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Document Detective: Land Patents
11/6/2012
The Bureau of Land Management’s General Office has digitized more than 5 million land patents and made them searchable. This edition of Document Detective will help you survey the land of patents for your genealogical benefit.
When the US government 
acquired land through purchases or treaties, these lands became public lands. The states founded in these areas became known as public-land states. The US government then sold this public land to private individuals or firms through land patents. To acquire a land patent, a person had to apply for a parcel of land and a survey was ordered to define the parcel’s boundary lines. Once the boundaries were established, the applicant paid cash for the land or provided proof of credit and received a receipt for the purchase. After a waiting period during which he improved the land as required by law, the applicant could apply for a title to the parcel. The land office in the area would review the request and issue a title to the owner, who also could request a copy of the land patent document.
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