12 April 2014

Homestead Versus Homeplace

Words that have different meanings can confuse people. Homestead is one of those words. Sometimes it even gets confused with "homeplace."

For this reason, I've written this short "style-guide" for how I'm going to use "homestead" and "homeplace."

Homestead as a noun:

Homestead as a noun will be used in two ways on this blog. One is in reference to an actual parcel of real property acquired by someone via the procedure set forth in the United States under the Homestead Act of 1862 (and amendments). The second is in reference to that portion of an individual's real property to which they have certain rights as their residence. For those with farming ancestors, this concept of homestead usually refers to the residence and a portion of the farm, but not usually to the entire farm. A surviving spouse may also have some legal rights to the homestead portion of a farm, even if there are unsettled debts. The legal concept of homestead allows property tax relief in some states. State statute in the state of interest should spell out these rights more clearly than I am here.

Homestead as a verb:

When I use homestead as a verb it means to participate in the process of acquiring title to real property in the federal domain of the United States under the Homestead Act of 1862 (and amendments).

Homestead and homeplace have similar meanings. When I talk about the first farm my ancestors purchased from a fellow German couple in the 1880s in Illinois and where they lived their entire married life, I am talking about the "homeplace." They acquired it through direct purchase and did not "homestead" it. When I am talking about this entire farm, I'll use the word "homeplace."

Some may see it as a minor distinction, but we're going to make this distinction going forward. When the word "homestead" is used in the above two contexts, there may be records of that "homestead" (either federal land records or potentially local court action to have the specific property that constitutes the homestead clearly surveyed and marked).

And it is always about locating records!

This post is based in part on definitions obtained at:
  • http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homestead
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