Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pennsylvania Land Warrants and Applications has recently added a new searchable database to its collection. "Pennsylvania Land Warrants and Applications, 1733-1952," was added within the past month. A paid subscription to is required to access the database.

Pennsylvania, outside of the immediate vicinity of Philadelphia, can be a very difficult place to search for ancestors. Many Brouwer, Brower and Brewer researchers can document their ancestries back to some direct ancestor found in late 18th century or early 19th century Pennsylvania, only to be stopped right there. Even when aware of the fact (through DNA testing) that they are descended from one of the early New Netherland Brouwer families, the "paper trail" back to that family still cannot be completed. This is particularly true for Brower and Brewer families that settled early on in the western part of what became the state of Pennsylvania.

This new database will do little answer the question of "who was the ancestor of my Pennsylvania Brower/Brewer ancestor," however, it will at least provide another piece to the puzzle. Documenting a specific ancestor to a specific place, at a specific time, and discovering who his immediate neighbors were, at that time, can occasionally lead to a breakthrough in an otherwise stymied search. The searchable database provides a link to an image of the settlers warrant or application. As an example I have placed images of the 1807 application of Elias Brewer of Redstone, Fayette Co., Pennsylvania, online. (There are two images: Image 1; Image 2).

Although the above document tells us nothing of Elias' ancestry, it does inform us that Elias had the land he was applying for since 1791, and that Zephaniah Burt was a tenant on the property. Used in conjuncture with the U. S. Federal census records (taken every ten years beginning in 1790) it can help place when an ancestor came to a specific location and how long he remained there.

One way to vary your search procedure so as to see what other names were in the same location at the same time as your ancestor, is to (using the Advanced Search) leave the "surname" field blank, and enter the name of the county in the "county" field, and the year in which your ancestor's record is dated in the "year" field. With the example of Elias Brewer, when the surname field is left empty, and Fayette is entered for the county and 1791 for the year (the year in which Elias first held his land) we are given a list of 56 hits of names (some duplicated) of others who lived in Fayette County in 1791 as well. Perhaps looking into the origins of some of these families can provide a clue as to where they, and then possibly Elias Brewer, came from.

The database has nine hits for persons named BROWER. They are a James Brower, 1794, in Northampton Co., and eight hits for a William Brower, 1843 to 1864, in Centre County. There are 35 hits for persons named BREWER. They are 5 hits for a ____ Brewer in Bedford Co., 1785-1789; 1 hit for a ____ Brewer in Westmoreland Co., 1786; 1 hit for a ____ Brewer in Fayette Co., 1786; 1 hit for Absalom Brewer, Bedford Co., 1846; 1 hit for Am Brewer, Catiwassa, Columbia Co., 1814; 1 hit for Benjamin Brewer, Tyrone Co., 1786; 2 hits for C. D. Brewer, Lycoming Co., 1867; 1 hit for Charles Brewer, Fayette Co., 1794; 2 hits for Christian Brewer, Coventry, Chester Co., 1743; 3 hits for D. Lewis Brewer, Franklin Co., 1881; 1 hit for Edmond Brewer, Fayette Co., 1794; 2 hits for Elias Brewer, Fayette Co., 1807 (the two images above); 1 hit for Jacob Brewer, Franklin Co., 1875; 3 hits for John Brewer, Bullskin (1), Fayette Co., 1792 and 1794; 1 hit for John Brewer, Barree, Huntingdon Co., 1796; 1 hit for John Brewer, West, Huntingdon Co., 1812; 3 hits for Matthew/Matt Brewer, Buffalo (1), Union Co., 1813 and 1815; and 3 hits for William Brewer, Catiwassa (1), Columbia Co., 1814. There is also 1 Daniel Breure, Mifflin Co., 1793; 1 ___ Bruer, Northumberland Co., 1793; 1 Daniel Bruer, Luzerne Co., 1793; and 1 Jacob Bruer, Lancaster Co., 1765. states as their source for this database, Warrant Applications, 1733-1952. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania State Archives. Land Warrants. Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA.

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