North Dakota Land and Property

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When the United States acquired North Dakota, most of the land became part of the public domain. The federal government administered the land through the General Land Office. Available land was surveyed into townships and transferred to private ownership through a process called land entry. The first General Land Office was established at Pembina in 1870. The local land offices kept tract books (recording transactions for each section of land), and township plats (maps of land entries for each township).

Land entry in North Dakota was based either on cash payment for the land (cash entries), or on conditions of settlement (homesteads after 1862). Once a settler completed the requirements for land entry, his case file was sent to the General Land Office in Washington, DC, where a patent or first-title deed was issued.

To locate the land-entry or homestead case file for your ancestor, you will need to know either the patent number or the legal description (range, township, section of the land). The county recorder of deeds may be able to tell you the legal description of the land from county land records, or you may be able to pinpoint the exact location by searching the entries in the tract book covering the approximate area concerned.

An online index is available for those that completed the homestead process to patent (original deeds from the government) at the Bureau of Land Management.

For original patents and copies of tract books and township plats, contact the Bureau of Land Management, 99 23rd Avenue West, Suite A, Dickinson, ND 58601, Telephone: 701-227-7700. North Dakota Bureau of Land Management

The National Archives has the original homestead entry files, cash entry files, tract books, and township plats. See National Archives and Records Administration for address and telephone. Records of the local land offices are also at the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Township plats are also at the North Dakota Water Commission, 900 East Boulevard, Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0850, Telephone: 701-328-2750, Fax: 701-328-3696.
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After land was transferred from the government by sale or grant to private owners, it could be sold again, inherited, lost by foreclosure of a mortgage, or redistributed through a divorce. These transactions are recorded by the registrar of deeds in each county in the form of deeds and mortgages. The Family History Library has not acquired copies of the land records from the county courthouses in North Dakota but does have land plat maps or atlases for some counties.

References[edit | edit source]

North Dakota Research Outline.Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001. (NOTE: All information in the original research article has been added to the FamilySearch Wiki, where it is both enhanced and updated by the genealogical community.)