Finding residences with land records
Land records can be excellent sources of genealogical information. Not only will they tell you when and where an individual owned a piece of land, but you may also find information such as the buyer's birthplace or the name of their spouse.
The first thing to do is to check for deeds, title deeds, or patent certificates in the area where the ancestor lived. Deeds are usually in the county courthouse or with the county recorder, and are normally well-indexed. The one thing to watch for in these indexes is that land that was purchased by more than one individual is often only indexed under the name of the first individual mentioned in the deed.
In addition to contacting the county courthouse or county recorder, check with the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have an extensive collection of land records and land records indexes. Your local Family History Center can give you more information about accessing their collection.
If your ancestor was the first owner of the land, e.g., purchased or received it directly from the government, records of the sale or grant should be available at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. You can get a copy of the records in the National Archives if you can provide the township and range of the land. The township and range are often available through the following records:
Deeds, deed records, and plat maps, which you can get from the county, as described above.
Tract books, available on microfilm through the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and through many state archives and other genealogical libraries. You can also search the tract books at various Bureau of Land Management offices. Tract books for states that border the west bank of the Mississippi River and for all public land states east of the Mississippi River are available through the Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Office, 350 South Pickett Street, Alexandria, VA 22304. For all other public land states, contact a Bureau of Land Management office in Anchorage, Phoenix, Sacramento, Denver, Boise, Billings, Reno, Santa Fe, Portland, Salt Lake City, or Cheyenne. The National Archives also has tract books for the western states.
If your ancestor received land from the government in return for military service, he or his heirs had to file an application to prove that he was deserving of bounty land. Bounty land warrant applications are available through the National Archives. For information about sending for bounty land warrant applications, go to the topic Researching through military records, and see the category "Veterans' Records."
For information about contacting the National Archives, see the topic National Archives -- Washington, D.C.
When looking for land records, many people use computerized land records indexes to help them find the record that they need. Some libraries have computerized land records indexes and you can also purchase land records on CD-ROM from Broderbund Software, Inc.
The FamilyFinder Index, a feature of Family Tree Maker software and also available for searching at FamilyTreeMaker.com, is an index of over 220 million names from census records, marriage records, Social Security death records, actual family trees, and more. This feature can help you by telling you if your ancestor's name is actually listed on one of the land record CDs Broderbund Software sells. Using the FamilyFinder Index couldn't be easier -- all you need to do is enter the names of your ancestors right into your own computer. If the FamilyFinder Index tells you that your ancestors are listed, then it's simple to locate your ancestor's record. For more information about FamilyFinder, or for information about purchasing CD-ROM indexes, see the topic All about FamilyFinder.
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