Adams County Land Resources

Original Land Owners: Our goal at Ancestor Tracks is to publish maps and land ownership information allowing genealogy researchers to place more precisely the locations where our ancestors lived.

The state of Pennsylvania began platting the exact metes-and-bounds tracts of the earliest landowners, township-by-township, starting in 1907, but the Land Office only completed about 1/3 of the state before the project ended. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania did not plat the tracts of the earliest landowners of Adams County.

The only way to find the date, book and page of the original warrant, survey, and patent for your ancestor is to do what the state draftsmen did to create their warrantee maps.  They searched through the relevant county Warrant Register, and that of its parent counties, now posted on the Pennsylvania State Archives website where each page of each county’s ledger is a separate pdf file, or download and save to your computer the entire set of 67 county Warrant Registers plus 3 pre-1733 ledgers called First Landowners of PA: Colonial and State Warrant Registers in the PA Archives, Harrisburg, 1682-ca 1940 ($35).   Once you have found the information, you can access the free online surveys, and you can order copies of the original documents from the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg using their order form

If you cannot find an original landowner’s name in the Warrant Registers, the next place to look is in Pennsylvania’s index to Patent Registers ($35). Within an index covering the relevant years, the names are grouped alphabetically by the first letter of the patentee’s surname, then grouped by volume number of Patent Book, and finally arranged chronologically by date of patent. Thus, you have to look through the entire alphabetical section (which may be as little as one page to as many as 50) to be sure you don’t miss anyone. See our explanation of how land was transferred from the government to individual owners from the earliest days of settlement.

Please note that these land transfers predate the deed books located in each county because they deal with the first transfer of land to private individuals at the state level. Once the land passed into the hands of a private owner, any subsequent transfer of the land was recorded as deeds in the county courthouse as it existed at that time.

The “Manor of Maske” which was a 43,500-acre original manor owned by the Penns, was distributed to 333 original settlers. The Manor or Maske–Its History and Individual Properties, by Charles H. Glatfelter and Arthur Weaner (1992, paperback, 74 pages) and the manor’s Connected Draft Survey Map (36″ X 48″) are available from the Adams County Historical Society, PO Box 4325, Gettysburg, PA 17325 (Email:; Telephone: (717) 334-4723; Fax: (717) 334-0722).  Also check out the Emmitsburg (MD) Area Historical Society for their extensive work regarding land tracts which abut the Adams Co., PA/Frederick Co., MD border.

Over many years, Rev. Neal Hively painstakingly created connected draft maps of the original owners of land in two counties (York and Adams), thus performing a priceless service for genealogists. These maps show the boundaries of the tracts on topographic maps, warrantees of the tracts, and the survey number of each.  Rev. Hively tells me that he has retired and transferred his Adams County stock and copyright to Adams County Historical Society, Gettysburg, PA.  Some libraries, including the Library of Congress and the DAR Library in Washington, D.C., have his publications which should not be missed if you have early ancestors in Adams County.

19th-Century Residents:
In lieu of being able to bring you Township Warrantee Maps of the earliest settlers, we are posting, the Map of Adams Co., Pennsylvania from surveys by G.M. Hopkins which was published in 1858. This map is located in the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C. We hope that it will be a useful tool for locating your Adams County families when coupled with the 1860 census. If your ancestor was actually a first landowner, purchasing his or her property from the colony or state of Pennsylvania, further information about these tracts may be gleaned from the York (created in 1749) or Adams County (created in 1800 from York) Warrant Registers.

Census Table
Table of Distances

Click on the township of your choice below. Once the images are loaded, they can be enlarged by clicking on them. If an image doesn’t enlarge, right-click on it and choose “Open Image in New Tab.”  When it is opened in a new tab, you will be able to zoom in. You can also save the images.

While the map in the Library of Congress, is in the public domain the images we have taken belong to us and are not to be used for commercial use. For those wishing to use them for personal use (including illustrating a family history you are working on), we give permission to use them, but we would appreciate attribution to Ancestor Tracks. It takes much time and effort to locate, process, edit, and post these and the many other county images we have posted, so we appreciate this courtesy.  

Use the 1858 atlas in conjunction with the excellent 1886 History of Cumberland and Adams County, Pennsylvania which is online courtesy of the Internet Archive. Also check out Rupp’s 1846 The History and Topography of Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Bedford, Adams, and Perry Counties.