Introduction and Links to Resources on Land Entry Case Files and Related Records
The land records that are generally of most interest to genealogists are the land entry case files. These are records that document the transfer of public lands from the U.S. Government to private ownership.
There are over ten million such individual land transactions in the custody of the National Archives. These case files cover land entries in all 30 public land states.
The case files were filed as either military bounty land warrants, pre-1908 general land entry files, or as post-1908 land entry files. The information required to access and order copies of the records will differ depending on which of these 3 categories the transaction falls into. Read more.
For land records in the remaining 20 states that were never part of the original public domain, check the State Archives for that particular state. This includes the original 13 colonies, plus Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Related Land Records
There are also tract books available relating to the land entry case files. These are arranged by the legal description of the land: by township, range, section, etc. Tract books are divided into two geographical areas, Eastern States and Western States
For the Western States, the tract books are located in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. This includes the states of: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
For the Eastern States, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the tract books and patents. This includes the states of: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
For these Eastern State tract books, contact:
Eastern States Office, Bureau of Land Management
Department of the Interior
20 M Street, Suite 950
Washington, DC 20003
Land patents are the legal documents that transferred land ownership from the U.S. Government to individuals. Now you can search for land patent records online, for both Eastern and Western states. See the Bureau of Land Management's Land Patent Search page.
Please note that this includes only patented or completed land entries. Those case files that were cancelled or relinquished will not be there, and may contain just as much useful information for the researcher. For this information, researchers will need to access the tract books.
How Land Records Can Help You:
Land case entry files can contain a wealth of genealogical and legal information. Depending upon the type and time period of the land entry, the case file may yield only a few facts already known to the researcher or it may present new insights about ancestors, family history, title, and land use issues. For example, the records may attest to the one's age, place of birth, citizenship, military service, literacy, and economic status, and may even include similar information about family members. But even the smallest case files can establish locations of land ownership or settlement and dates essential to utilize other resources at NARA, such as census, court, and military service and pension records.
For more information on researching and accessing Land Records, see:
- Research in the Land Entry Files of the General Land Office (Record Group 49)
- Order copies of Land Entry Records, either through using Form NATF 84 or ordering online.
Other Select Topics in Land Records
- Search for Selected Land Records in the National Archives Catalog
- Name Index to Cancelled, Rejected, and Relinquished Land Entry Files, Dodge City, Kansas and Topeka, Kansas Land Offices, ca. 1905-1937
- Farm Ownership Case Files for Region 7, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota 1937-1947
- Farm Ownership Case Files for Region 2, for Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, 1937-1946 (Record Group 96)
- Farm Ownership Case Files, Region 3, for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio, 1937-1946 (Record Group 96)
- Name Index to Rural Rehabilitation Loan Case Files for Region 7, (Record Group 96)
- John C. Frémont - Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, 1843, Eyewitness exhibit
- Laura Ingalls Wilder - A Journey from South Dakota to Missouri, 1894, Eyewitness exhibit
- See a Sample Homestead file (for Charles Ingalls)