United States Land and Property

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Emigrants Crossing the Plains.JPG

The availability of land attracted many immigrants to America and encouraged westward expansion. Land ownership was generally recorded in an area as soon as settlers began to arrive. These important records sometimes exist when few other records are available.

Land records are primarily used to learn where an individual lived and when he lived there. They often reveal other family information, such as the name of a spouse, heir, other relatives, or neighbors. You may learn where a person lived previously, his occupation, if he had served in the military, if he was a naturalized citizen, and other clues for further research.

Getting started with United States Land and Property research

Did you know?

  • "Property" refers to more than land. Records of slaves, livestock brands, stray animals, indentures, and loans can be found in records kept by many towns and counties.
  • The person who obtains title to land from the government receives a land grant. Subsequent exchanges of land are person-to-person exchanges involving deeds.

The Land Acquisition Process and Types of Land

In the United States, land is acquired in basically one of two ways; from the government or from an individual. The first sale of land from the government to a person is called a grant. Thereafter, the sale of that land from a person is called a deed.

Government to Person Person to Person


Federal Land States

Federal vs. State Land States.png
Federal land states (blue) & state land states (brown)

State Land States

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