Indiana Land and Property
The value of land records lies in the fact that land was highly sought after and the transactions were recorded from the time settlers began to arrive. Therefore it is a consistent and continuous record of many ancestors lives. Land records can be used to learn where and when an individual lived in certain areas, as well as often revealing useful and interesting family information.
Indiana was a “federal-land” state, where unclaimed land was surveyed, then granted or sold by the government through federal and state land offices. The two exceptions are the lands around Vincennes which were settled by the French, and the land around Clarksville which was deemed George Rogers Clark's grant. The first sale of a piece of land from the government was called a land patent and the first owner of the land was called a patentee. Later when the land was sold or mortgaged by private owners the document was called a deed. The transactions were recorded at the office of the county register of deeds. Family history researchers usually use land records from county offices although records from federal and state offices can also have genealogical value. For detailed descriptions of land record types see United States Land and Property.
To understand the land system and records of Indiana, the following may help:
- Wilson, George R. Early Indiana Trails and Surveys. Indianapolis, Indiana: C. E. Pauley, 1919. FHL Collection, FHL book 977.2 B4 v.6 no.3; film 824286 item 13; fiche 6051190}}. This contains the history of early roads and land grants.
- This Land of Ours: The Acquisition and Disposition of the Public Domain, FHL Collection, book 977 R2ia, film 2055585 Item 8.
- An excellent general description of land records in Indiana is found at the Indiana State Archives web site
If you are new to land research, you may wish to read the Beginner’s corner and other articles included on the United States Land and Property page.
In 1787, what is now the state of Indiana became part of the Northwest Territory. In 1800, the Indiana Territory was established with Vincennes as the capital. Indiana became a state in 1816. Early settlers of Indiana obtained their land through grants issued by France or England. At various times, people made claims to the government for lands. Often people submitted claims which included statements by relatives, neighbors, or friends. Many of these state family relationships.
- United States Congress American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States La Crosse, Wisconsin: Brookhaven Press, 1959. 38 vols. On 29 films beginning with film 1631827 FHL Collection; classes 8 and 9 are also on films. FHL Collection, book 973 R2ag 1994. Volumes for classes 8 and 9 deal with public lands and claims for 1789 to 1837 and may name siblings or heirs of original claimants. Classes 8 and 9 have been republished in:
- United States Congress. American State Papers, Class 8: Public Lands; Class 9: Claims: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. FHL Collection, book 973 R2ag 1994). The American state papers include many of the private land claims for the early time period prior to statehood
- McMullin, Phillip W. and United States Congress Grassroots of America : a computerized index to the American state papers: land grants and claims (1789-1837) with other aids to research (Government document serial set numbers 28 through 36) Greenville, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1994, c1990. FHL Collection, book 973 R2ag index 1990, fiche 6051323 (6 fiche). World Cat
- Cowen, Janet C. Jeffersonville Land Entries, 1808-1818. Indianapolis, Indiana: J.Cowen, 1984. FHL Collection, book 977.2 R2c. World Cat. This is an index to the records at the Jeffersonville land office, which was located in Clark County, in southeastern Indiana. This lists the receipt number, the person who purchased land, state of residence (including county or city), land description (section, township, and range), number of acres, and date of purchase.
- English, William Hayden and Clark, George Rogers Conquest of the country northwest of the river Ohio, 1778-1783, and life of General George Rogers Clark : with numerous sketches of men who served under Clark and full list of those allotted lands in Clark's grant for service in the campaigns against the British posts, showing exact land allotted each Washington [District of Columbia] : L.C. Photoduplication Service, 1986. FHL Collection, film 1454567 items 3-4. World Cat. Book on line at Google books.
- Lux, Leonard. The Vincennes Donation Lands. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana Historical Society, 1949. FHL Collection, book 977.2 B4 vol.15, no.4; film 928192 item 5; fiche 6051134. World Cat. This book lists the names of persons having land claims of 400 acres each in the southwestern part of the state (1788–1792).
- Waters, Margaret R. Indiana Land Entries. Two volumes. 1948. Reprint, Knightstown, Indiana: Bookmark, 1977-1979. FHL Collection book 977.2 R2w 1977; fiche 6046718 (7 fiche). World Cat. Volume one has records of the Cincinnati, Ohio, land office, 1801 to 1840, and volume two, for the Vincennes, Indiana, land office, 1807 to 1877. Each volume is indexed and gives the location of the land, the date of the transaction, and the page number in the original land entries.
