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US: Land Records
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This course has been designed to accomplish several objectives. We will provide a brief overview of the history and types of land documents in the United States, and we will begin with considering Colonial Records (English, French, Mexican, Spanish). We will examine land grants, and the interesting history of homestead records and the development bounty lands will be discussed. Deeds and maps, naturally an important part of any search into land records, will also be examined.

We will conclude by providing a lengthy overview of the availability of statewide and Internet land record sources and resources; where they are located and how you can contact the appropriate repository.

One student’s experience:
To hear a student discussion regarding their experience with this course, please click here. (This is a large file and may take a minute or two to download.)

Course Content

Module 1

Overview of History & Record Types
Reading Up on Land Records & American History
• Internet Guides to Land Records
• Printed Historical Sources
• General Printed Guides
• Articles
• Guides for Selected Localities
Why Should You Be Using Land Records?
• Some Initial Questions
Strategies for Using Land Records
• Searching the Neighborhood
• Land From Governments
• Sorting Through Common Surnames
• Place Names (Tracts of Land & Communities)
Land Records Definitions
Accessing Land Records
State Archives Websites

Module 2
Colonial Records
British (English) Colonial Land Records
• Virginia
• Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants/Northern Neck Grants and Surveys
• Massachusetts
• Plymouth Colony
• Massachusetts Bay Colony
Private Land Claims
• Online Resources for U.S. Private Claims
Spanish Possessions in North America
• Florida
French Colonial Possessions
Recommended Reading & Resources

Module 3
Land Grants
An Overview of the Land Grant Process
• Application
• Warrant
• Survey
• Patent
State Land States versus Federal Land States
• Grants of State Lands
• Grants in the Federal Land States
• Bureau of Land Management Indexes
• How to Obtain Photocopies of US Federal Grant Case Files
Determining a Legal Description of Land
Tract Books & Plat Maps

Module 4
Homestead Records & Bounty Land Grants
Pre-emption Act of 1841
Homestead Act
• Steps in the Homestead Process
• Homestead Case Files (Land Entry Papers)
• Examples of Homestead Documents
Bounty Land Grants
• Revolutionary War
• Federal Bounty Land Grants
• State Bounty Land Grants
• War of 1812
• Other Bounty Land Warrants
Recommended Reading & Resources

Module 5
Deeds & Maps
Individual Land Sales
Deed Indexes
• Types of Deeds
• Accessing Deeds & Deed Indexes
• What to Look for in Deeds
• US Geological Survey

Module 6
Important Statewide & Internet Land Record Sources
Selected Sources for the Various States
• Alabama
• Arkansas
• Georgia
• Illinois
• Indiana
• Kentucky
• Louisiana
• Maine
• Maryland
• Massachusetts
• Missouri
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Carolina
• North Dakota
• Ohio
• Oregon
• Pennsylvania
• Rhode Island
• South Carolina
• South Dakota
• Tennessee
• Texas
• Vermont
• Virginia
• Washington

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