Tract books

Manuscript/Manuscript on Film
Washington, D.C. : Records Improvement, Bureau of Land Management, 1957
1265 microfilm reels


United States Bureau of Land Management Tract Books are available online, click here.

Microfilm of 1582 original General Land Office tract books and loose leaf documents contained in the files of the Alexandria, Virginia Office of the Bureau of Land management, and 2,325 tract books on microfilm covering the western public domain states also filed in the same office.

The land tract records for the states of Alaska and Missouri are missing.

These tract books contain official records of the land status and all transactions involving surveyed public lands. They are arranged by state and within the state by township and range. These books indicate who obtained the land, and include a physical description of the tract and where the land is located. The type of transaction is also recorded such as cash entry, credit entry, homesteads, patents (deeds) granted by the Federal Government, and other conveyances of title such as Indian allotments, internal improvement grants (to states), military bounty land warrants, private land claims, railroad grants, school grants, and swamp grants. Additional items of information included in the tract books are as follows: number of acres, date of sale, purchase price, land office, entry number, final Certificate of Purchase number, and notes on relinquishments and conversions.

Federal land records are grouped into four main categories: Field notes and survey plats, Tract books, Patent records, and Case files. The original documents of the first three groups are located at the Bureau of Land management in Springfield, Virginia, and the case files are located at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.

There are Federal land records for the following 30 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The remaining states were never part of the Federal public domain.

The Federal land records document only the first transfer of title to land from the United States to another party. Records of later transactions should be in county records.

These land tract record books serve as an essential reference source for all transactions involving public lands. They are used as the basic index for public land title research in the Eastern States. If a researcher knows his ancestor's name, the approximate area he settled in, the TOWNSHIP and RANGE of the area he settled in, he can use these land tract books to locate his ancestor's name, along with the NUMBER and DATE of the certificate to purchase. The certificate date is needed to access an Index of Land Offices (located at BLM Alexandria, Virginia office) to determine the name of the land office that had jurisdiction when the ancestor filed for his land. With the CERTIFICATE number and the LAND OFFICE NAME the researcher can gain access to the Case Files (locate at The National Archives, Suitland, Maryland) which are often rich in genealogical information.

The entries written in the tract books may NOT be in exact order.

In some land tract books, references are sometimes made to other volumes for additional entries relating to certain townships.

Another method is available to researchers for obtaining the Land Office name and Certificate number. The BLM Office in Alexandria, Virginia has card files available for the following 10 states only: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. These indexes are filed by TOWNSHIP and RANGE within each state and contain at least the following information: Name of person, type of land entry (cash, credit, homestead), patent book number, patent date, certificate number. The library has microfilms of the card files. See entry in the Author/Title catalog: United States. Bureau of Land Management. Card files.

The library has an incomplete card file index on microfilm which is arranged by legal description and may eliminate several steps in locating a patent (deed) document. Each card shows the following information: Certificate number, district land office, kind of entry, name of patentee and county of origin, legal description, number of acres, date of patent, volume and page where document can be located. These card files are incomplete in that they do not have all the legal descriptions within each state, and they only cover the following 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In these incomplete situations, researchers must refer to the tract books. See entry in the Author/Title catalog: United States. Bureau of Land Management. Card files.



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