Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Land Patents and Land Entry Files

I love the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) patent search page.  This is for land parcels in public land states.  For more info, read my Public Land Survey System blog post.

Here is the BLM entry for James Freeman.  You will see that his patent is dated 25 May 1825.  The land description is 79.42 acres in Perry County, Mississippi, W½NW¼, Section 22, Township 4N, Range 11W.  With this information I can plot out the exact location of James’ land.  All I need is a map with the townships, ranges, sections marked.  The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has a map for Perry County (you will need to enlarge the map a bit).  You can see that Hwy 29 goes right through his property.  This is great info, however…

You can’t stop here.  You need to order the actual land entry file.  The patent will only tell you so much.  I did order the land entry file and this is what I found.

On  28 April 1818, James Freeman bought the NW¼, Section 22, Township 4N, Range 11W for $2.00/acre (total of 158.85 acres).  On 01 November 1822, he relinquished the east half of the above quarter which paid for the remaining half in full and his account was closed.   

This gives me a much better picture.  He actually bought the land seven years before the patent was issued.  He originally owned twice as much land but used half of the land to pay for the other half.  I also know how much he paid for the land.  There is something else in the land entry file that was very interesting.  There was a title dispute on the property as late as 1914.  When I looked at the patent originally, I did not notice that the President of the United States (or his agent) had not signed the patent. This messed up the title a bit.  There are three letters back and forth between an attorney and the Land Office.  I can’t tell by looking at this if the title was ever cleared.  The attorney and the land office just went back and forth citing case law to each other.

Some land entry files contain a lot of information and some contain pretty much nothing.  You still need to get the land entry file and not stop your research when you find the patent.  Do you remember the Reasonably Exhaustive Search step of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS)? 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. One of the many things I love about the glorecords site is that, with a little work, you can literally 'recreate' the original plat map of the area, at least as far as the original purchasers. I have found more in-laws and cousins that way, that I didn't know were in the area. And one time, it broke a big wall.
    This can be so helpful when researching long-distance, and access to plat maps is impossible or very expensive. Or when a particular plat map no longer exists. Really great!

  2. Mapping out public land descriptions is one of my favorite things to do! I hate Metes and Bounds (just saying). If you pull Mississippi deeds, you can get these same land descriptions so you can plot the transactions over time which is even more fun :)