Did your ancestors buy Public Domain land? Search these records for land sale documents (patents) and discover the original title and exact parcel of land purchased by your ancestor from the U.S. Federal Government.
There are more than 6 million entries in this record set. Each entry includes a transcript and an image of the original document. Land records help you to pinpoint your ancestors at a specific place in time. The records in this collection provide you with an exact survey date and specifications of the precise land purchased, as well as the following information when available:
Following the end of the Revolutionary War, the United States took possession of the Public Domain lands west of the Ohio River from the individual states that had once claimed them. In order to raise money to pay off war debts, Congress passed the Land Ordinance Act of 20 May 1785, which gave the Treasury Department authority to survey and sell the Public Domain land. The states that were part of the original Public Domain land were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The patent records provide a legal description of the land, including the township, county, state, aliquot parts (referring to the size of the lots, evenly divided based on the distances along the edges), meridian (the line of longitude where the lot is located), range, section, and survey number. In addition, the patents include: an ancestor’s military service and whether the land was received as a result of such service, the authority by which the land was sold, a specific code number to identify an individual patent (accession), if the patent was cancelled, and if the U.S. government retained any interest or rights in the purchased land (U.S. reservations) or mineral reservations.
Patents were issued to buyers who purchased public lands and were, therefore, the first records regarding the title to a piece of the Public Domain. All original patents, dated before 2 March 1833, were personally signed by the President of the United States. All patents following that date were signed by proxies. The earliest patent signed by a President was from Philadelphia dated 4 March 1792 and signed by President George Washington and the Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. These records date from as early as 1796 to as late as 2013 and are kept by the Bureau of Land Management.
If you are unable to find your relative on your first search you can try different name variations. A number of the entries only use abbreviations for first names. For example, if your search is unsuccessful for William Smith, try W Smith or Wm Smith.
A number of the entries use abbreviations for the name of the State. For example, if your search is unsuccessful for Nebraska, try NE.