Research by Subject: Genealogy

Land Records (General Resources)

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     How Land Records Can Help:
Prior to the Civil War most free American adult males owned land
             Many times when the courthouse burned the land office survived
             They place your family in a specific time and place
             They often state or imply kinship ties
             They help you with your family's cluster information
             Deeds often are the ONLY record where a wife in early America is given a name



More Land Resource Pages:

Warrants, Patents & Surveys for State Land States: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia - Includes information on Bounty Lands

Public Domain Land 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.

Deed Records


Most American land records (that still exist) have been filmed and are available to borrow at your local Family History Library Check the FHL Catalog using a Place Search - enter county and state and when a list is retrieved choose LAND & PROPERTY.  In New England you may also wish to do a town search.

Because patents, warrants, surveys, deeds etc. are only indexed by the grantor or grantee this means it is crucial that you have worked on your family cluster so that you look at his neighbors documents and his relatives documents etc. to see if they mention HIM.

To find the creek, mountain, stream etc. named in land records search GNIS

Many times people avoid land records because they involve either reading film or digitized images that are in difficult handwriting. We grow up in a time when we are used to forms and printed words. Modern day handwriting can be bad but at least it is standardized. In early times this was not the case and it takes practice and patience but soon becomes much easier the more you do it.

Remember that you usually don't have to be able to make out EVERY word to get what you need from a document.

Handwriting 101 by Angie Grigg is an extremely helpful article that tells some history and gives examples

General Land Guides (Comprehensive)

Land Records in the National Archives - primarily an overview of the land entry case files - they also have some sample homestead records scanned so that you can see what they look like.

Land Records Research Directory has overviews of all the states and includes courthouse addresses

Land Records Research Wiki from FamilySearch

Taking the Mystery Out of Land Records by Linda Haas Davenport is full of great tips

U.S. GenWeb Archives is a site where people can upload many kinds of transcripts or indexes etc. that they have transcribed or abstracted including various land records

For Land Terms / Vocabulary like "How long was a Furlong" use Google - there are land term lists online but the thing you want is always missing and Google works as well.  If the term is a very common word start with wikipedia using a search like: wikipedia land perch

Plat Maps

The largest collection of online plat maps is the Land Ownership Map Collection 1860-1918 at Ancestry but they are constantly being scanned and indexed all over the place online.  I have included some of the larger collections in the Patent / Warrant pages but don't neglect Google.  Many states published a statewide atlas that included a plat map of each county in the late 1800s. Try terms like: 

Mahaska Iowa plat map
Atlas Mahaska County Iowa
Land Ownership Maps Iowa
Van Buren Township Patent Map
Washington County New York Patent Map




                                                 Anne Livingston   @WVC Library