.38 inches slightly north east (you can use a compass or other device to make this exactly 80 degrees off of north). At your dot at the end of this line indicate "poplar"

Step 4 - South 200 poles to a marked rock. Divide 200 by 1.26 giving you 1.59 inches. From your last point draw a line 1.59 inches due south and at the end of this line put a dot and mark to the side "marked rock."

Step 5 - South 65 degrees west 160 poles to the scrub brushes at the bank of a pond. Again, from your last line's ending angle south approximately 65 degrees and how long will be it? Yes 160 divided by 126 and this line will be 1.27 inches long.

Step 6 - north 60 poles to the beginning. I think you're ahead of me now, 60 divided by 1.26 indicates .48 inches and you hopefully will be close to the beginning.

Now - look at your deed again and see if property lines are mentioned. If for example on step 2 it mentions John Jumpinghigh's line being there, write his name above that line. Fill in as many names as you can. It may help you physically locate the land on a topo map.

Now - there are glitches along the way. Due to surveying errors (or inability to survey part of the property due to physical obstacles) some property lines won't close up or match. Some land plats come out looking very strange indeed. You're blessed if the land comes up to a river or some well known landscape feature which may still exist today. This is one
reason that the county surveyor had to go out and re-survey many of the plats (also called processioneering): the trees had died or been cut down; a rock moved or the neighbor thought that good old Sam was moving in on his property. At the death of a land owner lands had to be re-surveyed also to distribute equally to the heirs (if so noted in the will) so that everyone had about the same amount of land, all had access to the waterway or roads.

This is just a simple overview of platting; I know there are software programs that will do this in a jiffy, but for those of us who do not have these programs, it's fun to learn how to do it ourselves. Tracing your ancestor's property is complicated as land was divided up so many times. The ancestor might have started out with 3,000 acres and over his life,
gave some to his children, sold part of it, forgot to record some of it ... never mentioned houses most times . But the only way to tackle it is to start at the beginning and plat it out. It makes a lovely addition to your family history to include a plat map. Many times, we have to work backward starting with the current owner and it's description. Find out who they
bought the land from. Find that deed in the deed book and find out who they bought it from and work backwards as far as you can. Sometimes the researcher can go back several generations - sometimes they'll get stuck because of all the divisions of the land. Good luck!

Presented here with premission of:
(c) Copyright 20 January 2005, Sandra K. Gorin
TIP #524
Colonel Sandi Gorin
SCKY Links:
Sandi's Puzzlers:
Gorin Publishing:
Scroll down to find Sandi's articles of:
Early Laws
Covered Bridges
Beginning at a White Oak or some kind of a Tree!
Those Obsure Terms


When Kentucky reached statehood, various laws were passed, primarily based on those of Virginia. Some of them seem rather strange to us now, and I thought I would list some of them together in one tip. Perhaps this will explain why your Kentucky ancestor did something, or couldn't do something!  Sandi Gorin

BILLIARD TABLES: In 1821 an act was passed laying a tax of $500 on each and every billiard table. You will notice that on the old tax records that this is one of the categories shown. The County Clerk was responsible for keeping a list of those who owned a billiard table and issued a certificate on payment of the  tax which then the owner had to pay an additional $1.00 for the certificate. If it was found that someone didn't have a certificate, they were fined $100 a day! The owner could also be taken to court and if found guilty, the billiard table(s) could be sold and they had fines to pay.

ENCLOSURES: January 15, 1798. The definition of a legal fence was established on this date defining what was considered a fence for horses, mares, cattle, hogs, sheep and goats. Remember that in the early days, livestock was often left free to roam all over the place. The fence had to be five feet high and constructed so the animals could not "creep through".  Hedges were allowed which had to be two feet high with a ditch three feet deep and three feet broad. If an animal owner did not comply and their animals got free, they would be fined and the animals killed if someone had been hurt or damages had been incurred. A committee was to be appointed to approve all the enclosures.

TAVERNS: Taverns had to meet several requirements: Lodging had to be "good, wholesome, clean, had a good diet for travelers, have a stable and pasture for the traveler's livestock. No gaming was allowed in the tavern, drunkenness was not permitted nor was any "scandalous behavior" allowed. Rates for food, lodging and drink was controlled by the Justices who were to inspect the tavern twice a year. If alcohol was to be sold, a permit had to be granted and the prices set by the court.

PEDDLERS. Spelled pedlars, an act approved 1814 covered the rules and regulations for the traveling peddler. He had to obtain a license for $20 which covered him for one year.

POSTAGE: Yes … the government had that covered early too! Postage was required for any written communication to the Governor, to the military, and for "for the carriage of any books, papers or other articles transmitted" from other governors. From there it just kept growing!

