Sunday, April 26, 2009

So, Great Grandpa was a Farmer - Land Records - Part One

Land Patent Records

I come from a long line of farmers. During the nineteenth century, most branches of my family tree made their living in agriculture. This is good news, because being successful in farming, meant owning land. And owning land meant a paper trail of information left for descendents.

If your ancestor bought land from the federal government in the Eastern Public Lands States between 1820 and 1908, than you can use theBureau of Land Management’s website to view the actual land patent used to transfer ownership from the US Government to your ancestor.

What states are included in the Eastern Public Lands States?

1. Alabama
2. Arkansas
3. Florida
4. Illinois
5. Indiana
6. Iowa
7. Louisiana
8. Michigan
9. Minnesota
10. Mississippi
11. Missouri
12. Ohio
13. Wisconsin

In addition, the Bureau of Land Management is slowly adding the land patent images for the seventeen Western Public Land States.

The Western Public Land States are:

1. Alaska
2. Arizona
3. California
4. Colorado
5. Idaho
6. Kansas
7. Montana
8. Nebraska
9. Nevada
10. New Mexico
11. North Dakota
12. Oklahoma
13. Oregon
14. South Dakota
15. Utah
16. Washington
17, Wyoming

What information will you find searching the land Patent records?


As you can see from the image above, the Patent Description gives you the following information for a parcel of land purchased by my GGG Grandfather, Joseph Good.

1. Patentee
2. Issue Date
3. Land Office
4. Cancelled
5. US Reservations
6. Mineral Reservations
7. Authority Note type of Entry – Cash in this example)
8. Survey: State
9. Acres
10. Metes/Bounds (Post will be No)
11. Document Number
12. Accession/Serial Number
13. BLM Serial Number


Below is the description of the land that Joseph purchased.

Believe it or not, those seemingly undecipherable notations will tell me exactly where Joseph’s land is located.

The easiest way, is to find a Plat Map in the county where the land is located. It doesn’t matter what year the plat map was produced, the numbering of the township and range will remain the same. (However, in counties such as Gallia County of Ohio where the boundaries have changed, you might find the land listed in another county depending what year the land was purchased and what year the Plat map was produced.) Look for the range and township number to match. In this case, I would look in Seneca County for Township 3-N in Range 14-E.

However, if you know how to read it, the information taken from the land description will tell you precisely where great grandpa’s land was located. Public lands used the rectangular survey system, which utilized principle meridians and base latitudinal lines as their basis. .

Below is a Map taken from page 47 of The Auditor of the State of Ohio’s Publication, The Official Ohio Lands Book.” It illustrates how the rectangular survey system worked.

1. Meridian - 1st PM

Refers to the first Meridian which is the Ohio/Indiana Line
Base Line – In Northwest Ohio, the base line is the 41st parallel of north latitude.
2. Range: 14-E
This tells you that the land is located 14 ranges east from the 1st Principal Meridian. This takes you into Ohio. (Anything with an E designation would be in Ohio. Anything with a W designation would be located in Indiana.)
3. Township 3-N
The 3-N tells us that the land is located in the third township north of this baseline, in Range 14. This township happens to be Liberty Township, in Seneca County. Township 4-N in that same range, for example, would be Ballville Township in Sandusky County.

Townships are divided into 36 sections with 640 acres in each section. Below you can see the numbering system used. Notice section 8 and section 5 would are adjoining sections.

In this instance, Joseph had purchased 80 acres. The location of the acreage is described as E ½ NE. You can see the section pictured below.


And finally, there is the land patent document itself. You have your choice of viewing it in four different formats – small GIF, large GIF, TIFF, and as PDF file. The website says the PDF file is the best for printing. Below is an example of my small GIF file.

Notice the Certificate No. 4785 in the upper left hand corner matches the patent number on the Patent Description. This number is important if you decide to order a land entry file from the National Archives.

My next post will discuss doing just that.

Until Next Time…


Harriet said...

Thanks for all the helpful information. Good to see you posting.

Sheri said...

This is very useful information, thanks. Thank you also for explaining things in plain English and the use of visual aids.

You ever think of perhaps doing lectures or writing a "how-to" on this stuff? You're a natural!

Dorene from Ohio said...

Great explanation of a complicated topic!!

Dorene from Ohio said...

Terry -
This comment is off the topic,...but you must check out this post about a "link to the past:"

Now that is something I never have seen before!

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