- WPA Card File The Work Projects Administration prepared an extensive card file of over 150,000 index cards many state-level land, court, and military records in the pre–1850 record series at the Archives Division, Commission on Public Records. This is only available to researchers at the Indiana State Archives in Indianapolis, Indiana. About 95 percent of the sources indexed cannot be identified easily.
- Illinois and Wabash land company minutes, 1778-1812 Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1948. FHL Collection, film 20445 item 5.
Government Land Transfers
As the United States acquired land, unsettled land became part of the public domain and was sold by the federal government. The public domain land was surveyed, divided into townships (36 square miles), range and section (one square mile within the township)and then sold through land offices. The first General Land Office to serve Indiana opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1800. The first office within the state of Indiana was established at Vincennes, Indiana and the first sales took place in 1807. (See the Lux and Waters volumes above for published records of these two offices.)
As a Federal land state (public domain), the government granted land through cash sales (entries), homesteads, military bound land warrants as well as granting other claims such as mining and timberland claims.Federal land purchases are contained in a case file held at the National Archives. In order to obtain the case file, a legal description of the land is needed which may be found in a deed, plat map, tract book, or patent books. To learn how to obtain this land description, see the wiki article under United States Land and Property - Federal Land - Obtaining a Legal Description of the Land.
General Resources and Indexes
- "On December 11, 1816 the U.S. Congress granted statehood to Indiana pursuant to the fulfilment of five provisions. One of the provisions granted four sections of land (2560 acres) for the establishment of a state capital with the condition that the location be decided prior to the public sale of federal lands surrounding the new capital. These four sections donated by the federal government to the new state became known as the Indianapolis Donation." - Indiana State Archives An Introduction to the Indianapolis Donation. The state archives has a searchable database on line.
- The Bureau of Land Management and General Land Office (BLM-GLO) has an on line Land Patent Search which is an index to millions of ancestors named in federal land patents and warrants from 1788 to the 1960’s located at the National Archives. This is the best place to begin when searching for a land patent because of the ease of navigation when searching for an ancestor. This internet web site also provides many images of patents.
- United States. Bureau of Land Management. Card Files. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Land Management, 19—. On 160 Family History Library films FHL Collection beginning with film 1501522. Each card contains the following information: Certificate number District Land Office Kind of entry (cash, credit, warrant, etc.) Name of patentee and county of origin Land description Number of acres Date of patent Volume and page where document can be located . Because these index cards are arranged by township and range within each state, the researcher will need to already have an approximate legal description in order to access these cards.
- Bureau of Land Management
Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, VA 22153
- Bureau of Land Management
- The National Archives–Great Lakes Region (Chicago, Illinois) has General Land Office applications (record group 49) to purchase land, and registers of cash certificates and sales (1808–1876). They are arranged by land office, then chronologically.
- Cowen, Janet C. Crawfordsville, Indiana Land Entries, 1820–1830. Indianapolis, Indiana, J.C. Cowen, 1985. FHL Collection, book 977.2 R2cL.World Cat This land office was in the central part of western Indiana, serving the counties of Benton, Boone, Carroll, Clay, Clinton, Fountain, Hendricks, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Vermillion, Warren, and White. This index provides the receipt number, person’s name, state and county of residence (this may be their previous residence prior in another state), location by range and township, number of acres, and date.
- Cowen, Janet C. Indiana Original Land Entries, Volume 3, Brookville, Indianapolis, 1820–1831. Indianapolis, Indiana: J. C. Cowen, 1986. FHL Collection, book 977.2 R2co. World Cat. This covers land sales in the central Indiana counties of Boone, Brown, Clinton, Decatur, Delaware, Fayette, Franklin, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Henry, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Morgan, Randolph, Ripley, Rush, Shelby, Union, and Wayne. This index provides the receipt number, person’s name, state and county of residence (this may be their previous residence in another state), location by range and township, number of acres, and date.
- Helpful maps that show the territories, territorial counties, early counties, land offices, forts, rivers, railroads, canals, and roads are found on pages 1 to 21 of Malinda E. E. Newhard’s book A Guide to Genealogical Records in Indiana, FHL Collection, book 977.2 D27n.