PROFANITY was known as profanation. "Any person or person shall not, in any
stage play, interlude show, May-game or pageant, jestingly or profanely speak or use the holy name of God, or Christ Jesus, or of the Holy Ghost, or of the Trinity, which are not to be spoken but with fear and reverence shall forfeit, for every such offence by him or them committed, ten pounds."

RACES: It was illegal for anyone to induce someone under the age of 21 to be a rider in a race. If someone under age 21, a slave or servant did race without permission of the father or owner (or the mother if the father is dead), it was a misdemeanor. It was prohibited to race horses on the public streets and highways; a $10.00 fine was imposed.

Printed with premission from Sandi Gorin. TIP #541 -
© Copyright 19 May 2005, Sandra K. Gorin
Gorin Publishing:  New books available now!
29 Apr 2005  
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In the beginning - of Kentucky that is - there were timbers, hills (called knobs), dense undergrowth and buffalo trails. Quite a challenge for the early settlers and explorers trying to bring their family, wagons, livestock and earthly belongings to the wilderness  called Kentucky County Virginia; later the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The most important perhaps were the buffalo trails. I have been told many times that buffalo often traveled two by two, side by side, and this was the width of the pioneer wagon. The buffalo followed the same path each time, pounding down the ground each time into a solid "road" of packed dirt and small rock. Whether this is an urban legend or a factual statement I don't know but I do know that the pioneers did follow the buffalo trails.

Thus began the Kentucky road system. I'm not going to go into a detailed study of all the original roads in Kentucky but a little about their importance and how it involved every able-bodied man and boy. One of the first tasks the settlers had to tackle after clearing out the timber, building their cabins, establishing a town or community and chasing of wild animals and Indians was building roads. In working with the "roads book" and the county order books of the earlier years, one will find several interesting things about these roads.

1 - Some of the first roads built led from the "city" to a water grist mill. Mills were erected early on the waterways to grind the grain to feed the people and the livestock. So many petitions will be found in the records of "viewing the way for a road from such and such town to so and so's mill.

2 - Another set of early roads led to adjacent counties or "to the state line." This was of course to enable the citizens to travel more easily to other areas and to get produce in and out.

3 - Roads within the town were critical. I'll describe those in a minute; they were great"fun".

4 - And, last but not least, roads leading to city and county officials' homes ranked very high. It seemed that the city and county leaders were insistent that they have good roads coming right to their front door!

What did the roads look like? Not much. It appears that when a road was established, everyone's land where the road crossed had to give permission. Sometimes the land owners protested as it might have taken some of their good land and they wanted the road moved. Once everyone agreed and the surveyors had laid out a tentative route, it came up for a vote and if approved, the road was "established." Then the road was divided up into precincts and each precinct or section had a supervisor, superintendent (various names) in charge of not only building that section of road, but to keep it passable. He then had "hands" appointed to serve with him and every year that road was checked out to be sure it was passable. Of genealogical interest in the road books (if all counties still have these books, also found in the county order books), is that all the "hands" serving on a portion of the road would have been neighbors. Thus, if you find Robert Roadbuilder as the road boss for a section with hands Don Dirthauler, Roger Rockthrower and Samuel Shovelman working with him, these were his neighbors along that road.

Did problems arise? Oh, yes. Robert Roadbuilder might shirk his duties and Don, Roger and Samuel give up. When the road was next checked, fallen trees might lie across the road, potholes deep enough to bury a wagon were evident and rocks thrown by a nearby farmer tossed into the road. Reprimands and even fines could be following or a total replacement of the supervisor. It was a constant battle to keep these roads passable, if we
could really call them roads. They were barely ruts, finally up to 18 feet wide and passage along these roads could be limited by the willingness of the crew to work and the elements.

Town roads fared better normally; the town fathers saw these daily. But they were nothing to write home about. Just dirt, rutted and looking much like the roads seen in old westerns where the young ladies had to hoist their skirts over their ankles to cross the street with the mud holes and the wagons splashing mud all over the citizenry. It was not until years later that the technique called macadaming the roads appeared. Some streets were covered with wooden planks to cover the mud holes but that wasn't much of an improvement.

The road crew also had other responsibilities - that of building bridges over the waterways. Some were just basic bridges which amazingly were wonderfully done and held up for many years. The hardest though of the bridges and the most beautiful were the covered bridges. They were not only awesome to the eye but served the purpose of protecting people, livestock and wagons crossing. At one time more than 400 wooden bridges were to be found in Kentucky, but most of these have been torn down or fallen down after many years of traffic.

