Mapping Land Grants and Grantees
In order to answer our initial and primary question about who the earliest land grantees were, and where their land was, we turned to two sets of paper maps: the “Lands & Surveys Map,” an oversize set of topographic maps for Long Island (it takes a total of 8 of these very oversized rectangular maps to cover the island from north to south); and what we refer to as the “Tatnall Map,” produced in 1792 by then Surveyor General, Josiah Tatnall, whose name is also the signatory on many early land grants for Long Island. We also used copies of the original grants, and we educated ourselves on the various ways that land was acquired and disposed of in the 18th and 19th centuries, including the terms “commutation” and “escheat.”
We learned very early on that the L&S maps are not in concordance with the Tatnall Map. The Tatnall Map, created 240 years ago, was very geographically incorrect. There are several sections of the map in which there are so many errors that overlaying it onto a contemporary satellite photo map, and even the now-historic L&S map, was nearly useless. These areas of greatest error include Lower Deadmans Cay/Old Grays, and Burnt Ground. Even the L&S map, which we believe was produced 50 or so years ago, is not cartographically correct. When we digitized this and put it into a Geographic Information System (GIS) map, we realized that the L&S map was very inaccurate, as well.
Furthermore, not only are names often spelled differently across the two secondary sources (the maps), but they don’t always match the primary source—the grants themselves. By the end of the 18th, and certainly into the 19th century, the fluid, casual spelling of Early Modern English had mostly dissipated, but apparently names in the Bahamas continued to be spelled in a variety of ways. Therefore, in some instances, the spelling of a single name may have two or more spellings in our three grant sources. Some examples of this are a grantee named Ragala/Radols, a family with the surname of Spatches/Spatchers, and perhaps the most variously spelled name of all, Culmer/Comber/Cullimore.
The final digitized, interactive map represents our best approximation of where the earliest grants from the Crown were located, and to whom they were granted. Since the circa 1970s land grant map found at Lands & Surveys was geographically more accurate than the Tatnall map, and because we did not locate original grants for many of our grantees, we used the L&S as our primary data source. In places on the L&S maps that were blank/vacant/Crown Land, VCL, we turned to the Tatnall map to determine whether the land had been granted to someone in or prior to 1792. If that was the case, we used the grantee name for that land parcel.
NOTE: We make no warranty of the accuracy of the maps on this website for legal purposes.