- The Hoosier Homestead Award is a program which recognizes farms that have been owned by the same family for over one hundred years. The program began in 1976 and the archives has an on line searchable database of the applicants, where the homestead is located and more.
Indiana uses the rectangular land survey system of section, township, and range.The townships were six-mile square blocks of land, divided into 36 one-mile squares called sections. The township was numbered north and south, starting from the center line, and the range was numbered east and west starting from the center line.
- Maps showing these surveys are included in:
Andriot, Jay. Township Atlas of the United States. McLean, Virginia: Documents Index, 1991. FHL 973 E7an 1991 World Cat This book is arranged alphabetically by state.
- Henderson, J.O. Indiana, the public domain and its survey, 1892 Indianapolis [Indiana] : Wm. B. Burford, 1893. FHL 977.2 A1no. 158. World Cat.
- Wilson, George Robert Early Indiana trails and surveys Indianapolis [Indiana]: C.E. Pauley, 1919. FHL 977.2 B4v. 6 no. 3. World Cat.
Tract books may also serve as indexes to the case files. They are arranged geographically by township and range, so you have to have some idea of the legal description of the land where your ancestor lived to be able to use them. Some legal land descriptions are included in county records.
- The tract book records for three of the six federal land offices in Indiana are available on line at the Indiana digital archives. The three offices are Fort Wayne, LaPorte-Winamac, and Vincennes. These early land records provide the date of purchase rather than the date of the land patent which will help identify how early a settler bought the land. The state archives also has  plat and tract books arranged by county.
- United States. Bureau of Land Management. Tract Books. Washington, D.C.: Records Improvement, Bureau of Land Management, 1957. On 1,265 Family History Library films beginning with FHL 1445277
- Microfilm copies of township plats are available at the Family History Library for some of the counties. Plat books for counties in Indiana are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Catalog under:
- [name of county], Indiana - Maps (or Land and Property)
- Indiana State Archives Tippecanoe battle ground plat map.
When federal land was finally transferred to private individuals, it was said to be patented.
- The actual patents may be found on line at the Bureau of Land Management - General Land Office web site (BLM-GLO) as indicated in the section on indexes. They may also be found at the following office:
- Bureau of Land Management Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, VA 22153
- Bureau of Land Management Eastern States Office
Land Entry Case Files
Also known as Land Entry Files or Patent Files, the case file is the accumulation of paperwork gathered during the land transactions which occurred when the land is transferred from the U.S. Government to private ownership and are kept at the National Archives in Washington D.C. These documents are the most helpful records for researchers because some files contain valuable information and may include personal or family information, such as military discharge papers, proof of citizenship, former residences, birthplaces and more. While not all files have pertinent information for the researcher, they are often worth obtaining. For further information regarding case files and how to order them, you will want to read the article Locating the Land and it's Associated Records at the United States Land and Property wiki page. The physical address of where the records are kept at the National Archives is as follows:
- Old Military Civil Records Branch
National Archives and Records Administration
7th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20408
- Old Military Civil Records Branch
To obtain copies of a case file you will need the following information which may be found in the land patent records indexed at the BLM-GLO web site:
- Name of the purchaser
- State where the land was purchased.
- Name of the land office.
- Type of certificate (homestead, cash, bounty-land warrant, mining, timberland etc.)
- Certificate number or patent number
Individual Land Transfers
The office handling subsequent land transfers in Indiana is known as the County Recorder. The two major record series that are of interest to genealogists are deeds and mortgages. Deeds have been kept in separate ledgers since the establishment of the county; mortgages have been recorded separately only since the late 1840s to the early 1850s. Both types of records have been indexed within each volume. In the 1850s recorders began General Indexes to Deeds, Grantor and Grantee, and General Indexes to Mortgages, Mortgagor and Mortgagee. Recorders were to go back to the first volume to create the general index. Sometimes they missed a record, or, if the records failed to fall into the category of a deed or mortgage (such as a manumission of a slave), these transcripts were missed in the General Index. From the Civil War to about 1880, many recorders kept both a pre-printed deed record and a free-form manuscript ledger. You should consult both to be certain all references to an ancestor have been found. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of Indiana county land records for more than 60 of the 92 counties through 1900 and has begun microfilming mortgage records through 1885.
Indiana land records are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
INDIANA- LAND AND PROPERTY
INDIANA, [COUNTY]- LAND AND PROPERTY