Types of land records
The conclusion mentions the execution of the deed and the date, either expressly or by reference to the beginning of the document (“here above written”). It names the witnesses and bears the parties’ signatures, followed by the seal.
Locating land patents
Sample Land Patent
4. The assurance that the seller owns the property and it’s free from “incumbrance” and the “warrant and defend” clause indicate this is a warranty deed.
Sample Deed Record
2. The legal description of the property being transferred is called aliquot parts. Plat maps can help you pinpoint the location of the property.
Finding clues in land records
Take a close look at the deed for clues about your ancestors and their relationships, for example:
• Key dates: 1785, when the Land Ordinance Act authorized the US Treasury Department to survey and sell public domain land; and 1862, when the Homestead Act allowed settlement of public lands in exchange for improvement and cultivation of the land (the act was repealed in 1976)
• Key details in land records: names of grantee (recipient of the land) and grantor (seller), date of transfer, location of property, terms of transfer
• Microfilm availability: The Family History Library (FHL) has microfilmed land patents for some individual states’ land offices, as well as microfilmed deeds for many counties. State archives and county courthouses also may have microfilmed deeds.
• Search terms: county name, deeds, land grant, land entry case file, land patent, bounty land grant
• How to find in the FamilySearch catalog: Run a Place search for the county and state. Scroll to Land and Property, then browse for the record type and time period. Rent microfilm for viewing at a FamilySearch Center near you.
• How to find at a courthouse: Call or check online to find out if old deeds have been moved to another repository. Search deed index volumes covering the years of interest. Use the volume and page number listed to find the deed.
• Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Office, 7450 Boston Blvd., Springfield, VA 22153, (703) 440-1600• Courthouse Research for Family Historians by Christine Rose (CR Publications)• Land and Property Research in the United States by E. Wade Hone (Ancestry)• Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records by Patricia Law Hatcher (Betterway Books)• Researching American Land Records by Kyle Betit (Heritage Productions)• National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20408, (202) 357-5000• Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants Awarded by State Governments by Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck (Genealogical Publishing Co.)
Land Records Quiz
2. What is the purpose of the “widow’s examination?”
3. What is “consideration” in a deed?
4. In what years did the Homestead Act begin and end?
5. Why is it important to read other deeds around your ancestor’s?
6. Which of the following resources can help locate the correct county for a town?
a. Map Guide to the US Federal Censuses
b. Historical Atlas of County Boundaries
c. Redbook: American State, County and Town Sources
d. any of the above
7. Land records include:
a. warranty deeds
b. plat maps
c. quitclaim deeds
e. all of the above
Exercise A: Go to the FamilySearch.org database DeKalb County (Ill.) Land Records, 1838-1927. View the deed for Reuben Nichols et. al. to Sarah A. Fox in volume 42, page 154 (image No. 157).
2. Who are the grantees?
3. Who is grantor?
4. What was the consideration given?
5. Why might this property have been transferred?
Exercise B: Pick an ancestor whose land records you want to find. On the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office website, search for properties registered to this ancestor. Search for variant surname spellings and for other relatives.
Exercise C: Go to the Family History Library catalog and run a place search for a location where an ancestor lived. Identify any land records that might contain family information. If there are no records for the time period you need, check to see if the county existed at that time. If not, adjust your search for the correct jurisdiction.
• The Homestead Act video class
• Land Records Online video class
• Land Records 101 CD