Land Patent Search

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Land Patent of Flavius Dilts. Slowly click twice to enlarge this image.

Land patents show information about people who obtained the title to their land directly from the government (rather than from another individual). This includes land obtained through military bounty land warrants, land grants, cash entry sales, credit entries, homesteads, mineral or mining, and timberland claims.

Several million federal land patent records from 1788 to the 1960s are available online at the Bureau of Land Management – General Land Office Records (BLM-GLO) site.

Value of Land Records[edit | edit source]

Land records were created by the government to prevent or help resolve ownership disputes. They can be used by genealogists to determine residence. If the land was later passed to relatives, you may be able to use wills or deeds showing the transfer as evidence of personal relationships. In some cases the patent application papers contain genealogical information.

Patents show the name of the patentee, date, legal description of the land, patent number, and the land office that issued the patent. This information can be used to obtain land patent application papers. It may also help you locate papers showing the later disposal of the land.

Application papers for federal land patents may have detailed information about family members and previous residence as shown in dozens of papers including land application forms, citizenship applications, Family Bible pages, marriage or death certificates, newspaper clippings, and affidavits.

Value of the BLM-GLO Land Patent Search[edit | edit source]

The Land Patent Search is an index to millions of ancestors in federal land patents from 1788 to the 1960s at the National Archives. Start with this index to get the information needed to obtain the applications for land patents which may be a rich source of genealogical information about a family. The same Internet site also provides access to images of patents.

Jurisdictions[edit | edit source]

Federal vs. State Land States.png

The thirteen original colonies and their five daughter states (Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee) are considered state land states. Texas and Hawaii have unique histories and are also state land states. The remaining thirty western states are federal land states. The online BLM-GLO Land Patent Search is primarily for government-to-individual land conveyances in federal land states west and south of the original thirteen colonies.

Land transfers from a state land state to an individual, or later transfers from individual to individual in any state are found in their respective state or county land offices and are not part of the BLM-GLO Land Patent Search. Those types of land transactions can usually be researched in the land and property records at county courthouses or state archives.

For land in Texas, check out their General Land Office online, especially the Land Grant Database Search

For land in Pennsylvania, check out Land Records at the Pennsylvania State Archives

Who is in the Land Patent Search[edit | edit source]

The BLM-GLO Land Patent Search index only lists people who were actually granted a federal land patent. All military bounty land, grants, cash, pre-emption, and credit entry patents should be indexed. Among homesteaders only about 40 percent of initial applicants finished the process and received a legal title (patent) to their homestead. Among timberland applicants only about 25 percent received their patent.

Homesteaders who never obtained a patent because they did not finish are not in the Land Patent Search, but they are in the application papers. It is possible to get copies of unfinished applications. However, to see such application papers you must figure out another way to obtain the legal description of the land they started to homestead.

Using the Land Patent Search[edit | edit source]

  1. Open the General Land Office Patent Search.
  2. Select -- Any State --
  3. Enter the last name of the person receiving the Land Patent.
  4. If you have the information, you can also enter the Land Description and other Miscellaneous information.
  5. Click the Search Patents button at the bottom.

If the results list is too long
Redo the search using one or more of the following:

  • a particular state
  • a particular state and county
  • a first name
  • a first name and middle name
  • a Land Description
  • other Miscellaneous information

If the results list is too short
Redo the search changing one or more of the following:

  • delete the middle name
  • delete the middle name and first name
  • change a particular county to -- Any County --
  • change a particular state to -- Any State --
  • delete other details. The fewer the search parameters, the larger the result list will be.
  • use wildcard symbols in names: % in place of multiple characters; _ in place of single character
  • Look for a spelling variation of names. For ideas see Guessing a Name Variation

If an ancestor is on the results list

  • Click on the Accession number to view Patent Details
  • Click the Printer Friendly button to print
  • Click on Patent Image tab to view, save, or print
  • Click on Related Documents tab to view, save, or print

To learn how to obtain an ancestor's land application and support documents, known as the case file read:

Other Sources for Finding Land Patents[edit | edit source]

  • The BLM Eastern States Office has an index to all patents issued after 30 June 1908.
Eastern States Office
20 M St SE
Washington, DC 20003
Telephone: 202-912-7700
Internet: BLM - Eastern States
  • The Family History Library and the Eastern States Office have an incomplete card file that indexes pre-1908 patents issued in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These are on 160 microfilms.

United States. Bureau of Land Management. Card Files. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Land Management, [19--]. (FHL films 1501522-681.)

  • The pre-1908 land patents are also being indexed and placed on compact discs for computers. The Family History Library and other repositories have copies for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. They are found in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under [STATE] - LAND AND PROPERTY.
  • Indexes for the same states along with Missouri are available on the Internet. For an information packet, telephone the Bureau of Land Management at 703-440-1564.

Related Wiki Articles[edit | edit source]

  • Tract Books history, preparing and how to use them, content, access, and related case files.
  • United States, Bureau of Land Management Tract Books - FamilySearch Historical Records describes the online federal tract book collection for 28 federal land states from 1820-1908.
  • Grants from the Federal Government (Public Domain) explains public lands, how individuals claimed some of it, and the paperwork created during the process.
  • Land Entry Case Files describes the 10 million files in the National Archives created to document individual claims to federal land using cash entry, credit entry, homestead, military bounty land, private land claims, mineral or timberland rights. A case file exists for each tract book entry.
  • Rectangular Surveys includes a section about tract books. This article shows how principal meridians, baselines, townships, ranges, sections, and aliquots are used for land descriptions found in tract books and other property records.
  • United States Land and Property page is a general discussion of land record research for genealogists. It serves as a table of contents to related Wiki pages about American land records including tract books, related land entry case files, and the BLM land patent search.

Related Websites[edit | edit source]