Missouri Land and Property
Claims to French and Spanish Grants
In the early 1800s many land claims were filed as Missouri residents tried to document claims to lands previously granted by the French and Spanish. In 1805, the U.S. Congress established a Board of Commissioners to confirm earlier grants.
Some of these records have been published in sources such as the American State Papers. An index to the claims made from 1795 to 1812 is on Family History Library film 984777. The names in the American State Papers (on microfilm at the Family History Library) have also been published in:
First Settlers of the Missouri Territory. Two Volumes. Nacogdoches, Texas: Ericson Books, 1983. (Family History Library book 977.8 R2f.)
Land claims have been explained and documented in:
"Private Land Claims in Missouri", in State Historical Society of Missouri; Missouri Historical Review. Columbia, Missouri: The Society; Vol. 50, p. 132-44. (Family History Library book 977.8 B2mr.)
Missouri Land Claims. New Orleans, Louisiana: Polyanthos, 1976. (Family History Library book 977.8 R2m; film 1036517 item 2.) This volume is a reprint of the 1835 Congressional Report, and has land claims for 1796-1835.
Federal Land Grants
After the United States obtained possession of the area that became Missouri, land was surveyed and distributed through eight federal land offices, the earliest of which opened in 1818. The General Land Office in Washington, DC, also distributed many of the state's public domain lands between 1818 and 1922. This process has been explained in Gary W. Beahan, Missouri's Public Domain: United States Land Sales, 1818-1922 (Jefferson City, Missouri: Records Management and Archives Services, 1980; Family History Library book 977.8 R22ip).
Records of the local land offices are in the Missouri State Archives. Tract books, plat maps, and land patents are in:
Bureau of Land Management Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, VA 22153
To search the Bureau of Land Management's land patents click here.
War of 1812 bounty land warrants were also issued for Missouri lands. The Family History Library has copies of the warrants and their indexes (Family History Library films 983163-77). Homestead records for the 1860s and later years are at the National Archives.
Many additional documents dealing with early land transfers are available at the Family History Library:
- Record books, 1795 to 1808
- U.S. land patents, 1800s to early 1900s
- Tax deeds, 1847 to 1878
- Miscellaneous land records in French, Spanish, and English, 1700s to 1800s
- Swamp land records for the 1800s
- Land plats and index for the 1800s
- General Land Office sales, 1818 to 1903
State Land Patents
During the nineteenth century, the United States government, by various acts of Congress, donated some 6.5 million acres of federal land in Missouri directly to the state. This public domain land was then sold by the state, with profits designated for various internal projects or improvements. The state, rather than the federal government, issued the land patents, verifying title and ownership to the parcels sold, for purchased sections of this donated land. The patents list the name of the person(s) who acquired the land, the purchase date and patent date, as well as a legal land description including township and range, name of county, and number of acres sold.
The Land Patents database contains over 35,500 transcribed patents containing information from the state-issued land patents which can be useful in placing an individual in a specific location at a specific time. The information contained in the land patent database includes:
• name of purchaser
• date of purchase
• legal land description
• microfilm location for copy of full entry (reel number, volume and page number).
County Land Records
After land was transferred to private ownership, subsequent transactions have been kept by the county recorders of deeds. The Family History Library has copies of most pre-1900 deeds from each county courthouse. From St. Louis County, Missouri, for example, the library has over 900 microfilms of deeds and indexes for 1804 to 1901. Additional land records may be obtained from the Missouri State Archives and the various county courthouses.
Missouri Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.