Local woodworkers joined with the road crew to erect these bridges; there was much lumber available with which to build them. There was a complex system of trusses holding the roof and sides in place. The builders could build the bridge on the shore and then roll it into place, pulling and pushing while standing in the water The sides were then built and the roof followed. As with the roads, every male over 16 who was in good physical health had to assist in the building and maintenance of the bridge. There was a certain number of hours each year that each male citizen was required to put in

Today, there are only 13 covered bridges to be found in Kentucky, most built later than the pioneer days which have fallen down many years ago.

Bourbon Co: The Colville Bridge was built ca 1877, a double post and brace design.
Bracken Co: Walcot Bridge (also known as White Bridge), built in the 1880's.
Fleming Co: Goddard Bridge, constructed between 1865 and 1870. Ringos Mill Bridge was                          built in 1869 near a gristmill.
Franklin Co: Switzer Bridge, built 1855 - 120 feet long, 11 feet 6 inches wide, 12 feet high
Greenup Co: Oldtown Bridge, built ca 1800. Bennett's Mill Bridge, built ca 1856. This is the                            longest Standing covered bridge in KY - 155 feet long and is still being used!
Lewis Co: Cabin Creek Bridge, built 1873, also known as Rectorville Bridge or Mackey-                                 Hughes Bridge
Mason Co: Dover Bridge - a toll bridge built 1835. Valley Pike Bridge, built 1864, still in use.
                       Robertson Co: Johnson Creek Bridge, built 1874
Washington Co: Beech Fork Bridge, also known as the Mooresville Bridge, built 1865.                                   Longest double span bridge, each span is 102 feet long.

For a look online at some Kentucky covered bridges, I recommend the following:

For some idea of the construction of the covered bridge, go to: This is from a
Canadian site and newer (1920) but will give you some idea of the construction necessary.

I think we're getting a little better view of how our ancestors lived. They were not only building their own family homes, cleaning out fields of trees and rocks, encountering wild life, watching for Indians, establishing towns, building churches, setting up city and county governments, grinding grain, working on their trades of blacksmithing, carpentry, etc. but in their spare time they were riding patrol to keep the country safe and building roads and bridges. And we complain about commuting to an air conditioned office with massive computer systems and the coffee machine or in our home with washers and dryers, microwave ovens, cable TV, computers that allow us to search the world for information - how times have changed! And, the next time you are driving down a bumpy country lane in Kentucky (or any state), remember, years ago, two lumbering buffalo might have huffed and puffed along this route!

TIP #526  Presented here by premission of:
(c) Copyright 3 February 2005, Sandra K. Gorin
Colonel Sandi Gorin
SCKY Links:
Gorin Publishing:
My William Burris Rimby bought land in Barren Co. KY.  I have a copy of his deed.  If you also have a deed, this Tip by Sandi Gorin will help you figure just how his land was shaped.  Give it a try - it was fun! 

"Barren County, Kentucky14 Aug. 1841               Book S page 183
Know all men by these presents that I Jonathan Hunt of Barren County, State of Kentucky for and in consideration of the sum of Two Hundred and Seventy Five dollars paid me by William B. Rimby and Thomas Tinsley...  Three several tracts of land, first containing ninety acres more or less.....on the waters of Dry Creek and bounded by the lands of Thomas Lane and James Barton Jr. and running as follows: towit Beginning at a birch in Henricks line thence North 5 East, 4 poles to a dogwood in Thomas Curds line, thence with the same North 80 West 244 poles to a white Oak, thence South 10 East 72 poles to two red Oaks, thence South 80 East 180 poles to a sourwood on Henricks line and etc.... "  In the three tracts of land there is more mention of chestnut, 2 black oaks, black gum, sugartree, spanish oak, and poplar trees.  This description shows how nicely wooded this country was at the time and the variety of trees growing in Barren County.  Although the trees usually made more work for the farmer to clear the land for growing crops, they needed the wood for heat, to build homes, etc....  So these trees served many purposes."  
Source: DRYER-LAUCK-PAYNE-SCOTT Going Home by Elizabeth Humphrey

I've decided to return again to those old, obscure terms we sometimes find in our research that mean absolutely nothing to most of us now. I will attempt to not repeat those I've done in the past tips, but if one slips through … my apologies.

