This database contains approximately 2.2 million land patents, primarily cash and homestead, from 1820-1908 for the following states:
A land patent is a document recording the passing of a land title from the government, or other proprietor, to the patentee/grantee. This is the first-title deed and the true beginning of private ownership of the land. The patent describes in legal terms the land to which the title is given. Information recorded in these records includes:
- Name of patentee(s)
- Issue date
- State of patent
- Land office issuing the patent
- Acres of land
- Legal land description – state, county, township, range, meridian, section, aliquot parts, block, survey number, etc.
- Accession number (a code used to uniquely identify a patent)
- Metes and bounds (whether the Metes and Bounds method was used to legally describe the patent)
- Cancelled (whether the patent was cancelled or not; if ‘yes’, more info may be found in the Comments field)
- U.S. reservations (whether the government has retained some rights or interest in the land)
- Mineral reservations (whether the land included the reservation of mineral rights for mining, agriculture, manufacturing, or any other purpose)
- Authority (laws and statutes under which the land was acquired)
- Document number (the primary identification number given to the original General Land Office document)
Where to Go From Here:
While patents are useful, they are not as informative as case files. However, patents contain all of the necessary information for ordering land-entry case files. To order a case file, be sure to provide the following information: name of land office, land description (township, range, and section), final certificate number or patent number, and authority under which the land was acquired (i.e., homestead, cash, bounty-land warrant, mining claim). Requests for land-entry case files should be sent to:National Archives (NNR1)
Textual Reference Branch
Washington, D.C. 20408
For further information on locating and ordering land-entry case files, as well as how to research land records in general, please consult E. Wade Hone’s book, Land & Property Research in the United States (Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1997).
Why Use Land Records:
Land records provide two types of important evidence for the genealogist. First, they often state kinship ties, especially when a group of heirs jointly sells some inherited land. Second, they place individuals in a specific time and place, allowing the researcher to sort people and families into neighborhoods and closely related groups. By locating people with reference to creeks and other natural features, the deeds, land grants, and land tax lists help distinguish one John Anderson, son of Mark, from another John Anderson in the same county. Prior to the Civil War, most free adult males owned land; so if the land records of an area have survived but do not mention your ancestor, you should reevaluate the assumption that he or she lived in the area. In the South, which has far fewer vital records than New England, the land records are even more crucial to genealogical success.
Taken from Sandra H. Luebking, "Research in Land and Tax Records" in The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).