mad in pursuit journal


My great-great grandparents were homesteaders

So sue me if I get excited over the smallest things. It's the family historian's curse: up pops a little tidbit that causes an explosion of insight in your brain. You see the picture so much more clearly now. But really, it amounts to only one line in your octopus of a story.

I'm trying to pretty up our Barrett family story -- just in case there is a bubble of media and/or history museum interest after the rededication of Barrett Brothers Park. I'm fixing up a home page at

My other curse is that telling the grand narrative always sends me back to to poke around for a few more little details. Sometimes I can add a fact or two. Sometimes it just deflates my storytelling energy. But yesterday I noticed they had a "New!" database of U.S. Land Contracts.

Luckily I had enough detail about the Barrett Farm in Catawissa to plug in a query. Eureka! Up popped two land grants -- original documents -- for Patrick Barrett, Township 42 N. Range II E., Section 23. 40 acres in 1870. 42 acres in 1874. Granted by the authority of the Homestead Act of 1862. Thank you, Mr. Lincoln. (Map and more info here>>>)

People will yawn and say, "oh, every farmer west of the Mississippi was a homesteader." Okay. But I always associated "homesteading" with the romantic old West... settlers on the frontier... "Little House on the Prairie." But finding those original land grant documents... suddenly I'm floating on the tide of history. History isn't "out there" -- it's IN ME.


Drop me a line!