AncestorNews: Dig Into Land Records

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

Over the weekend I bought a copy of Patricia Law Hatcher’s new book, Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records. Hatcher does a great job of explaining the importance of land records, how to find them, the genealogical clues they contain, and figuring out exactly how and to whom the land was transferred. This is definitely a two-thumbs-up book.

If you’ve never used land records, you’re missing some of the most valuable genealogical documents available. Land records can contain names of relatives, in-laws, and neighbors—all of those folks who play into your research.


Using public land records at the Bureau of Land Management Web site, I was able to untangle three family lines—and discover a family connection I didn’t know existed. This database only covers original land transfers made from the US government to an individual (it won’t contain any land transfers after the original one) so be sure to check out Hatcher’s book on locating all those other records.

Want to dig deeper into the land? Start here:

Land Records: History of and How to Use Them
(Follow the links from the Learning Center.)

Ingalls Homestead File
(Images of Charles Ingalls’ homestead files for all you Laura Ingalls Wilder fans.)

Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales


California Land Patents Database

Louisiana Land Records to 1908

P.S. I am collecting links to free online land databases. If you know of one, would you please write me at the e-mail address below? Thanks!

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