Aac: oak, oaken
Aat: A meal made from oats; used as a thickening agent.
A & B: Assault and battery
Ab Actis: Notary public
Abade: Abode
Abast: Bastard
Abatis: Fortification made from tree branches sharpened and pointed outward                   
Abavus: Normally a great-great-grandfather
Abbreviate: Abstract
ABC table:   Banned gambling table.
Abed:  Sick and in bed.
Aberemord: The murder was proved - was different from manslaughter and justifiable homicide.
Abigail: Female servant
Ab initio: From the beginning
Abit: an obituary or burial service.
Ambition: Dying
Ablepsy: Refers to blindness caused mentally or physically.
Able whackets: An old-time card game
Ab nepos: Great-great grandson.
Abortivus: Premature baby
Abram: A poor man.
Absence: One away from home; especially if a person is gone seven years, he is presumed dead.
Absentee landlord: land or property owner who does not live at location.
Abuttal: A boundary between property.
Acaid: Vinegar
Accepted mason: Freemason
Accident: Symptom of illness
Accommodation:    property given in the colonial times to a family wishing to settle in that town.
Achor: Called also "scald" - disease of the scalp.
Acorsy: Bury
Acrazed: Crazed, crazy
Acre foot: the amount of water needed to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot.
Acta: Official records
Acto: Lawsuit
Actor: Manager or agent, sometimes refers to a plaintiff in a case
Adam: Nickname for a bailiff
Adam's ale:  Water
Ad collingendum: Someone appointed to keep an estate in order until an administrator
is appointed.
Ad damnum: Monetary loss or damage asked in a law suit. The request  fordetermining loss was
an ad quad damnum; found in petition forestablishing a mill site.
Adderwart: Also known as snakeweed - believed that when applied to a snake bite would
draw out the poison.
Addle-pate: Foolish individual
Adele: Something added or annexed.
Adeps: Lard
Ademtion: The act of removing a bequest from a will.
Adjutant General: Army chief administrative officer or a high officer in the state National Guard
Administrator: One responsible for collecting debts due the deceased,  payment of debts,
distributing monies to heirs of the deceased.
Administrator's deed: At settlement of estate by administrator; this is a deed given when the
deceased's land has to be sold to settle the estate and pay debts.
Adult:  Two classifications: In civil law this is reached at age 12 for a female and 14 for a male.
In common law it is 21 for both sexes; some states consider adulthood at 18. 
Adjust:  Burned, dehydrated due to a high fever.
Adventurer: One who speculates or obtains his means by questionable manner.
Adward: Judgment, sentence or award
Aetatula: Youthful
Affiance: Engagement before marriage.
Affray: Public fight, disturbance of the peace.
After-acquired Property:  Property acquired after the date on which a will was written.
This caused a problem if a will had been written and this property is not shown because it was
purchased later.  Since the other property was already designated, this caused the will to be
ignored and the deceased was considered as tying instate as far as this property is concerned.
This was often avoided by the testator adding the phrase "all the rest and residue of the
After born: A child born after the father had died or made his will.
After kindred: Distant relatives.
Age of contractibility:  People below this age could not marry without permission of the parents.
Age of discretion:  Age when a person could chose his own guardian or apprentice.
Age of reason: Age when a child is capable of acting in a responsible manner; sometimes as
low as seven.
Agenhine: If a guest stayed at someone's house longer than three days, he was often considered
a part of the family.
Aggrevauns:  Grievance
Agnate: One whose relationship can be traced through the male side.
Agosto: August
Ague cake:  Swollen liver or spleen caused by ague which was malaria or fever and chills.
Agynus: A single person.
A & H A Co. Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company
Aid-De-Camp: Staff officer who delivers orders from a superior officer.
Ake: An egg
Aiel:  Grandfather or other ancestors
Airline: Shortest distance between two points - an old term similar to "as the crow flies."
Air swellings: Abdominal bloating due to gas; known also as tympanites.
Aistre: Part of a house or the fireplace.
Aitch: Aches and pains
Aits:  Oats
Al-hay-day:  November 1st - all-hallows day
Alamode pot: A pot used to cook a pot roast.
Alarm Act: Passed in 1820, a law forcing review of those on the pension roles to see if they
should continue to be on the rolls.
Album: Rents paid in silver coins.
Aldufather: Ancestor
Aleccioun:   Election
Alegar: Substitute for vinegar; fermented beer or ale.
Alexcion: Election
Alias:  Inserted between two surnames. As an example: a person known by his step-father's name
who also is known by his father's name would put alias between the two names. Also used if
individual was known by two different names.
Alias dictus:  Means "otherwise called" when a person is known by two names.
Alias subpoena: A second subpoena which the first one didn't serve its purpose or was
not delivered.
Alibi natua: Born elsewhere.
Alienate: The transfer of property or separation of two people.

To be continued:

Presented here with premission of:
Colonel Sandi Gorin
© Copyright 15 September 2005., Sandra K. Gorin
TIP #557
SCKY Links:
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This is a portion of the Alphabet.  More to come.